Public Health “Charlas” (workshops)
The last two months of my life have been filled with giving health education workshops (or in Spanish- charlas) to kids within the public school system in El Pital, Lourdes Colon, spanning from 5th grade to 9th grade.
As I mentioned in a past blog, one of the NGO’s that I have been helping out with is Glasswing, an NGO that implements a lot of social programs within public schools in El Salvador. One of their programs in an alcohol prevention program, aimed at delaying the age in which adolescents start drinking.
In El Pital, there is a public school, that receives little to no social assistance, and in talking to the principal about Glasswing’s alcohol prevention program, I found myself committing to implementing a series of health education charlas. In discussing the social and health issues that affect the adolescents that attend the school in El Pital, along with teen drinking, the other major issue that became obvious was teen pregnancy, as there is a pregnant teen in both 6th and 7th grade.
So, we decided that the number one priority was education on sexual health and reproduction so May became “sex ed” month, while June became “alcohol prevention” month.
In hopes of putting a sustainable twist to the “sex ed” charlas, I asked the licensed nurse (Lic. Flamenco) who works at the ECOS-F clinic in El Pital to join me so that she can continue giving the charlas once I return to the states. It was great having her help, but I have to say one of the toughest parts of implementing the charlas was working around her clinic schedule, which was constantly changing, and I would never know if she would actually be present to do her part of the charlas with me.
Using a combination of different sexual health and reproduction curriculums, I planed a series of four sessions, with the first session being focused on gender and sexual health anatomy, the second, fertilization and the reality of teen pregnancy, the third, making a life plan and family planning, and the fourth, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS.
We held the “sex ed” charlas in the church (which was a bit quieter than the classrooms), where each grade (5th-9th) would pass through for a 75minute session. I have to say it was quite an experience teaching “sex ed” in Spanish within the public school system of El Salvador. The kids did pay attention and I think they got a lot out of it but we were constantly reminding them to pay attention and save the note passing for recess time. We had an anonymous questions box, and I have to say I was pretty impressed by the thoughtfulness of some of the questions.
Now about the alcohol prevention program; it is a program that is split into four sessions that is designed to teach teens about the consequences of drinking and strategies to help teens make the decision not to drink. I was very lucky to have a volunteer (Matt Baron- second year medical student) to help me both plan and implement the charlas. Because, we needed access to a white board we decided to do the sessions within the classroom, which logistically was easier than doing the charlas in the church, but noise wise, it was a nightmare. The way the classrooms are set up in El Pital there is just a constant high level of noise and I have to say, I have a huge amount of respect for the teachers that teach within this environment, five days a week from 7:30-5:00pm every day. I would definitely have to think more than twice before becoming a teacher in El Salvador.
The coolest part of the alcohol prevention program, is that after the four sessions, we chose two kids from each grade to work together and design a drama about the consequences of drinking alcohol and the various strategies that teens can use to say “no” to under age drinking. It was just so amazing watching them work together and come up with a drama that was very well thought out and put together. The drama was performed for the younger grades and the parents.
So now as we enter the month of July, I am raping up my epoch of charlas and I now enter a there week span of delegations that I will be helping out with. I’m very excited as the first delegation, is a group from the Episcopal church St. Pauls in Newburyport, MA, a church that was very supportive as I made my plans to come to El Salvador with YASC. My parents will also be coming with the St. Pauls group, which is even more exciting for me. The second delegation that I will be helping out with is the Youth Leadership Academy (YLA), a diocesan youth group from Boston, MA, that has been coming to El Salvador for pilgrimage/mission every summer since 2005 and for each trip that they have made in the past I have accompanied them in the role of a mentor; so it will be great to be able to fill this role again for the 8th consecutive summer.
Although I may not have much time to personally blog over the next three weeks, the St. Paul’s group may be using my blog to post about their experiences in El Salvador, so keep any eye out.