Saturday, July 15, 2017

Learning How To Fail

This week has been a huge learning experience for me because all of the things that I talked about in my last post that I love about community based public health are exactly the things that have caused me some difficulty and frustration in the last couple of weeks. Listening to the community in trying to design and implement these interventions means that everyone has a voice, and sometimes those voices supersede epidemiological concerns. At the beginning of the internship, our plan was to modify an existing sexual health curriculum and teach it to youth leaders to address the high rates of adolescent pregnancy in Nicaragua (the highest in Central America). However, after presenting the curriculum to the community leaders, they decided that they would prefer for us not to talk to the youth in detail about sex, sexually transmitted diseases, anatomy or reproduction. On the one hand, I am frustrated and a little disappointed because I was really excited about the curriculum and the information is so important for these teens and young adults to have. On the other hand, I’m forced to think about this situation in the context of its past and its future.

After learning that we would not be able to do the full curriculum that we had planned, we also learned the reason for that decision. The community leaders decided that they would rather go with less detail than more because another group from another organization entered that community without understanding the social context. Although the group was probably very well intentioned, their actions made the community reluctant to accept our intervention program. In the context of the future of the program and this organization’s relationship with the community, I am forced to put aside my disappointment that lasts for this one moment in time and think about the work that others will be able to do long after I left. My hope for the last three weeks is that our group will be able to rebuild the trust within the community so that the Youth Empowerment program continues to be strengthened and improved. Although I am still a little worried about how our completely re-designed curriculum will serve the community, I have learned a lot this week about the importance of always collaborating with the community, listening to community members and involving them in every step of the process. Now I’m off for another two weeks in the campo!

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