Imagine walking on the streets, in the malls and driving in the taxis and not knowing that the persons you pass on the streets, in the malls and sitting beside in the taxis might be HIV/AIDS positive! The thought of this may scare you. What may even be more frightening is if you don’t know your status - are you HIV/AIDS positive or negative?
In 2008, UNAIDS estimated that 25,000 people in Jamaica were HIV-infected. Of this amount the 10percent are children.Armed with these statistics and the knowledge of our voluntary involvement in child care facilities. An initiative in the form of a workshop was formed to bring to the fore issues affecting this vulnerable group.
The main objectives of the HIV/AIDS workshop were to educate persons about the transmission of HIV/AIDS, the treatment and care of children with HIV and the effects of stigma and discrimination particularly on children.
The hope is that through the dissemination of valid information to care givers and teachers alike that this will illicit some behaviour change in their relationship and support of persons with HIV/AIDS.
Our audience consisted mainly of volunteers however we also joined by teachers, care givers and guidance counselor’s present from our teaching placements.
We had a total of fifteen volunteers present 3 three care givers, one teacher and two guidance counselors.
The first presenter of the morning was: Mr. Jeffrey James, Regional Trainer from the Jamaica Red Cross, gave an in-depth presentation on the “Biology and Transmission of HIV/AIDS”. He took the time to explain what is HIV; what is AIDS; how do you become infected; what is the process of infection; how don’t you become infected and how do you know if you are infected.
What is HIV? Human Immunodeficiency Virus is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It harms the immune system by attacking certain kinds of cells (T-cells or CD4 cells) which are a part of the body’s natural defense against illness. Hearing this was enough to pull the interest of persons to know more about this disease and how someone can become infected. As Mr. James pointed out, there are three factors that must be present for infection to occur:
1. Presence of the virus
2. One of four body fluids carrying this virus: blood, semen, vaginal secretion and breast milk
3. Entry into the blood stream by injection
The interactive presentation made the points easy to understand, though most of the persons were not medical experts. Persons can become infected by having unprotected sex with an infected person; babies can get infected through mother-to-child transmission; blood to blood contact (sharing needles or blood transfusion).
Now, we know how, let’s look at the process of infection. The virus enters the immune system and uses a protein to cause the cell to begin to reproduce the virus. For some persons, initial symptoms include a dry cough, shortness of breath and a flu-like illness. Depending on the immune system, the progress from HIV to AIDS can be slow or fast. Hence, it may take 8-10 years as well as short as 18 months depending on that persons’ immune system. Mr. James answered questions on the minds of individuals as he went through the presentation. Question: Is it possible for someone who has HIV and then has AIDS revert to HIV after treatment? Simple answer, no. Once, you have AIDS you cannot go back to your HIV status.
Other questions asked were “can taking the anti-retro drugs drug the 21 days stop the process of infection”? Answer: It might slow the process down but it will not prevent it. Mr. James went on to explain that once there was bleeding from a wound which comes in contact with a HIV/AIDS person’s bleeding from a wound, then it was possible for the disease to spread quickly. However, if there was no blood from the wound, then it would be less risky. Another question, “What about kissing?” Mr. James smiled before answering this question. He stated that “deep french kissing with blood contact from an HIV/AIDS person” was also very risky. Question: “Are there any risks involved in two infected persons having sex?” Answer: “Oh, sure, it was quite possible to cross infect causing the virus to speed up, rapidly breaking down the person’s immune system”.
Mr. James highlighted that children were at risk of being infected with HIV/AIDS. Stress will make the disease worst. Hence, a stress-free environment was most ideal for them. Another key factor was nutrition. This played an important role in building the immune system to fight against the virus. Children were often times discriminated once persons were made aware of their status. In a school environment, the Guidance Counsellors work with parents to ensure that the child’s opportunity of getting an education was not affected by this.
Care volunteers did an interesting role play about a little boy at school who had HIV/AIDS and had no friends. However, after learning that HIV was not transmitted by hugging, playing and touching, they began playing with him. Key point to note: If more persons were informed about HIV/AIDS, they would know how to deal with persons living with the virus.
