1. How did I engage myself with the group?
Deciding which group or organization to engage with was not easy for me. I had to play around with some ideas and think which one because we have plenty of them around here. In my community we have Trauma Center, FAMSA; we also have lay counselors who are making a difference in more informal way. However deciding how to approach one of them wasn’t easy at all. I felt anxious every time I had to make a choice. I reflected to one of my experiences I encountered long time ago when I relocated to another country (Angola) for three years. When I had to meet different people, different culture, language and so forth. It was totally new environment for me and I had to adjust very fast. The first step I took was to make an appointment with one nurse in charge in our local clinic to authorize me to do my observation in the clinic with the help of my nephew who was employed at the clinic. She agreed. I also went to FAMSA and try to negotiate my entry there as person who needs help, unfortunately, they were not in that day. Then I decided to engage with the group located in my clinic where I got permission. . I learned lay counselors are in attempt to bring change in our community. Targeted members are those patients who visit or come to clinic on a daily basis for various reasons.
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The group meets during the week (Monday to Friday) at 8am – 10pm. The establishment of the group was two years ago because the concern some few community members had. It seems it has been started by local community members who were concerned about certain issues that affect people. They felt that buy working together as community would bring a difference and enhance life of other people. They also thought that this group will bring some changes in their homes and to community as a whole. This awareness program is not static, new members are introduced daily, weekly and monthly as the group is informal. The program compels no one to stay, people do have right to choice and freedom and it’s being respected by everyone. The goal of this program is to make the people aware of some disease and illness that affect us and consciously and unconsciously. I understand since this program started two years ago, it has been successful. People show interests and others report that there has been a radical change in their lives as now they know the importance of taking their treatment especially on time, completing the treatment, eating healthy, exercising, teenage pregnancy decreased as youth now know how to protect themselves against the diseases, abortions decreased and so forth. This kind of reports is what kept the program alive.
I also understand this program reached so many people every month as they count approximately 300 to 400 monthly. Again they hope that in the long run the community will be better, HIV/AIDS, TB, Teenage pregnancy will be decreased by 50%. What made them certain is that in 2012 when this program commenced within six to seven months, TB and HIV/AIDS was combated seriously and clinic reported that 2% less/ reduced. I also learned that people wants to be taught with the language they understand so that they can participate fully about the things affect their lives on the daily basis.
I came to know the group because I am also a community member who also uses the facilities available to my community such as the clinic. Most of the time when I visited my clinic I used to see people entering certain door and I asked a friend who was sitting next to me and also as I have mentioned above I have a nephew who is employed there about the group and she explained to me. Initially, I never give myself time to join or to be interested in whatever they are doing but studying this module made me to be interested in the group. My nephew who works at the clinic helped me to enter the space by introducing me to the nurse in charge. I made appointment with appointment with the nurse. I had to make an appointment because for me it indicated respect as I wouldn’t just enter as I please in the group without permission. I had five minutes with the nurse and explain who I am? What do I want to do? Why, How? When? And after that she gave me permission.
What is important I indicated that whatever I am going to observe here is strictly confidential; it’s only for my assignment purpose. The nurse introduced me to the facilitator who was facilitating the group and I was highly accepted as part of the family but as an observer. The main area of focus is to teach or make the community members aware about various issues that affect them on the daily basis. Issues such as Teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, TB, STI’s, etc. They also focused on teaching morality because they believe good morality will result in reduced mortality.
2. I had few assumptions before engaging in the context.
Assumption 1- The Environment= the environment should be conducive so that members should be comfortable. Assumption 2-The group share common interest.
Assumption 3- They group should share common problem.
Assumption 4- They must have open communication.
Assumption 5 – They should have solution to their problem.
Assumption 6 – Decisions are made collectively. All these assumptions are only based on my observations that are not confirmed. I was also aware that even though they form a group but they are still unique individuals with their unique experiences (proposition 1 & 2). These unique experiences will bring change to their lives. I also believed that as a group they have collective knowledge, skills and potential. The only thing that is required is the facilitator to release that potential resource.
Aspects pertaining to the social context as well as social issues that the group is grappling with or the challenges the group is facing are denial and distortions about the disease such as HIV/AIDS. Some member of the group came with the interesting aspect that HIV/Aids caused by super natural causes. It is caused by people casting a spell over you (bewitched) (boloi- South Sotho). Some will say the disease can be cured, they know the traditional healers who cured somebody. Some will say its indication of ancestors calling. Some claims that they don’t have food in order for them to take treatment. Because of these challenges the program had to be adjusted a little bit to accommodate these challenges. The members will somewhere somehow include God and super naturals in their discussions, for an example, a woman was taught about the HIV/AIDS illness, how we contact it and so forth, and she also made her inputs that in the Bible all these illnesses where predicted, therefore its not a miracle. During my observation I realized that people are struggling to relate with the environment also with one another.
