Posted by: The Glove | March 18, 2012

Wrapping Things Up

Since the fall, I have attempted many times to get HIV/AIDS education projects started in Dabo. After my parents’ visit in February, I tried one last time. This was, I expected, to be a final, futile attempt. I went to the middle school in Dabo and asked them if we could have an event at the school to discuss HIV/AIDS education, sexual health and family planning. Students at the school have become pregnant throughout my service, so I know students are having sex, and not being safe about it.

The school had a club devoted to talking about public health issues. The club is relatively dormant, and has not done a lot in the recent past. I talked to the club’s advisors, and we agreed to convene a meeting. The students came and were receptive to my ideas. I suggested that we use theater as a vehicle to provide information to their fellow students in a creative, stimulating way

Following the club meeting, I met with nine students to plan and rehearse sketches for the event. Their initial attempts were far too dark. In all of the sketches, a female student would make a questionable decision, get HIV, get pregnant, and then be lectured by her friends and family about what a terrible decision she had made. Not exactly helpful or productive.

Part of the purpose of our event was to talk about the stigma regarding HIV/AIDS. I wanted to make sure students knew how the disease was spread, and that individuals can live successful, fulfilling lives with HIV. In America, that’s obvious to most people. In Dabo, it’s not. They needed to get past the idea that HIV was a death sentence.

Practicing Theater

More theater practice

As we rehearsed, we found the proper balance of humor and gravity, recognizing the importance of sexual health and HIV prevention while also learning how to humanize those who living with the virus.

The day of the event, we had to deal with the type of last minute problems that always occur in Senegal. I showed up at the agreed upon time, only to realize none of my theater group had arrived. We were supposed to start at 4, but quickly realized our audience would be bigger if we waited. There was a soccer game beginning at 5, and since that would be the biggest attended event of the day, we wanted to rope in the young soccer-watching youth.

Students began to arrive, and we kicked the event off by giving condom demonstrations. If students could correctly answer questions about condom use, we gave them a condom (since there was a school dance occurring that night at the school the timing seemed apt).  We had them practice putting condoms on a wooden penis, and talked about other aspects of family planning too.

Katie demonstrates condom proper use to the students

A student learns the proper way to put on a condom

We decided to save the theater for halftime of the soccer game. Then, with about 150 students in attendance, and a promise that the second half wouldn’t begin until the theater had finished, the students got out and performed. The reaction from the crowd was uniformly positive. Both teachers and students alike enjoyed the theater, and found it both amusing and beneficial. As soon as the theater finished, the head of my local health post stood up in front of all the students and did a large-scale condom demonstration (in much better French than I could ever hope to possess). Then he discussed family planning options available in town, and sent everyone back to the soccer game with the knowledge to present sexually transmitted infections and prevent unwanted pregnancies.

 

Mission accomplished.

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Responses

  1. So proud of you and happy for you Dave! You’ve made such a difference in the lives of people there.

  2. “wrapping things up.” I get it!!! Oh so clever.


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