As I have mentioned, part of our Peace Corps pre-service training is having a community project. Before deciding what we wanted to do, we wanted to introduce ourselves to the mayor and ensure that whatever we were working on aligned with the needs of the community. He was a bit confused since we came in without a proposal asking for his support, but we did learn from him that a big focus of his office for the community is promoting health. He shared that our community has a pretty large drug problem, and after talking to another girl that works in the city health department, I learned that part of the problem is that kids are spending less time doing healthy activities (like playing football) and more time going to billiards halls and discotecas where drinking and drugs are a part of the culture. Aside from that, our group had noticed that there was both a lot of garbage in the streets and in arroyos that lead to the river, and that very few public restrooms have soap at the disposal.
We worked to pull together a proposal for three kids’ mini-camps that pull together all of this info, and dropped off a proposal for the mayor to review. In a couple of days, we were put into contact with a man that works in the mayor’s office, who connected us with a principal at a school on the other side of town. The principal loved the idea and offered his basketball court, which has bleachers next to it and shade over it, for our use for the camps. Next, we created flyers and both hung them around town and got into contact with the mayor’s office, and asked them to post the info on their Facebook page. We also did a little tour of the schools the day before their Semana Santa vacation started to tell the kids at the schools about our camps. We did a good enough job that a woman that works at the gym said, “Are you really doing this? And it’s really free? And you really don’t have to be a student at the school? My daughter told me about it, but I didn’t believe her!”
For our first little camp, we focused on the environment. I spoke a little bit about what we do with our garbage and what we can do to reduce, reuse, and recycle the items we use. Then we did a craft project and painted flowers made out of soda bottles for the kids to take home. This was the point when a representative from the mayor’s office showed up to take pictures…and the moment when paint spilled all over the basketball court. After that little fiasco, Shelby talked about water conservation and why it’s important both to reduce the amount of water we use as well as to keep our streets – and therefore our water – clean. We passed around gummy bears for a demonstration and to generally keep the kids happy. Finally Alyssa talked about air quality and what we can do to keep our air clean and why clean air is important, and we ended with a couple of games.
The following week, we talked about sicknesses in town and how to prevent them – focusing on good handwashing and mosquito bite prevention. Then we talked about healthy and unhealthy activities, and spent the rest of the time doing healthy activities – playing games in a safe environment!
Our final week we focused on taking action. We planted flowers in containers made from the bottom of the bottles we had used for our week 1 craft project, therefore creating something that would help the air quality in town. Then we did a clean-up of the school property. Finally, we talked about how the kids could take what we had talked about and apply it in the communities. If one less kid is throwing their water bag or bottle on the ground because of us, I will be so happy.