For an example, during the session the group members were afraid to talk their hearts out. I can assume that members know each other perhaps as a neighbor, friend. Therefore, their friendship or neighbor relationship deprived them freely participation in the group as one will think that what others will do or say or one doesn’t want others to know about his /her business or issues the one struggling with. According to part two of the study Guide – The ‘cracked’ landscape – Society in crisis. I have realized that people are not aware that they are not alone, they are not individuals. They failed to cherish the idea of ‘motho ke motho ka batho ba bang’ – ‘Humanity’. They still isolate themselves, still have negative thinking that no one can help them and yet they don’t realize that this behavior is abnormal as it makes us to live like animals – where we should be on a look out everyday – who says what, to whom? In what manner?
This behavior also creates tension between the people, create hunger, poverty, violence, discrimination (Study Guide for PYC3705:24). Our society is broken into smaller pieces. However, As I was observing this group I realized positive things about the members. Even though disclosing in public is not their way of life but they do need help. I saw this after the first session ended. Some of them wanted private dialogue with the facilitator. Others shared their experiences with others in private. That private conversation gave them hope and less despair and that allowed development among the group itself. The second session – the following day I saw different group than yesterday in terms of enthusiasm, energy. The dialogue was just open and free and that also helped other to open up. I heared other member of the group says “Ka ikutlwa ke fodile” – “She now feels better or healed”. That where I learned that talking or opening up indeed heals and assist the government cost on medicine.
I think the are some similarities and differences I have observed with regard to what constitute a counseling setting. Why I am saying this is because firstly, as I have mentioned above about the well reception I received from the group and the counselors. This indicated positive regard for others Unconditional positive regard is one of the climate that the counselor should create so that people should feel accepted, and that how I felt. As I observed the counselor/ facilitator’s. According to study guide for PYC3705:40, explains that unconditional positive regard is being present is the basis from which people can explore thoughts, feelings and experiences. This is what I saw from the lay counselor. That is reason why members of the group were able to express their feelings about the HIV/AIDS issues. Even though members introduced their knowledge about traditional healers who can treat various illnesses, she was non – judgmental, she showed warmth through body language – used posture, maintained eye contact and that indicated one of the values that she should have – Respect. Secondly, she created the safe environment (proposition 17).
She allowed the group members to be themselves. She let them to deal with the issues they felt strong about e.g. (What do you guys want us to talk about today?). She let them to self determine (proposition 4). She never judged them. She respected every one’s ideas. She listens to each and every one of them. She was attending every member of the group. The lay counselors even though they conduct counseling informally as they have no formal training in psychology , like Mrs. Bengu in the study guide for PYC3705 they provide emotional support in the community in collaboration with others.
What I also observed in this group is ‘Confidentiality’. We know that this is a dilemma. One member in the group requested that what they discussed in there it should end there. She herself she doesn’t want to hear her problems outside that group. If her request is not respected, then she will be very disappointed. All members including the facilitator agreed on that and made promise to one another that they will be confidential. This indicated the unity of the group (proposition 3). The differences I saw was lay counselor couldn’t recognize the discrepancies between what the member was saying and how was said or behaved. She was just accepting what ever the member said. Two, non-verbal communication, what the member was communicating through her body language e.g. member is communicating something but she puts hands on her mouth. She doesn’t use minimal encouragers, open question paraphrasing and so forth. The lack of attentiveness skill. According to (Grobler and Schenck 2009:46), attentiveness is the way in which the facilitator orientates him or herself physically and psychologically towards the clients. However, the counselor will answer her phone during the session with the client without apologies.
This is the evidence that I have conducted a proper research. As I have mentioned earlier the group is located in my local clinic and is informal, is not registered, the counselors are not qualified or trained. Therefore, they make use of the pamphlets available in the clinic such as Drug-resistant, TB and HIV and TB in the Workplace.
Grobler, H. &Schenck, R. 2009. Person centred facilitation. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press Modutla, K. & Semenya, B. 2010. Only study Guide for Transformative counseling encounters. University of South Africa. Louw, H. 2008-2010. Only study guide for Participatory community development in social work and the social service professions. University of South Africa.