Celebrating Youth Health

In the weeks leading up to my evacuation from Guyana, I had been working on one of the last projects I would do in my community – assisting my local health center with starting clinic day for adolescents. The Youth Health Clinic, as we named it, would allow in-school and out of school youth ages 10-19 to seek medical care and counseling without judgement so that they can live happy and healthy lives.

During the planning process, the health center was able to allocate a room for the Youth Health Clinic. The room would ensure privacy and confidentiality so adolescents feel more comfortable sharing their questions or concerns. However, the room was pretty blank. The four walls were empty and just painted the iconic color of all government, school and medical buildings in Guyana – New Wheat. My whole service I had been wanting to paint a mural, but within my school there wasn’t enough space to do so. Once I saw the empty walls, ideas for a mural started flowing.

For the mural I knew I wanted to include cartoons of various aspect of youth health, such as physical activity, substance use, reproductive organs, mental health, birth control, STIs, etc., but the ideas I had didn’t really mesh together. Thus how I came up with the design to put all the aspects of health in a honeycomb layout. Using the hexagons would allow each image to have its own story to tell but at the same time bringing it together like pieces to an adolescent health puzzle. However there is a missing piece to this puzzle. In the center of the second wall, there is a blank hexagon where I was one day away from painting the nutrition portion of the mural.

Aside from the cartoons, the mural was to also include equal parts inspiring quotes and affirmation statements, which sadly I also didn’t get to. For every hexagon with a color background, there were going to be statements such as “You are kind, you are smart, you are important” and “You matter and what you do in this world matters.” Similar to other parts of the world, youth are struggling with their mental health. These sayings were going to be a gentle reminder to the youth in my community that they are not alone and that they are loved.

Other than the affirmation statements, the only things left to be done were to give the hexagon boarders, write “World AIDS Day December 1” with the red ribbon hexagon, clean up any mistakes, and write my name and those who helped me paint under the Peace Corps logo.

I’m sad I had to leave the mural unfinished but I am confident that in my absence my health center can still carry out our project. The youth in my community deserve the best and that include the best health services too. I truly miss my students and community, but I hope our paths cross again some day!

xoxo, Mere