On July 9th, I’ll be heading to Zimbabwe for about 5 weeks to lend a hand to an organization called SHAPE International, based at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. The organization’s goal is to reduce the number of HIV infections in the university student population through masculinity training and women’s assertiveness training. They do a number of other activities to promote awareness and understanding of HIV/AIDS. What’s interesting about this organization, though, is that they organize and train university students to be peer counselors. It’s the university students who come up with ideas for activities; it’s the university students who lead first-year orientations; it’s university students trying to educate and change the risky behavior that could lead to HIV infections.
I was connected to the organization through my old employer, Hands On Network. Hands On Network is national, coordinating agency for a number of domestic and international nonprofits who engage and challenge volunteers to actively participate in improving their communities. Because SHAPE Int’l puts student volunteers to work, they were able to join the network.
SHAPE wanted someone from the Network to help them tighten up their strategic plan, to help them with some fundraising strategies, as well as thinking about their programming. Although my work with Hands On Gulf Coast in Biloxi, Mississippi give me a pretty good flavor for the volunteer business, I don’t think it prepared me for the conditions in Zimbabwe. So, rather than spending an inordinate amount of time planning solutions to problems described via email, I figure it’s best to wait until I see the operation and the conditions they work through before I provide my thoughts and ideas for improvement.
So, we’ll see how it all goes. More to come.