PCV Project: Torneo de Billar

Generally when we work in sexual and reproductive health we focus on youth and pregnant women. This makes sense in that they are a sexually active population, or soon to be sexually active and they are often under-informed or misinformed about their sexual health and rights. Also, they are fairly accessible populations here in Nicaragua, what with casa maternas and high schools in every town.
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But there is one very large and powerful population that we too-often forget about, MEN!
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They are half of the population after all, and in the machismo culture that exists in Latin America, men often hold most of the power within their relationships, families, and communities. Because of this, working with men can be intimidating and uncomfortable for a lot of volunteers. One idea that came out of the manual Aquí entre nos from Peace Corps Honduras is the Billiards Tournament.
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The idea is simple, gather a group of men in the local Billiards Hall and hold a Tournament. The only catch is that the tournament also includes presentations about HIV/AIDS and condom use, and in the final game the players have to answer questions based on the information from the presentations.
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During the Health 63 practicum week in my site, we pulled off a very successful Billiards Tournament. It was definitely one of the most fun and rewarding events in my first year of service. Here are a few things that went well with the tournament that we hosted.

Preparations
First and foremost you need confianza. Leading up to the tournament I stopped in the billiards hall at least weekly to chat with the owner, check-in on preparations, and play Billiards with some of the men that were there. This not only helped me gain the confianza of the regulars and the owner, but it also helped me feel more comfortable in this environment. I generally would go in early on a weeknight, before the place was full and way before anyone was drunk, somewhere between 6-7pm.
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About 2 weeks before the tournament I posted publicity inside and outside the billiards hall. I also gave the owner the responsibility of filling up the list of 16 men to participate and collecting their money. Each participant had to pay 20 cords. Half of the money went to the billiards hall owner (160 cords) and half of the money went to the winner of the tournament (160 cords). The owner also had a sound system and music that he agreed to set up for us on the day of the tournament.
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Another success of the tournament was including CEPS, an NGO that works in the north on HIV prevention and education. I invited the head of PrevenSIDA from CEPS to join us for the tournament. He came with condoms, lube, raffle prizes, and ready to help with the presentations.
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The event
The day of the event was busy, and we had little time to do last minute preparations. Right before the event we prepared the presentations to know who was going to say what, and double checked all of our materials. This probably should have been done more in advance, but in the end it all worked out fine.
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At the event we had music, a microphone for the presentations and organization of the tournament, brackets, a lot of volunteers and even more men. Over 40 men showed up just to watch the event. For the first 20-30 minutes as we got everything set up the men had time to mingle and warm up on the pool tables.
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The pool hall owner picked names out of a hat to decide the pairs and order of the bracket. We blasted music as the pairs played each other. After this round 8 men were eliminated and 8 moved on and we had our first HIV presentation.  This presentation was focused on what is HIV/AIDS and what it does to the human body.
Doing the dinámica “El Baile de los Globulos Blancos” to show how HIV attacks the immune system of an HIV+ individual
Doing the dinámica “El Baile de los Globulos Blancos” to show how HIV attacks the immune system of an HIV+ individual
The second round went a little bit quicker, the remaining 8 men played against their partners and 4 moved on. We also gave out raffle prizes to participants. We had HIV calendars from the office as well as CEPS t-shirts and water bottles. All 16 of the participants had their names in the raffle. This was used to keep them around the tournament to see the presentations and not just leave when they were eliminated. The second HIV presentation was about HIV Transmission.
Presentation on how HIV can and cannot be transmitted
Presentation on how HIV can and cannot be transmitted
 The third and semifinal round was between the remaining 4 players. The two that moved on were going to have to answer questions about HIV in the final round. After this round the HIV presentation was about HIV prevention, specifically condom use.
CEPS counterpart explaining the steps to use a condom.
CEPS counterpart explaining the steps to use a condom.
Four participants in the tournament did a condom demonstration in front of their peers.
Four participants in the tournament did a condom demonstration in front of their peers.

The final round was the most fun. The remaining players had to answer a question about HIV every time they sank a ball in the pocket. All of the questions directly came from the HIV presentations throughout the tournament. The questions were drawn at random out of a hat by the player that sunk the ball. So the idea is that in order to win you have to be good at billiards, and also have learned and retained knowledge about HIV from the presentations.

This event was the most exciting thing happening on a Wednesday night in my town, so we had a big turn-out of over 40 men watching the tournament.
This event was the most exciting thing happening on a Wednesday night in my town, so we had a big turn-out of over 40 men watching the tournament.

If you are interested in hosting a Billiards Tournament in your community I recommend the following…

Recommendations

  • look at the manual: Aquí entre nos, (click here to download) for the specific program design and tips.
  • feel free to reach out to a health volunteer or the HIV Taskforce [click here for the Taskforce FB page] for support and ideas about the presentations and set-up of the event.
  • have support at the event from at least one other volunteer and/or trained counterpart that is comfortable and knowledgeable in HIV education.
  • consider funding opportunities through a VAST grant, being that it is HIV related.
  • and finally, be sure to reach out to local organizations and institutions in your community for support.
–Allison F, HE 61, Madriz
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