A presentation by medical volunteers, Mikkel Kunswald (Medical Student) and Marcus Riedel (Registered Nurse) provided useful information about the effects of stigma and discrimination of children. It was very important to educate the children about this disease and how it was transmitted. Also of importance to reduce the effects of stigma and discrimination, was education on how to relate and treat HIV-infected children. Children needed the love, care and support of persons around them.
Mr. Bernard Williams, HIV-positive, told his story about living with HIV/AIDS. The 44 years old, contracted the disease 11 years ago through sexual intercourse. His presentation drove home the point that HIV was not a death sentence, as even though he had the disease he did not allow it to prevent him from carrying out his normal way of living. Mr. Williams spoke with confidence and the zeal of helping others with the disease. Throughout his story, persons sat in amazement of his positivity about life and the determination to live.
A special thank you was extended to all by Steven Burkhard (Swiss student) and Alexander Howe (British Attorney-at-Law). At the end of the workshop, persons were now more knowledgeable and pondered the question asked by Mr. Williams “Are you behaving in a risky way?”
Reading, Attendance, Punctuality and Discipline (RAPD) Programme - Essay and Poster Competition
The Villa Road Primary and Junior High School celebrated national reading day within schools on January 28th 2010 with the theme: “Readers are Leaders” The day was scheduled with motivational talks and visual and auditory activities surrounding reading. Various business persons and members of staff from local institutions came to read to students and encourage them to develop this habit of reading within there spare time not only for academic purposes. The Teaching and Medicine Project Officer for Projects Abroad Jamaica was present for the latter part of the day’s proceedings which was to culminate in the announcement of the winners for the 2009 Projects Abroad Jamaica Essay and Poster Competition.
In preparation for the day the volunteers for the placement Laura Johns, Silke Brebisch and Marcus Vinberg as well as other teaching volunteers were able to lend their efforts in terms of decoration, refreshments and administrative logistics for the day. A large component of their help was with students of the school for the Essay and Poster competition. The competition was launched in December of 2009 and promoted for all grade levels through the subject teachers and the Guidance Department.
The volunteers utilized their two project meetings of the month to do consultation with the students about their essay or art pieces; making corrections for grammar, punctuation and choosing colour schemes.
The aim of the competition was to encourage students to hone their writing skills and convey positive messages about the concepts of Reading Attendance Punctuality and Discipline (RAPD) through an artistic medium. The competition guidelines were created and sent to all grade supervisors who then solicited the involvement of the students. The competition was separated into the lower and upper schools according to ages. There were a total of fifteen entrants for the Essay competition and eight for the Poster competition. The Students were judged on the basis of grammar, punctuation, organization, content and style for the essay competition. For the poster competition the elements of creativity, design, relevance, layout and technique were assessed.
After much hard work and revision, the students submitted their pieces and the judging process was conducted. Most students had close marks however the winners emerged as follows.
Lower School/ no poster
1. Winner: - Renae Thompson
2. First Runner Up: - Daebreon Michel
3. Second Runner Up: - Whitney Russell and Kris Anna Wilson
Essay Competition Upper School
1. Winner: - Tiffany Powell
2. First Runner Up: - Tasha lee- Lindsay
3. Second Runner Up: - Errol Singh
Poster Competition Upper School
All Trophies and medals were handed out by our volunteers and a motivational talk was given by our Pro Teaching Volunteer Miss Daphne Wake. The day ended well with students singing and rhyming about Reading, all in all I believe it was a success and an investment into the lives of our children.
