Y.W.C.A. promotes AIDS education in barber’s chair
If you've seen the movie or t.v. spinoff called Barbershop, you know that a lot more goes on in that environment than just haircuts. And that's exactly what leaders of the Y.W.C.A. are hoping as they work to make young people aware of the danger of AIDS. News Five's Kendra Griffith reports.
Kendra Griffith, Reporting
Today’s conference forms part of the activities for the Y’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations ... it’s also an extension of an on-going social initiative.
Sonia Linares, Executive Dir, Y.W.C.A.
“If you can recall, we opened what we call Bella’s Salon, part of the health programme where the cosmetology programme opened a new area, improved the salon services where we encouraged people to come in and they were also trained in HIV/AIDS and so we thought that it’s a good way of promoting the whole HIV/AIDS education and for part of the 50th anniversary we decided to work with the barbershops, and we selected eight barbershops.”
For the next two days, fifteen barbers from eight shops will be trained in topics such as HIV, proper condom use, and small business management. At the end of the course, educational materials will be displayed in each of the shops to encourage dialogue.
Beth Preston, HIV Coordinator, Y.W.C.A.
“We will be setting up a resource corner in each barbershop where people can come and get information about HIV and AIDS, and also the barbers will have condoms available, for clients to come in and take and also to talk because the big thing is that in barbershops people like to talk, people go from maybe they are going to talk about politics or talk about whatever, so why not have it to talk about HIV and AIDS and how you can protect yourself.”
While protecting oneself is a must in preventing the spread of HIV, as with most faith-based organisations, condom use is a touchy subject.
“First and foremost, the Y.W.C.A. does promote abstinence as the only one hundred percent safe way of being HIV/AIDS free, so that’s first and foremost. We do, however, know that realistically that’s not always the case that people are going to be sexually active, so we are doing what we can to help by helping to provide condoms.”
Controversy or no controversy, for barbers Fareed Ahmad and Ryan Reyes, the project is a positive development and they welcome the opportunity to pass on the knowledge that they have acquired.
Fareed Ahmad, The Real Barbershop
“It’s a very good idea. There’s a lot of information that people out there as much as people hear about AIDS everyday, they don’t know a lot or little of information that are key. I myself have heard a lot about AIDS, but coming hear I have learnt a lot, a lot more, like the ease of transmission, and I think that these information that we are getting should be also going to the public and that’s what we’re arranging here.”
Ryan Reyes, Slip and Slide Barbershop
“We have a lot of young people that come to the shop, so whenever they come, they’ll see the pamphlets and the posters in the shop. If they ask any questions, well I will try to answer them in a professional way, try to share the messages about AIDS with them.”
But sharing a message with a willing subject is easy; how would the barbers handle someone who’s not so keen on the idea?
“What would you do say for instance you buck up on somebody who’s like, man I noh want listen to this, I noh come to the barbershop fi mek nobody give me no lecture pan HIV/AIDS, all I want dah fi you just cut my hair. What then?”
“I would tell them, it’s for your own good, if you don’t want to listen, you’re on your own, but if you want to listen to me I will tell you and I will try to share the message, but if you don’t want to I can’t force you to listen.”
“If you don’t want to listen, like my friend over here said, you are at a loss. Try to protect yourself, use a condom or abstain completely, but be real, there’s a disease out here and it’s here for all of us, if you don’t want look out. So watch out, be aware, use a condom.”
But as the Y tries to make Belizeans face the reality of AIDS, the organisation has to deal with its own financial reality. According to Executive Director Sonia Linares, it costs the Y.W.C.A. between twenty and twenty-five thousand dollars a month to run their various programmes. Money that lately has been in short supply.
“We always say that God has been there with us, because at the end of the month we don’t know where monies would come from, but it appears. We have been working on a shoestring budget, but with the fees collected from our programmes and with generous business people, and with membership of the Y—we have friends from New York and L.A. and Miami, Atlanta, who would always assist us, so that is how we have been managing so far, and I cannot leave without mentioning the government of Belize, they came in when we were desperate, to assist us. So we are here and we will continue to be here because we feel like the work that we are doing is very important to the community.”
Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.