La Vida es una Obra de Arte / Life is a work of art!

This may be one of the projects I remember the most in regards to my Peace Corps Service! It consisted of 2 distinct organizations coming together to put on a street theater play. The first group is the Academy of Music, where I teach violin. The second is the youth volunteer house, where I work to strengthen the facilitation/communication skills of youth health promoters. The youth health promoters were acting out a drama about HIV/AIDS, while the youth musicians were playing background music. It was SPECTACULAR!

We held the event in 3 different locations on 3 different days: La Bolsa, which is a rural community outside Chinandega City; The Ayapal basketball court, a popular hangout and the Chinandega Central park. There were some location issues that we had to resolve (requesting space permits, using electricity, finding an appropriate space), but once the play begin, everything went according to plan. The kids performances were wonderful!!

Essentially, the script discusses methods of HIV transmission. The storyline is this:
Mariela is a teenage girl who has multiple partners, 2 of which include a married man and a fellow classmate. During the course of the play , Mariela discovers she has HIV and because of her unhealthy sexual practices has passed the virus to her classmate and the married man. The married man has most likely passed HIV to his wife, a stay at home mom. The housewife, in turn, may have passed it to their infant child through breastfeeding.

Sadly, the basis for this script is the reality of HIV transmission in Chinandega and in many parts of the world. One of the goals for this project was that this play would creatively present relevant information on how to avoid contracting HIV. There is definitely a need for health promotion and HIV/ AIDS awareness in Chinandega. Chinandega is #1 for the rate of new infections in Nicaragua based on population size.   Hopefully, through projects like this play, Chinadeganoes will learn to make healthier smarter decision regarding their sexual health.

Some of the common risks for HIV are common experiences in Chinandega. People who are have multiple partners have a high risk of getting HIV, especially if a condom is not being used. In general, youth tend to feel invincible to death and disease, causing them to forgo condoms which places them at higher risk for contracting the disease. There is also shame amongst the youth in Chinandega to buy or ask for condoms from the health center since it is usually frown upon to have sex before marriage. In addition, men in Chinandega often have multiple sexual partners. This could be due to machismo (his need to prove he's a man by having more than 1 women) or to the fact that many work far from home (Chinandega is located on the border with Honduras) or to any number of causes (problems in the house, drinking, etc). Unfortunately, these actions lead to a high number of new HIV infections among Chinandega housewives, oftentimes women who are faithful to their husbands.

The most important thing I learned from this project is that if people are invested, the project will succeed. The youth kept showing up for practice, learning their lines and music, and there wasn't much that deterred them from participating in this play. They were dedicated and were patient when we were confronted with an obstacle. In fact, it was their energy and excitement that helped me to get focused and motivated during times when other organizations/ institutions were a disappointment.

There is a chance that we may do a similar project relating to teenage pregnancy. I would love to expand the project to include more youth from different areas. I would also like more local NGO support, since the funding for this project came from the Peace Corps VAST Grant. Securing local more interest and support would help to ensure that the project is sustainable.

Here are some Photos! Also, I hope to have a recording of the play soon to place on the blog!

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