What can I say about my experiences in Jamaica with Projects Abroad? I can just say that after two weeks only, I leave here my heart, having known special people; having felt at home with Mrs. Elizabeth Parker; having been treated as a member of the family and introduced into the Christian community of her church where I felt accepted and beloved. Mandeville leaves me with a lovely memory – with its warm people, the taxi drivers that, after just a few days, recognize me and call me to say: “May Day” or “Heathfield”, knowing the route I do everyday from home to work and back. I bring home the memory of these everyday taxi drivers with us passengers squeezed in, even five people in the back and three in the front. Everybody says “hi” or “morning” when they get on and off and you feel at home, even if your home is on the other side of the world. What about Projects Abroad? Starting from Bevin (driver), who came to pick me up at the airport and welcomed me with a hug, as if I were his sister, and then, Cherricha, Bridgette, Rhoseen – how warm their welcome was! Stacy took me round the first day on orientation. Everything was so new to me and I had to take note of everything she said (being afraid to forget it). I cannot believe that in such a short time, I became familiar with the environment and the fear of the first day totally disappeared. This fear was mainly due to the prejudices of the Europeans towards Jamaica: “Don’t go out by yourself”; “It’s dangerous”; “Be always alert” What about my work on the Parenting Project? I was well accepted by the people in Heathfield who also asked me to help them with the reading and mathematics. So, my initial role changed and I became their “teacher”. Also the children knew me and smiled at me when they saw me arrive. Now, I have to say “bye bye Jamaica” but be sure I will be back soon. Bruna was interviewed during the International Hour with NCU Radio, along with Daphne Wake. Contributed by Bruna Palonta (Italy) Care Volunteer - Parenting Project
Jamaica is beautiful. Jamaica is warm and the people are lovely. Also einmal vorweg, wir sind insgesamt 5 Monate hier, und die häufigste gestellte Frage von Jamaikanern an mich ist wohl „Do you like Jamaika?“ – und ich werde nicht müde zu sagen „Jamaica is nice!“. Ja sogar bei jeder Antwort auf die Frage kommen mir neue wunderbare Aspekte in den Kopf geschossen, die das Bild von Jamaika abrunden. Meiner Meinung nach ist Jamaika ein wertvoller, wunderbarer, ja sogar himmlischer Ort. Die Vegetation auf diesem Fleckchen Erde ist einzigartig, das Klima wunderbar angenehm - ich habe die ganze Zeit das Gefühl und den Geruch von Sommer in der Nase, von einem schönen heißen Sommer like the Summer of 1969 ;) – Nein, aber ein Gefühl von Freiheit, Gelassenheit und Liebe. Es gibt wohl keinen Ort auf der Welt, der so ein Epizentrum von Musik darstellt. Egal ob groß oder klein, alt oder jung, jeder Jamaikaner hat Music Riddim im Blut. Das liegt wahrscheinlich an der unglaublich hohen Anzahl von Kirchen hier in Jamaika. Die meisten Leute sind gläubige Christen jedoch im Einklang und Respekt mit den vielen weißen Rastas, die hier in Jamaika leben. Jamaika ist ein magischer Ort. Es ist die Vorstellung von einem Paradies, das schon in der Bibel mit dem von Jamaika übereinstimmt, die diese Insel so wertvoll macht. Auf Jamaika, insbesondere in bestimmten Gegenden großer Städte, kommt auch Kriminalität vor. Jedoch überwiegen die positiven Dinge. Die Gewaltbereitschaft in bestimmten Gruppen ist auf die Geschichte dieses Landes zurückzuführen, das bis vor nicht allzu langer Zeit unter der Sklaverei litt, welche tiefe Spuren hinterlassen hat. Jamaika ist von physischen Auseinandersetzungen in der Vergangenheit geprägt, die sich in sportlichen Wettkämpfen, wie auch in der Musik, dem Tanzstil sowie zuweilen im Verhalten untereinander widerspiegelt. Und es liegt auch an der unglaublichen Energie und Lebensfreude, die hier vorherrscht. Auch wenn viele Menschen sehr wenig zum Leben haben, verlieren sie nicht den Spaß am Leben, der sich im Tanzen, Domino oder Mühle spielen auf den Straßen widerspiegelt. In Jamaika werden der Kummer und die Sorgen einfach weggetanzt und dann macht man sich an die Arbeit. Wo hingegen sich in Deutschland oft eine depressive Stimmung in schlechten Zeiten ausbreitet. Die Menschen in Jamaika leben mehr. Man kann es spüren - die Menschen hier entfalten sich und leben so, wie sie wollen, was manchmal zu Problemen führt aber dem Sinn des Lebens doch sehr viel näher ist als im kühlen, oft biederen Deutschland. Außerdem ist es hier in Jamaika so wunderbar, dass man mit jedem, sei es in der Stadt im Bus beim Einkaufen reden kann und sich niemand als etwas Besseres fühlt als sein Gegenüber. Die Menschen sind offener für ein Gespräch als in Deutschland, wo jeder eher für sich sein will. Und das Essen: „Jerk chicken, Dumplings, Patties, Festivals“ …mmmmmmmhhhh…Wir sind jetzt 3 ½ Monate hier und mein Bauchumfang leidet etwas darunter. Ja, was soll man da noch schreiben? - Kommt