I write this overdue entry sitting in my apartment soaking wet after walking/running home on the dirt and cobblestone streets in the pouring rain after this afternoon finally taking my first real, non-bucket shower with water that wasn’t brown in several days. I’ve eaten countless numbers of baleadas (flour tortillas filled with beans) in the past week alone, my kitchen floor flooded yesterday and my bathroom flooded today for unknown reasons (even though I’m on the second floor), yet I couldn’t be happier. I moved into my own apartment a little over a week ago and I’m finally going to be starting some of my own projects.
I’m working right now on getting a group of 12 year olds together that will be comprised of just 10-15 girls. We will hopefully start meeting in September and will be discussing abstinence, self-esteem, HIV and other STIs, good decision-making, communication, anatomy, puberty, and pregnancy in adolescents. The focus of the group is on HIV/AIDS prevention through abstinence and I’m really excited about it. I never thought I would be working on abstinence education here because I think the general feeling, at home at least, is that it is not effective but this program is completely different. I think that few people would argue that 12 years old is an appropriate age to be sexually active, especially after seeing how many 12 year olds and other adolescents here are getting pregnant, and this program gives these girls the tools they will need to make their own decisions and hopefully delay the initiation of sexual activity. So many girls and women here have low self-esteem and if a boy or a man says they will give their love in return for sex (although not so directly), they will usually give in. This program, called Yo Merezco, or I deserve, focuses on allowing the girls to see their self-worth and understand the risks of getting an STI or becoming pregnant at such a young age. It will also empower them just by giving them an activity to do outside of the home and classroom.
The other big project I’m involved with right now is the Women’s Health initiative. I’m on a team with three other PCVs and right now we’re working on writing a training manual as well as planning a workshop for midwives on obstetric emergencies, focusing on hemorrhage. The workshop is coming up in a little over a week and people will be coming from all over the country to attend. Each PCV will be bringing a counterpart from a health center and a midwife. I’m looking forward to the workshop and since I’m a newer member to the team I will only be facilitating a small part but I’m still excited to be on the other side and to learn more about putting on a workshop on the scale.
The Women’s Health initiative is fairly young, so we have a lot of work ahead of us. There are many initiatives within Peace Corps that have developed manuals with training programs to be used both by Hondurans and other volunteers, and we’re going to be developing a guide to be used with any women’s group. The guide will be used to facilitate a women’s group for roughly 15 weeks with a weekly meeting and will be about general health including fun activities for them to be doing outside of the home. Each of us are writing chapters since we’re working on just the first draft of the manual and I’ll be writing the sections for mental health and self-esteem which includes knowing your self-worth and values, how to hold on to these when confronted with pressure or stress and how to deal with stress, as well as domestic violence and alcohol or drug abuse by either the woman or her husband. In addition to these chapters we will also be covering gender, reproductive health, HIV and STIs, and communication. This is going to be a long process to get the manual written and to finally get a group started in our communities but I am definitely looking forward to working on a project that I know will be here after I have completed my service.
The other excitement here in Ocotepeque is that my first visitors are coming on Friday! Heather and Marisa are coming and I can’t believe that people from home are actually going to be seeing what my life is like as a Peace Corps volunteer. I think it will be really interesting for them to see where I live, meet my friends here, and see what kind of work I’m doing. I’m hoping one or both of them will write a blog entry after the visit to give the perspective of a newcomer into my life and since I haven’t even asked either of them yet I will admit this is a shameless attempt to get them to write.
I also love to hear what everyone is doing at home and appreciate the comments, emails, and letters I get. Please keep them coming!