Whats it all about . . .

My name is Rachel Talbot and from September 2011 to July 2012 I will be Volunteering for Project Trust, a charitable organization which sends young adults from 17-19yrs overseas to do charitable work in a range of projects. I raised 5000 pounds for this opportunity through a range of events and would like to thank everyone who donated! This year i will be working in a center for children with disabilities while immersing myself in all things Mauritian! Hopefully i can update here what i am up to, may not update religiously . . . Thanks for visiting :)

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Pils caravan

In my last blog I mentioned a motor caravan which runs at night, offering information and HIV tests for sex workers and drug takers in the main districts of Mauritius.  This is run by the charity PrĂ©vention Information Lutte contre le Sida (PILS) and two weeks ago I got the opportunity to go out with the caravan for the first time.  I found the experience really interesting;  we travelled from Quatre Borne to Rosehill (both commercial towns on the west side of the island, not somewhere which tourist usually visit) stopping at various hot spots.  The drivers of the van obviously knew and were friends with most of the prostitutes and part of their job is to stop and chat to as many as they can while handing out condoms etc.   At our first stop one of the older prostitutes agreed to take an HIV test which thankfully came back negative;  I found it incredible that it took simply ten minutes to complete the test – a quick pin-prick to the finger, a short wait and that’s it.  It almost felt too brief for something potentially that deadly!

The driver of the caravan bluntly told me that some of the women that we met that night would also die that night - just the harsh reality of their circumstances L.  I met prostitutes of all different ages and genders.  Some were a lot older than I expected and some were sadly quite young, in some cases younger than me.  I have to admit that I really enjoyed talking to the transvestites – they were such fun, calling me “sugar” in broken English and telling me funny stories in creole about being picked up by men who thought they were girls and the resulting surprise when all was revealed! We had one incident of a man coming up to ask for a clean needle but the caravan wasn’t at liberty to hand out those sorts of things, I found it quite disarming how openly they  were about what they do. It was a subject that hit close to home as many of the girls placed in the shelter at CEDEM have had parents who were drug abusers or prostitutes, and I can appreciate how hard it must be to have to do that work to scrape by with children at home.

It was a really interesting night;  I learned a lot about a subject that I had not really dealt with before and I can see how much great work PILS does.  Through the rapport they have built up with the sex workers, I can see they really care and it’s good that they offer unconditional, non-judgemental friendship to people whose circumstances and lifestyle is pretty bleak.  If you would like to know more about the charity, here is a link to their website, http://www.pils.mu/ - it is in French though.  I hope to go out with the caravan again shortly.

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