Today was our first full day in Waramadong village, a remote riverbound Amerindian community notable for its gorgeous boarding school of 300-400 high school students who have been shipped in from around the region.
Guess what? We have another snake bite victim: a middle aged man with three fer-de-lance (labarria) bites on his leg. He’s resting in the adjacent room right now.
There’s something idyllic about a place where everyone, young and old, says good morning, good afternoon and good evening, and where children –at least outwardly– are content to be children.
Problem is that there’s a little epidemic of teen sex going on here, which is where we are targeting our message. Enter the great bugaboo of this kind of development work: the community is very religious (Seventh Day Adventists) and are forbidding us from giving out condoms because, “condoms encourage them to have sex.”
People, they’re already having sex! Let’s at least stop them from getting diseases and babies!
Today was punctuated by a surreal meeting with the headmaster and the entire faculty, which lasted well into the blackness of the unlit night, wherein all of their frustrations with the “White man’s world” and development strategies to date came to light. I found myself giving them strange advice: to take control of their situation, to start their own epidemiology projects in order to sue for government support with real data, and to take the initiative in documenting their own heritage, particularly dwindling knowledge around medicinal plants.
But we must acquiesce to their wishes. So tomorrow I will speak to 300 high school kids about condoms… While not providing any.