Last Saturday, December 1, was World AIDS Day, and now that it has come and gone, we have finally had a chance to catch our breath.
Shaun and I have been working with Moungo Solidarity Association here in Nkongsamba since we arrived, and have established a great relationship – both personal and professional – with the president. The association strives to improve the lives of the under-resourced women and children in Nkongsamba. After chatting with Claudine, the president, a few weeks before World AIDS Day, we decided that we should definitely hold some sort of small activity for the kids of the association, as the day was the perfect excuse to share some crucial prevention education.
The event was arranged to be informal, in a society where everyone loves formality, we were excited to do something more casual with the kids…education, posters, games, videos, you know, all the things kids love. And while HIV/AIDS can be a ‘heavy’ topic, we figured the more informal the better. Claudine arranged a space for us, and we got to work with all of our volunteers in the area.
All together, we had about 30 kids show up, which turned out to be the perfect group size. We showed some videos in French that explained what viruses are, what HIV is, and the impact it has on those who contract it. We then went into some education with the kids…what happens to your immune system when you get HIV, why is it such a big deal, how can you prevent getting/spreading it, etc.
After a quick head-shoulders-knees-and-toes stretch break, we had a condom demonstration followed by condom races. In my opinion, this was the most important part of the day. From Peace Corps Yaounde we had received condoms and wooden props to use for demonstrations, and after showing how to use them, we had the kids practice. And while it may seem graphic for those back home, in a nation where approximately 12% of the population is living positive with HIV, it is super important to teach the youth how to protect themselves. We played a few condom related games, and all had a good laugh. The volunteers and I who ran the day were under the impression that the more comfortable we can get these kids with condoms, the more comfortable they will be to use them and protect themselves.
Overall, we thought the day was a great success. The kids, I really shouldn’t say kids, as they were anywhere from 12-17 years old, were very engaged and asked great questions. We received good feedback from them too, that no one had previously shared this kind of information with them before. The only hiccup of the day was almost having to end our session early, cause as it turned out, our space was ran by the Catholic church here in Nkongsamba, and they weren’t super big fans of our demonstrations…now we know to find a different conference room for next year!
All in all, I hope the kids learned a lot, and I too, learned a lot from them. I am learning more and more the importance to talk openly, especially to the younger generation, about HIV and AIDS, in hopes to reduce the stigma and myths that circulate. We had a great time planning and working with our Nkongsamba group of volunteers – Shaun and I feel very lucky to have great PCVs around us to work with. Here is our family photo from the day…