February 12, 2009
I spent the week of February 2nd with 18 vivacious 9th Form students from School #9 in Talas. (See photo) In an effort to keep us busy during the two-month winter break, Peace Corps secured grant money from PEPFAR, President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (or something close to that). It's about the only good thing I can think of W doing in 8 years. Anyway, along with my friend Gauhar (the young lady on the far left) and with the support of the school director (older woman, far left), we held a workshop covering HIV/AIDS prevention and life skills. Two women from the local chapter of the Red Cross came one morning to give a presentation. The other mornings we discussed self-esteem, time management, bride kidnapping, the 5 Languages of Love and decision making. We ended each day with a one-hour English lesson. Oh, and I also made sure our grant money included a hot lunch each day. A few of the girls spoke English, and the rest spoke Kyrgyz. Gauhar, who speaks English as well as anybody I've met here, did a great job as my translator. Even though I know these young ladies have a better handle on life skills and safe sexual practices, I won't be here to see the results. But, their friends and family will be and that's what really matters.
In the book: more details about the camp, a profile of Gauhar and her family and why our friendship didn't last (it wasn't our decision).