einfach her und findet es selbst heraus. Ich kann nur sagen, es lohnt sich. Ich zumindest hab mich in Jamaika verliebt. Es ist schön hier. Das Leben findet auf der Straße statt, es gibt viele Straßenverkäufer, also muss man nie lang suchen, wenn man ein neues Feuerzeug oder Guthaben für das Telefon benötigt. Die Straßenpartys, die Autos mit riesigen Lautsprechern auf dem Dach. Die Partys und natürlich die Arbeit mit den Kindern, in unserem Fall in einem Waisenheim, die uns sehr viel Spaß macht und uns dem Land und den Menschen ganz nah bringt. Unterm Strich bin ich froh hier zu sein und werde so oder so definitiv nach Jamaika zurückkehren, und natürlich auch nach Mandeville, um all die guten Menschen und Freunde wiederzusehen, die ich in den vergangenen 3 Monaten kennenlernen durfte. Contributed by Eve Scheu & Joerg Wengert Care Volunteers (from Germany)
If you like to do some serious work and make long days, if you don’t mind getting dirty and sweaty; this is your project!
Projects Abroad works together with a Christian organization called Adventist Development and Relief Agency Jamaica (ADRA Jamaica). One of the things ADRA Jamaica does is building and repairing homes for those who are poor and have great need for a better home. It’s great to be a part of this and being able to help in a special way. Working in the building construction can be very hard. Most of the times you work outside and it can get very hot. I’ve mixed concrete, carried stones and buckets full of sand and water, helped making floors and did some painting. And I’ve sweat! But sometimes there is not so much to do for me. Being a girl and not as strong as the guys here I sometimes have to wait for work I’m able to help with. Just handing over materials or holding on to some wood could be enough to assist sometimes. And it may rain (it can come down hard here in Jamaica!), so you need to wait for the weather to clear up, unless you’re working inside.
The thing about this project I like most is to see the work after a few days and compare it to how the person(s) lived before we came. I can’t help but feeling proud of our work. Talking about a big change in the quality of lives! I learn about construction and am amazed by how effective simple tools can be. Almost everything is done by hand, without the use of electricity. I also love that I spent time with people who live a tough life and hear their stories. It’s wonderful to experience how friendly and generous most people are! And I get to see a different part of Jamaica than tourists normally see. I imagine this is true for almost all volunteers, but with this project I went to little places that are not even on the map and see more of Jamaica than most others who stay in the same place. When you build here for a month you most likely spent time of a number of different projects.
Even though the website of Projects Abroad will tell you that you don’t need experience for this work, I personally do think that you can be of more assistance if you are strong or experienced in building. You could just do so much more and isn’t that what you came to do here?! Make sure you have some sturdy footwear!
My Teaching Experience in Jamaica
Just be prepared for some loud kids and fighting in the classrooms and you’ll be fine. I find I don’t need to yell at the kids to keep them quiet once I have their attention and am able to make a connection to these kids. They turn from a loud, exiting group into angles who are curious and eager to learn from you! I am just loving teaching in Jamaica!
Maybe it’s easier for me, since I normally have children that go to junior high, between 12 and 15 years. And I only give classes once a week. But every time I have a class I feel sorry that my time is up and I can’t tell more stories, ask more questions or answer more questions. The girls start with saying “miss, miss. miss” all the time, but after explaining I can only listen to one they usually quite down. I love giving high-fives to the boys. One class made me sing my national anthem (and I did). In return the whole class stood up and sang the national anthem of Jamaica with proud! It was wonderful.
I try to let each and every child know I’m seeing them and they matter to me. It doesn’t always work, but most of the times it does. Making them think about their live-museum is one of my favorite things. When every day of your life is catalogued and captured in pictures and a museum is build to honor your life, than how would your museum look like at this point in your life? What pictures make you happy or proud and what pictures would you like to add to your museum as you grow older?! Every day you live you build your own life museum and it’s up to you how your museum looks at the end of your life. Kids have dreams and I feel fortunate that they are willing to share some of their dreams with me. I want to be the kind of teacher that helps to enable young people to fulfill their dreams and I hope I can make a little positive change in their lives.
