Tonight… Christmas Eve… PCV friends and I made spaghetti, veggies, fruit salad, and more… and had some cookies, peppermint white chocolate, candy canes, and hot chocolate while watching Love Actually… Merry Christmas from The Gambia!!!
From Nov 17 to Nov 21, 30 Peace Corps volunteers biked to 4 villages in the North Bank and Central River Regions of the Gambia in a Peace Corps event known as the HIV/AIDS Bike Trek. Partnering with the National AIDS Secretariat (NAS), the Agency for the Development of Women and Children (ADWAC), and local Gambian students, teachers, and village community members, PCVs taught grade 8 and 9 students about HIV and AIDS in Njawara (NBR), Njaba Kunda (NBR), Panchang (CRR), and Kaur (CRR). Started in 2010, this annual event focuses on increasing students’ knowledge of HIV and AIDS and strengthening their public outreach skills so that they can have an impact on the fight against stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS. By educating Gambian youths before they become sexually active, this project also hopes to reduce new infections rates and prevent HIV/AIDS from becoming a national epidemic. Over the course of the trek, the project reached over 500 students, but by having many volunteers present and staying in these 4 villages for several days, entire communities and schools were sensitized about HIV/AIDS.
I was in charge of the NBR team, and another PCV was in charge of the CRR team. Aside from just lecturing about HIV/AIDS, there were many games, skits/dramas, singing, and dancing during the trek.
There are hundreds of photos and videos to still sort through, but here’s a taste. Below are photos from the NBR team.
For more information on the bike trek, check out the Facebook website: https://www.facebook.com/HivBikeTrekPCTG
I’ve been showing my host family episodes of Human Planet on my laptop… to teach them a little about geography and expose them to other cultures and peoples of the world. Tonight, we watched an episode on Deserts. The episode showed people from both Mali and Niger, and it turns out that the people they were highlighting were Fula people… and I was able to understand some what they were saying despite being a different dialect of the Fula language that I know. My host family understood them perfectly! It was so cool being able to listen and understand an African language on a TV show 🙂 Totally something that I wasn’t expecting.
Here’s some info about the Fula culture:
Sunday, December 1st. I was in Kombo after a week of meetings and also celebrating Thanksgiving with other Peace Corps volunteers. I took the 8am express bus heading east to Soma (that bus, by the way, fills up by 7:15am and its like a Black Friday Sale every time you try to board it). My counterpart for the HIV/AIDS Bike Trek was in Soma for the World AIDS Day celebration. He works for the National AIDS Secretariat, and he invited me to check out the event. After 3 hours on the bus, I arrived in Soma just as the World AIDS Day parade was about to get started. Not only did I find my counterpart at the event, several other Peace Corps volunteers and trainees were on hand. One volunteer was part of the parade. She lives near Soma and works with many health organizations nearby. The other volunteers and trainees just so happened to be in Soma that day, not realizing there was an event going on. It was a lot of fun getting to hang out with the PCVs/PCTs at this event, and also listening to the HIV/AIDS talks at the event. My project, the HIV/AIDS Bike Trek, wrapped up just 2 weeks ago. In the project 30 PCVs biked to 4 villages teaching grade 7-11 students about HIV/AIDS and ways to speak out against stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS. Overall, these last few weeks have been a good 2 weeks in terms of HIV/AIDS awareness and learning.
Note: More info on the HIV/AIDS Bike Trek in a later post.