The times I have tried to start projects on my own, or I should say without anyone’s desire except mine, I’ve been horribly unsuccessful. I have made the efforts to fill gaps where I see necessary, but I usually receive lukewarm pushback or disinterest. Reaching out to groups and people is generally how I get started and make myself known, but it’s important to find out what they want to do rather than imposing your own agenda.
This is part of Peace Corps ideology, and only in practice do I see how applicable it is to development. Regardless of what you see as necessary, it won’t catch on unless there’s genuine group interest. At this point in my service I’ve relegated myself to a mantra of “ask and you shall receive;” otherwise, I’m just wasting effort. With my organization, however, I have to be self-motivated. Our functionality is low, so I often have to set the wheels of an idea in motion.
I’ve discussed Safe (Voluntary) Male Circumcision on my blog before. It’s perhaps the best medical defense to HIV, and in my opinion, the best thing for Africa. It adds a layer of protection, breaking the HIV cycle and safeguarding failures in behavior change. A doctor at the hospital is heading up a campaign to bring in patients and sought my help, so this is something I’m (gladly) working on now. It’s nice to be asked. I’m hopeful that this project will spark something in the village since the number of circumcisions done here was in the double digits last year.
There has been international attention paid to campaigns like this, and even innovative medical solutions in the works (a ring that kills the foreskin gradually, with less pain and no surgery). The reactions I have been receiving to my insistence on the importance of circumcision are varied and sometimes silly. People laugh and say “what if I get circumcised and then I need my foreskin back?” They’re also curious about what the Bible says about circumcision; while the Old Testament obviously demands it, I’m unsure about newer books. I’m trying to get all my responses straight as we power ahead and try to get a lot of males snipped.
A couple weeks ago, a woman asked me if the skin on your forehead was called “foreskin.” By the way, foreskin is on the penis. The reason its removal is integral to HIV prevention is in the biology. It’s believed that there exist “target,” or highly susceptible immune cells in the foreskin; circumcision helps prevent female-to-male transmission, and thus breaks the chain. ‘Foreskin’ is mentioned seven times in this post.