Sunday, October 09, 2011

Taking HIV To The Radio

Ever since this past May when I attended the All-Volunteer conference I have had an interest in doing something on our local radio station. One of our since-departed volunteers explained how he went about getting a monthly show on the air at a radio station near his site and what he did to educate people on the disease of HIV. Personally, I had no secondary project on hand to report back on and there are two radio stations in my town so it seemed like a good idea to check them out. I even went so far as to tell others that I was thinking about doing such a thing, but my words spoke much louder than my actions. I hadn't done a lick of work to make it happen.

Worse, the radio station that is closest to me is three minutes from my house by bicycle. There was no excuse for me to not stop by and ask around about the possibility of appearing on a program, or getting a slot made available every so often. Yet day by day, I would ride right past the building, a giant tower protruding into the sky with an antenna at the very top just calling out to me, "I'm here, come on in." And I kept riding.

What if they said, "Yes, sure, come on tonight," then where would I be? The fear of them saying yes or no was keeping me at bay for some reason. Silly, but I have been thinking about it and not doing anything for over three months.

Finally, I was writing down my to-do lists one day and I put on the list the following item: Call a fellow volunteer and ask him about the radio station that interviewed him. My mind suggested that I would need an "in", and maybe this other volunteer would have a name or a number that would set the ball rolling down the hill. It was also a lot easier to call a friend then to go in cold, or so I thought. Over two weeks later, (yes, it was at least that long before I checked off the task) I made the call. His response was something akin to, "I'd just go and ask the first person you see if you can speak to someone." Oh. That simple eh?

Yes, it was that simple. By the end of September I had stopped avoiding it and just pedaled my way through the iron gate to the miniature compound and removed my bike helmet and asked the first person I met if there was someone I could talk to. I was speaking to Joseph, the security guard, and he said that I should go inside. I tried to explain myself to Patience, the secretary inside the main room of the building why I was there. She nodded, smiled, and then said let me get the station manager. (This was going rather well already, four minutes in to the task). I met Jos and in no time he was telling me that I was welcome and that not only did he like my idea of an HIV-themed segment, he offered up the varying time slots and programs that might a good fit.

"Why didn't I do this sooner?" I was thinking. If I could have, I would have excused myself and walked somewhere private to kick myself in the backside. It wasn't necessary though, as all was working out nicely. Eventually in a day or two I got to meet the program director of the station and we went over what was possible and it was agreed I could start by doing two things. One was the health program that aired on Wednesday nights from 8:00 to 9:30 in the evenings, "Our Health, Our Wealth". It seemed like a good fit for the HIV education that I was interested in. He then suggested a program about business that was to air on Mondays and possibly talking with the host of that program to see what we could do in terms of exchanging ideas on what business was like in America versus what it was like here. Great! Let's do it.

Then I got to thinking that I might have to fill an hour of time on HIV and business. I was determined to get a bit of a running start on my HIV knowledge as quick as I could. I met with the host of the health program and Rita suggested a few questions that she might ask, and I told her what my focus would be for the program for her to review. Our preparation meeting went well, and later that day (Wednesday of this past week) I was on the air with her in a very tight little room filled with recording and audio mixing equipment. Thankfully it was air conditioned and we were ready and comfortable.

The first part of the show is the discussion between the host and the guest and the last half hour is reserved for calls to the station about the topic. At the outset I was very nervous as I had no idea who was listening in, I wasn't sure of what I was going to say precisely after her first question, and I knew I had to speak really slowly or else no one was going to understand me. Five minutes past by and everything felt fine.

It was more like talking with a friend who was just curious about this and that rather than speaking to 100 people at once. When I answered one of her questions she would refer to the notes she made of my answer and then translate that answer to Ewe so all the listeners would understand what I had said. It also padded the first hour wonderfully. I was waiting for the switchboard to light up with phone calls after 9 o'clock, but it was lit up by a little blip of a light. We had one caller, and that question was a good one: Can an HIV+ person have a child? I said yes but that transmission was a possibility if it was the mother who was positive, and Rita mentioned that if the man was the one who had the virus then possibly artificial insemination was the way to go. Good call Rita! Thus the end of our callers. Only 27 minutes left to fill.

The program didn't quite go the full hour and a half as we ran out of questions and callers by about 9:15. It was still a lot of fun and I am hopeful of turning the appearance into something consistent. After we concluded the broadcast I thanked Rita for her performance and for helping me out with the nervousness at the beginning. The producer of the show gave me the audio recording of the broadcast on a USB drive and I thanked them both profusely before I walked out the door.

During the next day I had two teachers come up to me and say that they had heard me on the radio and congratulated me, so I can confirm that at least two people were listening to the broadcast. It was fun and I am eager to try it again. The next program is the business one this coming Monday. My hope is that is goes off smoothly like Wednesdays edition.

Until next time Hohoe, this is Fo Kwaku wishing you a good evening and a sound sleep.

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