Saturday, May 26, 2007

This blog entry was brought to you by...

...candlelight. Yup, the power is out for the umpteenth time, so I'm writing this entry by hand and will post it whenever ENEE (the national electric company) decides to give us some juice.

I've been in site for 3 weeks and things are going pretty well. There have been some frustrations and adjustments, but overall I've been happy and confident that coming here was the right decision. My mental well-being can be attributed to four things: regular exercise, staying busy, making local friends, and great long-distance support from friends and family. I sure do appreciate hearing from everyone, and I know I'm not the best about staying in touch, so thanks for the emails, calls, letters and text messages.

So, what's been happening in old Trujillo? (And it is old by the way. Trujillo celebrated it's 482nd birthday on May 18th.) First, I should explain a little about how Peace Corps and Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) operate. We arrive in country as trainees all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and go through a pretty rigorous training for 11 weeks. At the end of training we swear in and become official Volunteers. Each of us is assigned (some would say unceremoniously dumped) to a community, where we will work for two years. We're not assigned to a specific project, job, or organization. We're given a few contacts in the community (usually people or organizations we could potentially work with) and the rest is up to us to figure out. That figuring out part is called "community entry" and it's a process that (according to the Peace Corps) takes three months on average and sometimes as long as six months.

Community entry is a little like settling in to a new town -learning your way around, getting to know your neighbors, making friends, establishing a daily routine- except that no one speaks your language, cultural norms are very different, and everyone thinks you're a tourist. At the same time, you're trying to find work -by making contacts, attending meetings, visiting different offices, making presentations and so forth- except no on has heard of your company, they assume you're a medical doctor, and they're put off by the fact that you don't have an office. My strategy for community entry has been to leave the house every day and find someone working in the health sector to talk to, meet with and/or follow around.

Last week I attended a daylong Malaria training for schoolteachers. The Ministry of Health has developed an educational module for 5th and 6th graders to teach them about malaria. I had mixed feelings about the meeting. First off, the training was about 85% lecture on public health statistics and 15% reading the teacher's manual word-for-word. There was no discussion of learning goals and objectives, how the teach the material, or what information should accompany the different activities in the module. There was no practice. This is a HUGE problem in Honduras. From Public Schools on up, all teaching methodologies are based on lecture, memorization and repetition. Actual learning (in terms of understanding concepts well enough to teach them and/or apply them in novel situations) is a concept that just doesn't exist for most Hondurans. I'll probably do a separate post just on education issues, because the effects of poor education pervade all aspects of life here.

Last Friday and Saturday I attended a seminar for people living with HIV put on by FONASIDA and OFRANEH (Organización Fraternal Negra de Honduras, a Garifuna organization). It covered a lot of topics, such as adherence, self-esteem, and discrimination. I got to know several people who belong to the self-support group here in Trujillo, and hopefully I can start building on those connections because I would really like to work with them more.

This week was a little slower, but I did go out once again with Pure Water, and made firm plans with their Health Promoter to develop a diarrhea prevention charla that they can give at community meetings. This is my first real project!

I also got my hands on a whole stack of health statistics for the Municipalities of Colòn from the Regional Health Department. I've spent a couple days going over them and am writing up a summary, just so I can have a better mental picture of the health landscape here.

Yesterday I toured a US Navy ship. The HSV-2 Swift is docked at Puerto Castilla on a training mission. Their civilian liaison works for USAID and organized a latrine project with Brent, the business PCV here. She invited Brent and the rest of the PCVs to come take a tour of the ship along with the mayor, governor, and some other municipal employees.

In the afternoon, I attended a community meeting in Guadalupe Carney, outside of Trujillo. Alan, a new friend of mine here in Trujillo, is the health técnico (health technician) responsible for Guadalupe Carney, and is working with them to organize a community health committee. The committee would first work on malaria control issues, but then would address a variety of health issues in the community. I introduced myself to several of the community leaders there, and will be going back there a few times in the coming weeks to see if there is some work I can do with them.

This monday I'm leaving for Juticalpa to attend a 3-day Men's Health workshop. I'm going with a friend who works at FONASIDA, and hopefully when we get back we can start working on plans to implement the Men's Health curriculum here in Trujillo. I see a lot of places where it could be really useful: The Centro Penal (prison), the Navy Base in Puerto Castilla, and with the scores of unemployed young men who live in town.


Tom said...

Just checking in.

Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?