The workshops are a place where specific tasks are performed, with a methodology to integrate theory and practice. They are characterized by research, scientific discovery and teamwork. A workshop is also a training session and guide, which emphasizes problem solving and training, which requires the participation of the audience.
In November 2011, I started working as an intern for Brazos Abiertos, having researched the organization online and hearing about the impact that they had in the local area. From the very first meeting I had with Dr Carlos and Luca, I understood how important the organization is to them and how both tirelessly ensure that they work to educate and achieve the aims of Brazos Abiertos so that the maximum amount of people is reached with HIV prevention education.
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Without any doubt, it is very important to provide education to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). That's why in “Fundación BAI” we embrace this principle, constantly making HIV testing campaigns, as well as the delivery of information packets containing brochures, condoms and water based lubricants. A major part of these campaigns of detection and prevention is undoubtedly counseling. Our current model consists of three stages: Pre Counseling, performing the test and Post Counseling.
When I arrived in Mexico, I knew I wanted to volunteer in a health program. Unfortunately it took a long time until I found Brazos Abiertos and sent my application. In January I had my interview with Dr. Carlos and intern Laura Sharkey in the new office of Brazos. I was very nervous but also very excited when Carlos told me that I could work with them.
The highlight of the Brazos Abiertos annual calendar is undoubtedly the testing event on Isla Mujeres. All the year, preparations are underway for the summer testing event held on the Island. In December, Steve, the owner of Casa Sirena in Isla Mujeres has a fundraising event in order to raise funds to pay for the transport and accommodation of all of the Brazos volunteers over to Isla Mujeres for a weekend testing event in the summer. Steve was kind enough to let us all stay in his hotel for the duration of the testing event, from the Wednesday until the Sunday.
I just spent the most amazing and rewarding four days in the company of some very dedicated young people. I volunteer with a local organization, Fundacion BAI A.C. aka Brazos Abiertos. Even though I have been with this group for a few years it has been solely in a fund-raising capacity. The committee has a great time, we put on lovely events that are enjoyed throughout the community and rake in some big bucks so this group can continue with their good works. All well and good but I realized I truly didn’t know exactly everything the charity did.
Saturday afternoon we met up at the office at 2:30 pm to be in Komchen at 3:00 pm. We had already prepared the boxes, and especially the posters made by TEAMM on Friday. Carlos, Luca, Arlette and Nadine drove to Komchen together and there they met up with TEAMM Yucatan.
Thursday morning 8 am we were all to meet up at the office to load the cars with our boxes full of material, that had already been prepared on Wednesday, and to head out to Valladolid for our testing event. The time waiting for everyone to arrive we spent playing games and making our name tags. At about 9 am we were complete and ready to go. We left as a group with nine participants, which really is a great number. Luca was driving, as well as Fred who made the car ride joyful with his music he prepared for us!
Having organized the boxes for the testing event in the main square a couple of days before, we set out for the event with enough time to get set up and begin at 5pm. We arrived and the location was fantastic for us, as our stand was facing the centre of the main square, meaning everyone could see where we were!
Looking back on this last year I have spent volunteering with Brazos Abiertos, I am filled with many fond memories. I feel very fortunate to have started out my year here with such a great burst of energy, enthusiasm and experience in June 2010 when TEAMM USA returned to the Yucatan to carry out a school workshop in Komchen’s secondary school.
Despite the unusual crispness in the air, the fund raising dinner for Brazos Abiertos, held at the home of Cristobal Ponce Patron and Josefina Miranda de Ponce exuded warmth and conviviality.
Chef Paul Lindemuth and his team who flew here from Chicago, prepared a feast fit for kings that included Beef Wellington – one of my favorite entrees, and one I haven’t enjoyed in years.
The Fenix Quartet, members of Yucatan’s Symphony Orchestra played classical as well as contemporary selections, and as always, their music made the event truly special.
Brazos Abiertos was invited to attend the 6th Rotary Health Fair in Merida on the 10th February 2012 and we were very pleased to be able to attend. The Rotary club had invited many schools in the Merida area to the Fair and so this provided the perfect opportunity for us to distribute information, condoms and give demonstrations on correct condom usage. It also happened to be the first health fair of many of the new volunteers at Brazos so everyone was excited to see what it would be like!
The 28th December marked the date of the annual Brazos Abiertos and TEAMM Yucatan Posada.
Various members of the Brazos team had their jobs, and Luca was in charge of catering for the event, whilst I had to organize some games to play! Armed with ideas for competitions, including one which involved having to eat a full bar of chocolate brought especially from England for the occasion, we arrived at the office for an afternoon of food, fun and games.
On the 15th December, we headed just off the coast of Cancun for a Brazos Abiertos and PEACE event hosted by a friend of the charity, Steve, owner of Casa Sirena on Isla Mujeres. The event itself was a cocktail night fundraiser held in the hotel on Friday 16th December. The aim of the event was to increase awareness for the cause of Brazos Abiertos on Isla Mujeres, and gain support for a potential testing event in the summer of 2012.
The 1st December 2011 marked the annual World AIDS Day and to mark the occasion, Fundacion BAI held a testing and information event at Parque La Capilla, in Francisco de Montejo. It also happened to be my first real event with the organization and so I learnt a lot about the work that goes into organizing a testing event. In the days leading up to the event, we packed boxes with all the necessary materials, including testing kits, condoms and educational materials so that we would have everything we needed on the day of the event.
When I think of Mérida, I bring up memories of a relentless heat, mosquitos and cockroaches, and gastrointestinal problems. However, the memories that have left a bigger, lasting impression are those of my friendships. I arrived in Mérida without knowing anyone, but immediately the other volunteers at Brazos Abiertos made me feel comfortable and welcome. I don’t know what I would have done without them. A few days after I arrived, I went with Brazos Abiertos to Isla Mujeres for a health fair.
Izamal, Yucatán was Brazos next ‘stop’ for visiting, on August 27, 2011.
We installed ourselves at one side of Izamal’s convent, in one of the parks. Once again, the help of TEAMM Yucatan, (the girls and guys form Komchen), with volunteers along with Dr. Cabrera was of great importance to the success of this campaign of testing and information.
July 29 of 2011 saw Brazos Abiertos going to the Feria de Ticul, (Ticul’s Fair), where, thanks to Graciela Parra’s arrangements and of course, TEAMM Yucatan’s support plus interns and volunteers, we administered a total of 60 HIV rapid tests.
Despite the rain that fell before our arrival, the response was positive. We established our booth in a kiosk in people’s sight. As usual, we also set up a point where Counseling would be given before people had the test done. A table where sex education was provided was also set up.
I have been in touch with the people of Brazos Abiertos for a bit more than two years. During that time, due to personal reasons, even though they were asking me to collaborate with them, I “resisted”. Well, in 2011, I decided it would be a good idea to give it a try, not for them, but for me, as I always felt very nervous to engage in activities like that.