As a Peace Corps Volunteer, one of the global, cross-sector initiative is HIV/AIDS awareness and education. In honor of World AIDS Day, Kate organized a day-long seminar at her post at St. Augustine School in Foumbot and invited volunteers in the surrounding area to participate.
Up until this event, I hadn’t done any AIDS or other health related activities. Partly because I am not a health volunteer and I didn’t feel I had adequate training to facilitate these sessions. Like anything else in the Peace Corps, talking sensitive subjects like practicing safe sex, peer pressure, etc. takes only step forward. Once I was conducting the seminar, I wondered why I thought it would be difficult.
We had a really successful turned out of nearly 100 students. I was very impressed that all these kids were willing to spend their Saturday with us and most were very engaged and eager to learn. Alec and I had the younger age group and as a part of AIDS education, naturally, we had a condom demonstration. Yes, there were some natural giggles that came with a room full of teenagers learning how to use a condom, but overall, kids were really respectful, eager to volunteer themselves and I dare say perhaps more mature than if I was doing the same seminar in front of 50 teenagers from suburbia St. Louis.
I think the big difference is that these kids in a way realize that this information is vital. For these kids, the disease is real. HIV/AIDS is not just something that happens to people far far away. For them, it happens right here to the people around them.