"Are we there already?" I asked. The driver just chuckled as he turned onto another path. "No. We still have to go up the mountain."
Apparently the past 30 minutes climbing up a pot-holed filled dirt road did not quality as a mountain. We completed the turn and I saw why. "Oh," I said softly as the other passengers burst out laughing at my reaction.
As I looked down the steep drop-off just outside my window, I thought "Well, at least the trees will break our fall if the dirt shoulder suddenly collapses."
We were 5 hours into a 7 hour drive to a remote Karen (emphasis on the second syllable) mountain village in Mae Sa Riang, the home of our friend Donut's fiance. His family had generously picked us up at the church where the paved road ended and the dirt road began. We were planning to provide lunch for what we thought would be about 50 people who would attend our training the following day so we had packed the car with food and supplies. Once everything was transferred to their small pickup truck, there was just enough room for 4 out of 5 of us to squeeze into the truck bed, and I ended up in the front with the family driving us. It was quite the adventure. Turns out driving for hours over bumpy roads is quite sleep-inducing for me.
We arrived at their home in a beautiful valley nestled amongst green mountains and rice fields.
This village is life at its purest: no electricity, no flush toilets, cell service or internet. The family hosting us for the night prepared a delicious Karen meal for us and we ate way more than we usually do! It was an early night for us as we had a full day of teaching the next day.
As part of our partnership with Days for Girls International, we have a goal to distribute 100 sanitary kits to women and girls in remote areas of Thailand in 2018 along with their educational training about reproductive health. Using the AWARE (Healthy Relationships) curriculum from Life Options, we've put these two trainings together with great success.
In the morning, we had not only students, but parents come to learn how to have healthier relationships. We had a delicious lunch of deep fried chicken and watermelon before diving into the Days for Girls reproductive health session. We had 33 girls and women attend this training. It was a great opportunity for mothers and daughters to learn together and open up lines of communication about what is often a taboo subject. Most girls in Thailand don't know anything about their period until they get it and subsequently have a My Girl reaction of "I'm hemorrhaging! Am I dying?!"
Thanks to this training, the girls in this village will be prepared and thanks to our amazing Butsaba teaching in their own tribal language (as she is also Karen) and making the topic light and humorous, this is something to laugh about together instead of something shrouded in secrecy and shame. Now these teen girls will eel more comfortable talking about this with their moms rather than getting misinformation from their friends.
At the end of our session, one of the women who is a village leader, stood up to say "Thank you so much to this team from Jojo's Sanctuary who has come to share this information with us. This is new information for us all. Even I, who was married at 14 and have had several children, have never heard about the reproductive cycle before. Now that you have come to share this information with us, we can share with our children and inform them. We also want to take this information and share with women in our neighboring villages. This knowledge will change our lives."