Love, sex and contraceptives

The end of our third week of training already. Growing Up at Papaya Academy.

It has been three interesting weeks.
From body changes to menstruation and we finish this third meeting talking about love, sex and contraceptives.

In week two we see the girls opening up. They are motivated and they become more and more active. Most of them loose their shy attitude and really talk with us. They come early and hugg us when they leave. (I'll be a pro in hugging when I return, be ready for a changed Carmen ha!)
We find out that the girls know a lot already about living healthy and personal hygiene. So that's good. Menstruation is awkward for some of them and after meeting two our anonymous questionbox is full, full!
It's is a real succes, this secret box for our eyes only. We answer at least thirty questions a week. About the topics we discussed that day or not related at all. Some are concerning. Girls wondering whether their mother will be proud of them after graduation. Or worries about not being able to pay the school tuition fee. Other questions make us smile: 'I don't like milk, what can I do?' or 'Are you happy in Papaya?'.

The girls look at ease in our classroom. They seem very comfortable. They say they're learning new things and they thank us for teaching them. That's of course a great deal for us. There's even a mother of one of the girls that approaches us to share her graditude. Telling us how happy she is her daughter is learning about these 'taboo topics'. What more can we wish for?

There is more actually :)
When we sit down with the staff for our weekly meeting, they also express their enthousiasm. One of the teachers says she is so much more aware since we've been teaching them. Wonderful!
Every week we discuss the topics of the following week with the staff. We explain the activities we've planned and show them our presentation for the girls. This week we inform the teachers about the topics of week four: masturbation and abuse.
Last week the staff asked us to adjust our educational part about masturbation. This is not something they want to encourage. Especially for the girls. We are surprised at first, cause they really really seem to think this is a male thing only. After a lot of questionsmarks back and forward, we promise them to make this chapter somewhat more Filippino style. We are not here to change the girls into wild, western teens (?), so we rephrase here and there and this week we get their consent.

What's fascinating for me is the mindset of our young, still very girly, students. Before we start with this program we had so many talks with adults, mostly teachers. To learn about and understand the Filippino culture. The most interesting thing for me, I remember clearly, were the values of these teachers. Their values in life and their belief that the youth has these exact same ideas for their future. Study first, religion second, next is family planning.
This week that seems about right. We ask the girls to create their 'circle of love'. What do they feel or do when it comes to love, and in what order in life? They were all very clear about it: crush first. Almost everything after that is not at all yet part of their lives. No boyfriend, no kissing, no touching. Dreaming, maybe. Writing loveletters, blushing and an inspiration. That's what a crush is to them.
Sex? Babys? After engagement, marriage and the honeymoon.
Just in case this is just their good behaviour fooling us (or most likely: their naïeve state of mind), we inform them about safe sex anyway.
Just in case :)

Marieke and I feel happy in our role as teachers. We are a good team also. We do a lot of preparation and every meeting gives us more ideas. We create personal files for all of the girls and write observation reports.
We're thinking about when and how we can maybe also teach the high school girls in Mango, our next door childrens home. Their administrator is content with our program and asked us to teach there too. Obviously we feel kinda flattered, especially because he was at first very very skeptical.
All this makes us of course extra motivated. Moreover, the girls give us energy. Although it's exhausting too sometimes, the feeling of gratification dominates. Bigtime!

Lucky us!

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