Do YOU know how to use a Condom?

The Peace Corps has a few grants available to help with the cost of implementing projects related to specific areas. One example is the VAST Grant, which is to be used for HIV/AIDS related activities. Its not very difficult to apply or receive the funds (in comparison to other available grants). There are a bunch of sub-categories: you could be working with HIV/AIDS patients in some capacity, or teaching about HIV/AIDS to community health workers, or (like myself) promoting health as a way to reduce new infections of HIV/AIDS among youth!

This 3 day workshop was held in January in the offices of a local NGO that works with youth health volunteers. I invited 20 youth from all areas of Chinandega City to attend and learn more about a variety of health-related topics: HIV, Reproductive Health, Nutrition, Hygiene, Mental Health, and Decision-Making.

"Cuidando el Cuerpo, Mejorando la Vida"

It was a pretty broad workshop, so to help organize the information I separated the topics into 3 themes:
Mental Health; Self-Esteem, Decision Making, Goal Setting, Positive Relationships, etc
Reproductive Health; Sex Organs, Sex vs Gender, A-B-C Method, Using a Condom, Sexually Transmitted Infections, etc
Nutrition and Hygiene; Eating healthy, Vitamins/ Minerals, Importance of Hygiene- Personal and in the community

The first day centered on Mental Health topics. Following the discussion on decision-making and goal setting, the youth made a list of short-term (1 and 5 year) and long-term goals for their lives. In addition, they articulated specific steps necessary and challenges associated with reaching these goals. The topic of self-esteem was addressed as well as its definition, importance, and methods to raise ones self-esteem. The following day, through a series of socio-dramas, the participants demonstrated their knowledge of how to raise ones self-esteem and how to set goals to aid in making positive decisions.

The second day of the workshop focused on Sexual and Reproductive Health. The youth were able to correctly distinguish between sex and gender, as well as list 3 sexual and reproductive rights. They were also able to discuss methods of transmission of HIV/AIDS as well as name high risk activities that increase ones risk of infection. Every youth was tested on their knowledge of when and how to use a condom by way of performing a condom demonstration. We all went into deep discussion on excuses often used to avoid using a condom (size// fit, diminishes pleasure, allergies, taste, difficult to obtain, etc). Following this, we completed this list by creating comebacks for each of these excuses.

The final day of the workshop was a combination of Nutrition, Hygiene, Vitamins/ Minerals, Dental Health, and Exercise. As part of an icebreaker, the participants described their favorite food and then were asked to list the vitamins and minerals they gained from eating this dish. This activity led to a discussion on the various vitamins and minerals, as well as common deficiencies in Nicaragua and a variety of ways to combat these deficiencies with their diet. Ashley and I explained the steps to maintaining good hygiene after stressing the link between poor hygiene, poor diet, and disease.

Another great thing about the location was that the food was prepared on the premises, and since it was an event to promote healthy lifestyles, I ask the cook to use more fruit, less sugar, less oil, and cook in a healthier way. This was very helpful in helping the youth to see ways to eat healthier, delicious food and snacks.

Working with youth is VERY different than working with pregnant ladies. Along the way, I discovered that the kids wanted to be actively involved in learning so we did sociodramas, played jeopardy, and played loads or ice breakers related to the topics. I also realized that its ok to run, jump, play and laugh as long as your still getting the lesson!

Competition: Who can correctly name all the reproductive organs? 

An exercise to discuss gender vs sex

Sociodramas about Self-Esteem

The youth got really into the themes and learned a good amount of new information about topics that were fairly familiar to them!

Condom Demonstrations
Effects of Drinking Alcohol on your Body

I was also lucky enough to have help from other PCVs, (Thanks Ash & Kdubs!) and the staff at the NGO!

Ash giving a Hygiene Charla
The youth gave me ideas for future workshops topics they are interested in learning about. I hope to be able to use their suggestions to build another workshop based on their needs and interests. I also will coordinate more with other NGOs to gauge interests in collaborating on the next youth workshop!

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