I hope this may inspire others to get involved with the building project. All I can say is that I’m so glad I’m doing this! Cathy
Why is it always so hard to decide where to start on telling you of my amazing time in Jamaica!! As I approach my halfway point I can without any doubt say that I could quite happily stay on here for a few years, no trouble at all (although I fear my family and friends might have a few things to say about that!) My 33rd birthday was easily the best birthday I have had on the planet to date! The kids and I were on countdown mode a month before and then it was upon us! I bought two 9 inch Birthday cakes to bring in for all the children and staff, made up hundreds of little gift packs to give all the kids and staff at Hanbury with Australian flag stickers, balloons, glitter, lolly pops and as many sweets as I could squeeze in! It was a stampede as soon as I got out of the car. But I wouldn't have had it any other way! I'm not sure who was more excited me or them! The day was spent doing little to absolutely no work what so ever! Everyone was so excited! We all drew on each others faces with bright Aussie Zinc (Thanks Mum!), face paint, blew up balloons, party hats, stuck stickers on our faces, played games and ate rainbow iced birthday cake! The kids sang me the Jamaican version of happy birthday in the morning and the morning's Devotion or Prayer time was dedicated to me. I have to say I was almost brought to tears but just about held it together! It was SO SPECIAL! In the evening 23 of the volunteers joined me for a trip to Treasure Beach for my birthday and upon arriving at the Restaurant later that evening I had the surprise of my life with a huge table covered with sweets, balloons, Happy Birthday Banners, hand drawn posters all decorating this gorgeous beach side restaurant. How touched was I.... I really did not expect that, especially as my family knows that I am always the one behind all the surprises normally! I honestly could not have had a better Birthday in a million years!! This last weekend, I (or should I say my buttocks!) are still suffering and gave a new meaning to the term "walking like John Wayne', as we trekked up the Blue Mountains for 38 Kilometers or 7 hours..!! Yes you heard it correctly!! We got up at 2am after only managing to snatch about 2-3 hours sleep to trek up (and I mean up in pitch black darkness!!!) the mountains to see the sunrise and hopefully Cuba. Unfortunately it was too cloudy to see Cuba and upon arriving at the top the tour guide informed us that of all the times he had done the trip he had only seen Cuba 5 times!!! Yes, thanks for that!! But even so the effort was so worthwhile. It was breath taking to be at the same height as the clouds watching the sensational sunrise and most definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity that you would find me missing out on!!! The food is incredible out here if you didn't return home a little heavier than you left, you would certainly not be living like a true Jamaican!! My Favorite dish so far is saltfish and ackee which is the Jamaican National Fruit. The only way to describe what this fruit looks like is that it is White and that it was definitely scrambled in a previous life!! Daily life is spent at school (at Hanbury) from 9 - 2:30pm then they are free to run around the home until bedtime. They go to church on the weekends and other than that again their time is spent at Hanbury Home. Being at the orphanage now for over a month it still shocks me how these kids actually get by with what they have and the way they have to live. As much as you prepare yourself mentally for the conditions, until you get here and experience it for yourself you cannot even come close to imagining what it is truly like. The children are here for various reasons and in the six weeks I have been here now we have welcomed three lovely new arrivals to my class. The reasons behind why the kids are here are assorted. One or both of the children's parents have died, some families can simply not afford any more or any children at all and some are taken from their homes due to various types of abuse. Despite seeing all this and so much more, I think its important to concentrate on the positive otherwise I do not think it would be possible to continue doing the job I am doing! The kids are always so grateful for what they have and feel blessed to be here at the orphanage. It makes me want to spend every cent I have on clothing them, feeding them and educating them but as this is truly an unrealistic goal for one little person such as myself, I'm giving them the second best thing I can as much of my physical and emotional strength as is possible for me to give! I stay on most days an hour and half over what I am meant to be working but I cannot leave these kids, they are something else!! I am frightened that with each and every day I will grow even more attached than I already am to these truly spectacular little Jamaicans the more I will seriously not be able to leave them.
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