Gregory MacAdam presents a grown papaya tree. Each boy MacAdam taught received a papaya sapling they are responsible to grow. - Kathy Mutch/Special to The Guardian.
Gregory MacAdam interviewed Ouma William Usuki during his trip. Usuki hopes to become an engineer because he loves understanding the details of machinery, MacAdam said. - Kathy Mutch/Special to The Guardian.
Gregory MacAdam helps a group of Kenyan boys plant a tree sapling. - Kathy Mutch/Special to The Guardian.
Gregory MacAdam teaches sex ed. to a class of boys in Kenya. MacAdam is the first to lead the Trees for Boys program by Mikinduri Children of Hope. Kathy Mutch/Special to The Guardian.
Gregory MacAdam didn’t plan on teaching sex education to boys in Kenya.
But, a desire to travel combined with knowledge in the health-care field, took this Island paramedic down an unexpected road.
“I wanted to do humanitarian work in Africa, and I wanted to find a good group to work with.”
So, he approached Ted Grant, founder of Mikinduri Children of Hope, and signed to go with them to Africa this year from Jan. 23 to Feb. 13.
While there, he travelled to schools across the country and was asked to lead a new program, Trees for Boys.
During the trip, Mikinduri volunteers would visit Kenyan schools and provide girls with feminine hygiene kits. This international program, Days for Girls, helps girls stay in school throughout their menstrual cycle. The girls are also given a class on the importance of being a woman.
However, on previous trips, members of the Mikinduri team noticed the boys felt left out.
So, they came up with a program for them, Grant said.
“When the girls are taken out of the classroom, the boys also get a chance.”
MacAdam was entrusted with preparing a curriculum for Trees for Boys.
“They didn’t know what it’d be like, he said, so I had to keep my lesson plan very flexible.”
MacAdam’s work in health care was an asset, but he refreshed himself on HIV-AIDS and Hepatitis C, which are problems in the country. He also researched Kenyan law and practices.
When he arrived and starting teaching, each school would pack as many boys into his class as possible. They ranged from ages 12 to 17.
MacAdam started by becoming familiar and joking about how cold Canada is, sharing a bit about himself to ease them into the subject matter and give them a reason to listen.
“Who’s this white boy coming in?” MacAdam laughed. “What’s he going to teach us?”
He asked about their career aspirations and what kind of person they want to be. Then, he explained that to reach these goals, they have to be responsible and look after others, whether they’re training for a job or fatherhood.
“You have to put a lot of sacrifice and love into your work,” he said.
He used this theme to transition into reproduction, STIs and drug and alcohol addiction. Sexual education is considered taboo to discuss in Kenya, so the boys had lots of questions, he said.
“(I’d) try to bundle it up into a package that was easy for boys to relate to.”
Once the class ended, they’d go outside, and each boy would plant a papaya tree sapling. They have to care for their tree every day, he said.
“No matter how good and responsible you are on a certain day, you have to wake up the next day and do it all over again.”
From what Grant heard, the boys responded well and liked having their own trees.
“The trees maturing is a symbol of them maturing into young men,” he said.
Now back on P.E.I., MacAdam hopes to do more humanitarian work someday. Mikinduri definitely plans to continue the program, Grant said.