Laura Kane blogs from Jamaica as the team continue their work in Montego Bay with the Spanish-Jamaica Foundation.
December 21st 2015. The second leg of our journey in Jamaica brought us to Montego Bay. “Mobay” is the second largest city in Jamaica and a huge tourist attraction. Crime is a major problem as pickpocketing and petty theft are common among tourist destinations. However, our efforts this week were focused on child rights and HIV/AIDS.
A rain storm on our third day forced the group to stay inside for a child rights talk. I was slightly nervous given the resistance we faced in Kingston a few days earlier. But I must say, the coaches of Mobay and the surrounding parishes were engaged, respectful, and open to change! We discussed the topic of homosexuality, different forms of abuse, and the important role that coaches play in the life of a child. In Kingston, most discussions began and ended with someone stating, “but this is just our culture.” Implying that change simply isn’t possible. While we talked about respecting different cultures and the ideals that are unique to Jamaica, we also found common ground in honoring some basic human rights. The coaches did their best to help us understand the issues they face and the cultural norms that make change difficult. But I also felt like we had a group that was actively looking for new ways to help educate those around them. They were engaged and taking notes the entire time. Our discussions were productive and I left the day feeling encouraged.
On the fourth day, we addressed the topic of HIV/AIDS on the field. It was very clear that this topic is not commonly talked about in Jamaica. However, our coaches were open and honest about the taboo nature of this disease. It would be difficult to pinpoint how severe this problem is because men do not often get tested for fear of a positive result. A positive result would mean public shaming within the community. Imagine not being invited to play pick-up on Saturdays because people are fearful that you would pass the virus on to them. Most shocking in our conversation was the fact that most boys become sexually active around the age of 9. The group spoke freely about their culture of men having multiple girlfriends at one time. While the women are more willing to be tested, it is hard to be sure that your partner is being faithful. Our group of coaches identified several ways in which we can help educate others in the community about HIV/AIDS. It was great to see them step up, use their voice, and speak passionately about helping to change the culture.
I’ll be leaving Jamaica with a sunburn, some new friends, and a lot of hope for the future. I can’t wait to return to this beautiful country someday!