PEPFAR Conference: 24-26 October 2012
Between August and October of this year, second year health volunteers organized several conferences on HIVaids throughout the country. In the north, we focused our conference on the vast migrant worker population, due to the high volume of workers that migrate to the north of Nicaragua every year for seasonal work, such as coffee picking, tobacco farming, construction, military, etc. and the high-risk behaviors that coincide with living outside of your normal community. As a second year volunteer, I was able to help out with the planning and implementation of the conference. It was a success! In years past, we’ve put on this conference for health educators. This year, however, the audience consisted of campesinos and organizations that work with campesinos. The difference was that some of the participants had never gotten the opportunity to go to a workshop. The result was that all participants left with not just HIV knowledge, but the SELF CONFIDENCE to pass this information on to migrant workers through informal education sessions.
Here’s a picture of the whole group–lots of group chemistry!
Angie and I gave a charla on how gender relations in Nicaragua can impact the spread of HIVaids, especially among migrant workers. Here’s a picture of an activity we led that illustrates the “chain of transmission” of HIV and other STIs.
We had a ton of fun, interactive activities woven throughout the three-day conference. Here’s a picture of the “no laughing” contest. These guys were serious:
Here’s another activity that shows how HIV can spread quickly. Put a bunch of pictures of hot guys and girls from magazines on the wall. Tell everyone: we’re at a party–pick your three favorites to…uh…”dance” with. At the end of the party, it’s revealed that one of the sexy people had HIV. As a result of all the unprotected “dancing,” most of us ended up with HIV as well.
The best part of the conference was the practical experience. We broke up into eight small groups, and everyone went to a different venue, such as the fire stations, the military base, a coffee beneficio, tobacco factory, etc. and led a basic HIVaids charla. For many participants, this was the first time they had to speak in front of a group, and all found it extremely beneficial–now that they know they can give a charla, they’ll bring the information back to their communities. This is my favorite picture–little Kate in her beautiful dress giving a charla to the military men:
Vacation with Nadine and Becca
In October my sister Nadine and best friend Becca came to Nicaragua for a visit. Even Maní came along. Here’s Becca and I in my site at the infamous gas station:
They got a very typical Nicaraguan experience when we went to visit Nishant’s host family’s farm. It’s out in the middle of nowhere–first, drive 8 hours to the Q. From there, take a 30 minute bus ride. Walk a mile to the river. Cross the river in a big canoe-like boat. Walk two hours to the farm. We took horses on the way back. Here’s us after crossing the river:
And when we arrived, delicious fresh coffee and bread:
Maní followed on foot, even when we got on the horses.
We did some more touristy things too, like the Laguna de Apoyo (volcanic crater lake) and volcano boarding. On our volcano boarding trip we had a killer group, supported by a drunk Irishman, who kept drinking to my birthday. Here’s our group doing our team cheer, which consisted of putting our hands together and shouting:
Nadine, Becca, and I on the top of the volcano:
And lastly, when we got back, two free mojitos awaited us at the hostel’s bar, which made us quite happy:
We also got boots made in Estelí, spent some time with my Managua friends, visited my host family in Carazo, and went to the artisan market in Masaya. It was a stellar trip
Post Peace Corps Plans
As much as I hate to admit it, my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer is quickly coming to a close–I just have four months left! We have our Close of Service (COS) conference three weeks from now, where we’ll talk about everything we need to do to wrap up our work in our sites and with the office, as well as some learn some tips for job-searching and applying to grad schools. My COS date will be during the week of March 19-22, 2013, unless I decide to extend for a couple months to oversee the ChatSalud project.
So what are my plans for post-Peace Corps? Well, I have decided to pursue higher education and have officially applied to several Master of Public Health programs, most of which focus on behavioral sciences, international health, and gender issues. We shall see how it all pans out–I’ll keep you all posted.