Well, I’ve adjusted to being back in Nicaragua now. The first few bucket showers were a cold wake-up call (literally). It was nice to come “back home” after vacation to my little pink house and visit with my neighbors and friends in the community. They were all excited to hear what I had done back in the states and they all loved the little gifts (candy, hand lotion, “Alaska” souvenirs) I brought back to share.
Some news: a new Peace Corps Nicaragua community health volunteer group has just arrived in the country. It’s hard to believe that my group arrived one year ago! I’m involved in helping train the new group by giving a two sessions: working with youth and community analysis tools. This new Peace Corps group will be in training until April when they will be officially sworn-in as volunteers (just like I was last April). The sad part is that the health group who arrived one year before I did will be leaving – their two years of service is up and their replacements will take over their sites. I’ve gotten to know the older health group pretty well and will miss them when they leave. They had a lot of good resources in that group: a previous nutrition college professor, two married couples who always had neat projects going on to inspire me, some had Masters in Public Health degrees… They’ll be missed! Can’t wait for their going-away part in March, hopefully at the beach!
Now that I’m back in site, I’m starting to think about projects that I want to accomplish in the 14 months I have left of service. I’m realizing that the time is really flying by and I need to take advantage of every day I have in site to get things done. Here is a look at what I’m thinking of working on/have already started on:
-HIV/AIDS training for all teachers at the local high school
-HIV/AIDS training for the local police
-First Aid/CPR training for local health volunteers and midwives from the villages with the aid of a non-profit organization from the U.S. ( www.ersla.org )
-Continued support to rural teen “health promoters” who learn about health topics (STDs, HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, sexual and reproductive rights…) and teach other youth about these issues. I educate them on the topics and help them plan their sessions.
- Continued classes on sexual and reproductive health in the high school and a possible health fair.
-With my site-mate (who is a small business volunteer), starting a community bank with the health center staff to encourage savings and earn money off the interest.
-I’ve also recently started an aerobics/dance class with a group of women. It’s been a fun way to stay active and also share information with them about eating right and exercise.
-Continued work in soy cooking – perhaps some cooking classes for my neighbors who own several restaurants in town and mothers in rural communities.
-Private tutoring for some neighbor kids in their college courses.
-Billiards tournament at a local pool hall with a focus on HIV/AIDS education for men. The participants have to answer questions about HIV/AIDS to win – it’s a great way to reach a vulnerable population and increase knowledge about the importance of condom use.
Well, those are just a few of the main things that I’ve been thinking about and starting to work on since I’ve been back. New ideas are constantly coming up, especially when I talk with other volunteers and hear what they’re up to. The biggest roadblock to all projects in Peace Corps is of course, lack of funds. There are some funds from the U.S. government we can request especially for HIV/AIDS education, so I’m hoping to apply for those in the future (they give up to $500), but the rest is mainly do-it-yourself funding or begging local organizations to help out.
Last night I went to a girl’s 15th birthday party (if you’ve read my previous blog about this, you’ll remember that it’s a BIG deal here). The family pulled out all the stops. All the women and girls of the family had new dresses, there were pink balloons and banners everywhere, a large box draped in pink silk held all the gifts, a three-layer pink cake topped with a figurine of a girl in a pink dress towered on a table and there was even a private ceremony by the Catholic priest. We all got dinner, soda pop, ice cream and they even started handing out rum at the end. In short: a fun night.
Oh, P.S., here is a YouTube video I posted last month of me giving a tour of my house. If you haven't already, check it out! My house is pretty darn nice by Peace Corps standards, but it did take a lot of work to get to that point. I'm sick of painting, fumagating, fixing, repairing... I am pretty happy with it though since my previous two host families were a lot more cramped and dirty situations. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0QZ_4POpGE
Until next blog!