Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Day in Jamaica

Nativity scene at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
 Christmas is a big celebration in Jamaica.  The excitement is felt in the air in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  On Christmas Eve the masses gather at Grand Market to do their Christmas Shopping. Celebrations go on all night and end around 7 or 8am the next morning.  On Christmas day many attend church and have a big Christmas meal with chicken, pork and goat as the main dish. 

My Christmas experience was wonderful. I ventured out on the 23rd during the day and caught some of the crowd and culture. I was intrigued  by the Junkanoo characters that dance around the streets in their scary masks, pointing pitch forks and asking for money, all in good fun and a tradition from the past. I didnt have a camera to capture the Junkanoo but believe me they are some of the scariest masks I have seen. I spent Christmas eve with my host family helping bake traditional Jamaican fruit cake.  It turned out really good!  Christmas Day I attended church with my host family. I was so happy to see the alter decorated with a Christmas tree and Nativity scene. I hadn't seen many decorations or trees leading up to Christmas as I am accustomed to in the US. It made me appreciate the decorations all the more when they were put up on Christmas Day. I was so happy to finally sing some Christmas songs in Church on Christmas Day, as we had not sang any Christmas songs before then.  I could listen to Christmas songs all year around I love them so much.  Yay Christmas Carols to celebrate the birth of Jesus. After church we served communion to the sick who could not attend church that day.  We were offered Jamaican fruit cake and Sorrel juice (traditional Christmas drink).  Soon after I headed to Ocho Rios to celebrate with other PCV's on the beach. We caught some rays and soaked our cares away in the warm waters of Jamaica.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Beach

Mammee Bay, Jamaica
My senses were soothed ,with sand as soft as a bunny on my feet,  warm gentle waves, and calming shades of  blue. God is good.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Meet the Tireless JASL Crew

Meet the tireless Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) crew, Alfonso, Nurse (Masie), and Milton. This was taken at an intervention last week in Race Course at the Youth Advancement Development Center .  As part of the intervention, they poster the walls, set up a table with pamphlets and condom demonstrations, hand out free condoms, do free HIV testing and counseling and do a presentation on JASL and STI education.  This team of volunteers works hard. Please pray for them to have strength and motivation to continue to volunteer their time  to continue to reach the at risk population.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Dispelling Myths

HIV in Jamaica is complex.  I'm just skimming the surface with this entry in trying to create a picture of the situation. In Jamaica there is a stigma associated with HIV. Myths and misinformation about HIV feed the stigma and the fear which obstructs testing, treatment and support which contribute to the spread of HIV and increase in AIDS related deaths.  Hence, a large component of HIV reduction is education and desensitization.

Below is a picture of Milton (Jamaica AIDS Support for Life Volunteer), giving a demonstration on how to use a female condom to a very interested group of high school girls. Our table generated alot of interest with our demo penises and vaginas (used for condom demos). Jamaicans are not shy in talking about sex.
 In the month that I have been here, I have  read every pamphlet and booklet in the office, I have assisted with interventions, health fairs and educational sessions. I have talked to the health care providers,  counselors,students, and people living with HIV. All of this to try to get a better understanding of the HIV situation in Jamaica and how my assignment aligns with this big picture. The stories that I have heard are heartbreaking.  My project partner told me the story of a 7 year old girl who had been raped  by a person infected with HIV.  She then became HIV positive. When her caregivers found out that she was HIV positive they put her in a cage and kept her there until my project partner heard about her case and became her advocate. They kept her in a cage due to the fear and the stigma that is associated with HIV.