By Olivia Puddicombe.
Last week whilst at work I was invited to observe a talk about HIV and AIDS given by Clarisa to a class of children from the next door school. Clarisa is in charge of the social work done by the salita and she works closely with many schools. The children attending this talk were aged between 11 and 12 years old. 11 seemed to me to be too young but Clarisa explained that once children are 12 it is often too late for the talks and the difference a year can make is huge. I soon understood what she meant. T
he talk was well organised and presented. Starting with the topic of HIV and AIDS Clarisa with the help of the paediatrician Guillermo explained what the two words meant, the differences between them and the ways one can catch the virus. The amount the children knew varied immensely. Some knew more than I did, whilst others thought you could catch HIV through saliva and mosquitoes! They were relieved to learn that was not possible! In discussing the ways to prevent catching the virus the talk moved on to protected sex. It was during this section of the talk that it became easy to see the difference between the 11 and the 12 year olds. Whilst the 11 year olds blushed and giggled nervously when given condoms the 12 year olds seemed much more confident and comfortable. At the end we played a game to test how much the children had learnt and I was impressed with how quickly they had taken in the mountain of information they had been given.
At the beginning of the talk Clarisa had explained that I was a student from England which was greeted by many oohs and aahs. I had been aware of stares and points throughout the talk and then when it was over, the children ran up to me and bombarded me with a thousand questions in a mixture of extremely fast Spanish or nervously broken English. ‘What is your name?’ the bravest one asked me – ‘My name is Olivia. What is your name?’ I replied.
Suddenly everyone wanted me to ask them their name and then how old they were etc etc. This continued for several minutes until harassed by their teachers they were told it was time to go. Then the questions came once again in rapid fire Spanish – What is your country like? Do you live in London? Do you know the Queen? Did you come here in an airplane? Was it scary? Etc etc! As they were being physically forced out of the door and walking down the corridor I could hear the excited shouts ‘I can’t believe we met someone from England!’ They made my day and made me feel so welcome in a country where it is easy as an English person to sometimes feel unwelcome. What great children!