The Body, Mind and Spirit-Aids Support Group Foundation (BMS-ASGS), in collaboration with Saba University School of Medicine (SUSOM) implemented puberty and personal role model workshops for the youth of Saba Comprehensive School this Monday.
Girl Power and Real Men are parallel programmes that address the needs of teenage girls and boys respectively, promoting healthy individual choices and lifestyles. The RESPECT programme complements the two gender-centred motivational interventions with joint youth interventions, reviewing basic knowledge about sexuality and safe practices, so that the youths can make informed decisions. All these programmes incorporate the goal of transmitting information on sexually- transmitted infections, risk behaviour and methods of transmission and prevention. SUSOM students, volunteering on these youth-oriented interventions implemented in the local secondary school, are evaluated and receive credits impacting their eventual consideration as candidates for the university’s Alpha Omega Phi Honour and Service Society.
Monday’s workshops, facilitated by medical students, discussed extensively the transformations undergone during puberty and implemented pre- and post questionnaires to assess impact. The female student groups discussed periods, body changes, hygiene, acne, emotional changes and all the normal aspects that go along with this age, including the need to talk to a trusted adult when such challenges seem overwhelming. Male groups had separate parallel discussions on all associated changes, including personal questions the youth felt free to inquire about in this setting. Male medical students talked about aggression and coping strategies, condom use and safe sex practices. Secondary sessions in the workshops focused on socially-defined gender roles, setting up personal role models and discussions on what one looks for in a good role model. Some of the male groups held activities identifying attributes to look for in various public personalities and why they inspire others. The young men looked at what defines being a good man, family, culture and friends, and he youths developed a “boy code” focusing of self-perceptions of what it means to be a young man growing up on Saba. The female groups looked at female role models like Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie, Beyoncé Knowles, Serena Williams or Ellen DeGeneres, who defied stereotypes and persevered. They played a “Mingle Bingo” game with questions and descriptions of different socially-prescribed roles of women. They looked at how such ideas about womanhood are influenced by unhealthy messages in the media. They discussed gender role reversal and worked in a “Time Capsule of Affirmations” in which SCS young women were challenged to decide on the goals they wish to pursue. The time capsule will be opened next year.
These were the last sessions to be overseen by outgoing SUSOM faculty Dr. Ramona Dumitrescu, who passes on the baton to her colleague, epidemiology professor Dr. Sudhir Ambati. The latter had been volunteering in these community service projects over the years and will be assisted by faculty member Dr. Andrew Boileau. Dr. Dumitrescu also passes on her oversight of the service society to Dr. Lockie McGehee Johnson, who helped establish it. In the future, such youth interventions are to be initiated by the young, incoming programme coordinator of BMS Dimetri Whitfield. He will be replacing outgoing BMS programme coordinator Teodor Stan. Whitfield, born in Curaçao, but raised on Saba, finished SCS, graduating as Valedictorian in 2010 and completed his bachelor’s degree from University of the West Indies this year with a major in Sociology. He impressed the BMS board with his research interests in Caribbean masculinity, identity and the social structure of small communities, and recently secured his first employment with BMS-ASGS Foundation. Whitfield’s age and academic interests fit well with the work of the foundation.