Saturday, January 14, 2012

Change of Plans, Saying Goodbye to Kirstin, and Puppies (of course)

There's been a change of plans - my plans, Peace Corps' plans for me. My original assignment was to work with POWA, a women's advocacy and empowerment group. I thought it was a dream come true, made to order for me.

I was the only one dreaming. To put it in the most positive light, they do not need a PCV. Their organization is well-developed and runs smoothly. I had very little to do and the connection seems to have dried up.

So I have spent the last two or three months trying to decide what to do. I'm not sure if PC management will try to find another official assignment for me. Some might think that it's a pretty nice situation to have expenses paid just to laze around in this tropical land. Many people say, "Well, part of your assignment is cultural. You get to know the people and they get to know you." That's true; the Peace Corps' mission has three simple goals:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of the Americans.

So the project stuff is only one-third of the work. I feel like I have done a halfway decent job of getting to know the POWA women, our neighbors, and others here in Dangriga. According to my friend, Kirstin, who just finished her service, I can make a difference in people's health just by being a friend and setting examples. WOW - that sounds easy! She told me that in her first two years of service Burkina Faso (she was here in Belize for her 3rd year extension), that she had very little "work," per se. So she spent lots of time "hanging out" with the women in the village. As they talked, inevitably health topics arose in the conversation, and she used that opportunity to provide little tidbits of information. She said that over the two-year time she saw behavior change, an occurrence which makes every health sector volunteer's heart go pitter-patter.

But my type-A personality won't let me settle for living life as a retired person and setting a good example. I want to be "working."

So I've been job hunting. Kirstin is the one who suggested that I find schools that would like help teaching HFLE, Health and Family Life Education. Now this part of the school curriculum is intended to be taught by the regular classroom teachers, typically in Standards IV, V, and VI (that's middle school,  6th, 7th and 8th grades in the States). However, the topics within the curriculum make some teachers uncomfortable - sexual and reproductive health and puberty, sexuality, intercourse, HIV/AIDS and STIs.

I have easily located three schools that welcome my help. I might venture that I could offer my teaching services at any school, and the teachers would love to have an hour off once in awhile.

  • Kids First is a small private school. I will be teaching Stds. IV-VI all in one class, about 18 kids.
  • Gulisi is a relatively new school, managed by the Garifuna National Council (Read about them at I will teach three separate classes, Stds. III-V, on three separate days. Each class has 18-21 students. They will not have a Standard VI class until next year as the kids age up.
  • Solid Rock is a church-based school. I will teach Standard VI only, 21 kids, two days a week.
I start this coming Monday, January 16. Now some people would argue that teaching this way is not "sustainable," another term you will hear over and over if you hang around Peace Corps purists. We should be teaching the teachers how to do it, so they can carry on after we leave. Two ways to look at this. First, the Ministry of Education and Peace Corps have held multiple-day workshops over the past several years to train teachers in HFLE curriculum. That's the ideal way to handle this need, but so far it doesn't seem to be taking hold very well, at least not in any schools I have visited. Second, in the meantime, I can teach the kids directly and most likely WILL effect behavior change because they are hungry for any knowledge especially about SEX. These kids will go on to lead healthier lives, and serve as examples to their peers and teach their children, too. Maybe. So that sounds pretty sustainable to me.

I'm pretty passionate about the non-sex topics as well. All those life skills  that I've been talking about in earlier blog entries are important in a healthy and productive life (communication, relationship, and decision-making skills, knowing how to cope with stress and grief, dealing with peer pressure). I've got one heck of a good lesson I wrote on Respect. Can't wait to try it out.

So I'll keep everyone posted on how things go. Wish me luck!

As a related issue, I will include this letter to the editor of The Amandala, from an irate parent, someone who thinks that we are not teaching correctly.

Dear Editor,
I am extremely furious that the school curriculum in Belize is teaching our children to be homosexuals. As a parent, I blame myself for not being vigilant enough to know the content of my child’s classes.
But I direct the weight of my anger at the Ministry of Education, which portrays innocence when this immorality is brought to light. Who gave the Peace Corps the authority to dictate our school content?
It is clear today that the Peace Corps are indeed spies that are here to carry out an American agenda of God knows what all. These things are being brought to light bit by bit, and those of us who were happy that America voted in its first Black President are now seeing what the white Americans knew. He is indeed the Antichrist!
But coming back to the reason for my rage: I, like many other parents, demand answers. We must call the Ministry of Education, even the church-state schools, to task. Didn’t the teachers know the content of this course? Can’t they read and comprehend?
If the answer to these questions is “no”, I will believe the report that several of our teachers failed the PSE a few years aback. This, too, explains why many young adults cannot read and can barely think after leaving school.
The Ministry of Education is doing us an injustice! Our education should conform with the societal needs, business demands, and capacity-building technologies. Indeed, we are far from developing our Third World country constructively.
Instead, we are more progressive in teaching children how to admire the physical attributes of their same-sex classmates, and how to prepare for sexual intercourse. How pitiful, distasteful and criminal.
May I remind parents and the Ministry of Education that this curriculum content is illegal because homosexuality is, at this time, still illegal in Belize. An urgent commission of inquiry is in order!
If Faber sees no need for this, we can file a lawsuit.
(Signed) Jasmine Orosco


Kirstin in the center
We said farewell to a special woman last weekend, Kirstin Krudwig. She helped Steve and me so much as we tried to find our way through Peace Corps Land. AND she and I both love to exercise, so we spent a fair amount of time doing Zumba, strength workouts, jogging and walking. She helped me with different crafts projects, including those bracelets I made for the POWA women. She's now back in the States (Wisconsin - heard that on her first full day back it snowed!) and will be moving to Washington, DC, soon. Her special man is there, too, so she is starting out her new life in a very happy place!  Here are a few pictures from our farewell party.

Steve and me, Kirstin, Meghan V, and Ava

View from the Pelican Resort where we had dinner

I drew this picture as a going-away picture for Kirstin.
This is where we had our Zumba classes, right by the sea.
And . . . as promised - MORE PUPPY PICTURES!
Their first day out of the doghouse as a group.
Their eyes had been open about 5 days.
They still stayed in a group for everything.
Same day. With Fu We Dog
Anthony with Fu We's sister
Princess being assaulted by the litter of 7.
Usually once the mother starts nursing them while standing up,
that means it's time to start weaning the pups. We don't have a
picture of her walking away while they try to hang on, but it's a
pretty hilarious sight!
All 7 puppies having their "solid" food. It's actually a mix of softened
puppy chow blended with water and dog milk replacement powder.
Who knew there was such a thing AND that you could get it in
There are no words . . .
Of the seven puppies, 5 are female and 2 are male. OR, as Anthony likes to say, "Five are females, and two are a MAN."


Here are some random pictures we forgot to post before. And my apologies to my dear Aunt Jean who has a dial-up connection for the Internet. I know these pictures really slow her down :-( but I always get so many comments on the pictures, so I like to include them.

Christmas Eve - Rafi and me
Christmas Eve - Steve and Anthony
Stann Creek leading to the Caribbean Sea. In the center in the
distance is Why Not Island. I'm treated to this view every morning
during my walk.

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