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Travel doesn’t become adventure until you leave yourself behind. – M. R.

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At home with friends in NYC

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Working with Huru International in Nairobi, Kenya

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Le quotidien: Le 4ème Sommet Panafricain des jeunes leaders, à Dakar au Senegal

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With my host family at the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference in McCall, Idaho

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On stage with The CONDOMIZE! Campaign in Mzuzu, Malawi

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Working with Zip Zap Circus in South Africa, via Washington DC

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An afternoon with cheetahs in Victoria Falls, Zambia

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Honoring the life and work of Nelson Mandela in Cape Town, South Africa

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At Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts

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On the Champs-Élysées in Paris, France

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My 3-legged cat, helping me pack

 

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Jean's grandmother, circa January 2014

Jean’s grandmother, circa January 2014

Jean woke up this morning to the news that his beloved grandmother in Dakar, Sènègal had passed away.  Jean’s grandmother, like my grandparents, played an instrumental role in his childhood and in forming the man that he is today.  I feel blessed to have had the privilege of meeting her when I visited ma belle famille in Dakar two months ago.  I send this message out with love in my heart, knowing that my incredible grandparents are happy to meet her now, too.

Grandma and Grandpa

Grandma and Grandpa in the Philippines, circa 1945

When someone you love becomes a memory,
the memory becomes a treasure.
– Author Unknown

Ma belle grand-mère et moi

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It’s Lent and, for the first time in a long time, I actually visited a church on Ash Wednesday and am reverently observing the period by giving up coffee and chocolate.  Since my early objections at a young age to certain criteria required of the faithful, I have always considered myself to be spiritual rather than religious; but many recent life events have led me to re-examine religion and explore it on my own terms.  Rifling through my writing archives this evening, I stumbled upon this response to an email conversation with a colleague on this topic during Lent last year:

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, circa Easter 1911

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, circa Easter 1911

Recent events in the realm of reproductive health as well as a thoughtful examination of the core values of many of the world’s organized religions are exhibitive of the powerful role that religious leaders can play in preventing the transmission of HIV.  The everyday lives of many individuals and communities around the world are informed by their religion’s teachings; and as religious leaders are guided unwaveringly by their sacred text, they themselves are viewed as trusted and unfailing sources of information and advisement.  For many people in developing countries, western medicine’s scientific evidence is associated with the “White regime” and considered to be highly suspect in comparison to the irrefutable, sacred text of their religion and the advice of their religious leaders.

I have the pleasure of working with a group of HIV-positive mothers in Dakar, Senegal; and at the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning, imams in Senegal officially declared their support for contraception, including condoms.  These islamic leaders are deeply respected as steadfast holy men who lead their communities throughout their lives, offering guidance and support through birth, marriage and death; and the imams explained their show of support by stating, “What’s good for a woman is good for her family, and for her society.  We want healthy societies.”

I was personally raised in the Catholic faith, and I was taught both in church and in my Catholic school that being a good Catholic means showing respect and care for those around us.  I firmly believe that condom use exemplifies the deep care and respect that one has for oneself, as well as one’s partner.  Using a condom demonstrates a belief in the right that every person has to live a full and healthy life, the right to plan a family and the right to choose what is best for ourselves and our own bodies.

When considering religious institutions such as Islam and Catholicism, using condoms is not against their core values – it supports them.  Pope Benedict XVI has even stated, “where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, [condom use] can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality.”

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Today I am preparing to leave for Bali to develop an interactive Condom Zone, which will be featured at the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and The Pacific.  I will be working with The Condom Project, the United Nations Population Fund and Yakeba, a local AIDS service organization that provides prevention and care for sex workers, injecting drug users and youth in Bali.

For those of you who are new to my work, I wanted to share some photos from my travel over the years…  Stay tuned for new pictures and more info on my developing projects in Indonesia in the coming weeks!

Minjar, Ethiopia

Minjar, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Making a condom dress in Dakar, Senegal

Making a condom dress in Dakar, Senegal

... with sleeves the colors of the Senegalese flag

... with sleeves the colors of the Senegalese flag

TV show in Nigera

TV show in Nigera

Charmed crocodile in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Charmed crocodile in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Alden House in Bangkok, Thailand

Alden House in Bangkok, Thailand

Thai ladyboys and me

Thai ladyboys and me

Safer sex workshop in New Delhi, India

Safer sex workshop in New Delhi, India

Visual Voice screening at New Delhi trucking center

Visual Voice screening at New Delhi trucking center

Embracing Our Traditions, Values & Teachings in Anchorage, Alaska

Embracing Our Traditions, Values & Teachings in Anchorage, Alaska

Hatcher's Pass, Alaska

Hatcher's Pass, