One of the most fun and interesting parts of my internship in Peru was doing a training with Via Libre’s teen peer health promoters about how their identities may impact their work. The teen peer health promoters have had some trainings in various techniques of counseling, health topics, and working with community members. As an intern, I got to sit in on some of these sessions and participate. After a couple of these, the staff asked me if I wanted to lead a training on my own. Naturally I said yes!
While an undergrad at U-M, I was a facilitator for three semesters for Project Community, a sociology course that uses peer facilitators, and we discussed identity often in our training. I learned that we really had to consider how we might be perceived when doing our work, and I thought the teens might benefit from this knowledge also.
We started with an interactive game of them trying to guess my identities as a group. I sat in the middle of everyone and asked them to guess how I identified my race, age, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, gender, etc. I told them I wouldn’t be offended by anything they said, and we got to talk about what types of ways people could identify, especially in Peru. I learned that there are definitely different ways that people self-identify various identities in Peru. The Peruvian government doesn’t take as detailed racial demographics as the US, so people have resorted to defining people’s race and ethnicity by geographic regions: coast, mountains, and jungle. The image above shows us trying to come up with all the words people use to describe some identities.
When we were talking about whether we should take into account someone’s identities when we do our peer education, the teens’ first reactions were to say that everyone is equal and we should treat everyone the same. One teen then said that maybe if we know one of our peers is gay and we know we have a gay health promoter on our team, maybe that peer would feel more comfortable talking to our gay team member. That set off the thought cogs in the health promoters’ heads – I could practically see them thinking of all sorts of situations where identities matter. What a great ‘ah-hah!’ moment! The teens told me they really liked that training afterwards and that they know they’ll use it in the field.