2 April 2009
I now have three successful peer educator presentations done! I’m so proud of my group.
The first was for World AIDS Day on December 1st. The ‘sensibilisation’ as we call them in Togo was pushed back due to exams, but the group was really flexible and found ways to get together and prepare even during exams. The program was entirely set by me, as we only had one month to put it together. It went over well, but in our debriefing afterward, we were able to pick out a number of things to improve.
The second was for International Women’s Day, March 8th. Our theme was still HIV/AIDS prevention, but we brought it to the local marché instead of keeping it at the school. By this time, I’d recruited a bunch more participatns, including many from the lower classes (approximately junior high level), so we had a good mix of ages. I’d also had the opportunity to request promotional materials and t-shirts from PSI Togo (Population Services International). The Peer Educators – who voted to call themselves New Life/Meilleur Vie – loved getting the goodies and being able to hand them out. They were so proud of their matching bright red t-shirts, too! It’s so important to thank volunteers for their work – t-shirts and keychains are an easy way. But, to give that personal touch, I also baked them banana bread. It took me 5 hours to make and them about 5 minutes to eat. How I miss real ovens!
At this sensibilisation, the group itself chose what skits they wanted to present, wrote a couple songs to help attract a crowd, and added a new skit looking at the importance of dépistage – getting tested for HIV. They portrayed a traditional custom called lévirat where a widow marries her deceased husband’s brother. In this skit, the first brother died because of a weakened immune system due to AIDS, and the wife passed the virus on to the second brother because they hadn’t taken the important step of testing for HIV.
It was also very different from the World AIDS Day skits because the entire presentation was performed in local language – Ewé. Although many people understand French, the group agreed with me that in order to be sure our message came across clearly especially to the women at the marché, we would need to perform in Ewé.
This meant I got to step aside and just provide crowd control, timing, and resources support. It was fantastic.
The third performance was just yesterday, for the journée culturelle at the lycée.
This time, New Life/Meilleur Vie did a brand new skit to fit with the theme of the day: the importance of education. It was a simple moral lesson: study hard and be respectful and you’ll succeed even if you come form a very poor family. The best bit was how much fun the actors had hamming up various characters: the rich, disrespectful lazy kids, the old, poor, hardworking father, the high-stepping quick-saluting sergeant.
They were brilliant. I’m really pleased with their quick adaptation and I’m really excited to put not only my social issue knowledge to work, but also my theatre experience. Okay kids, you’ve got the knowledge, now it’s time to learn how to cheat out and project!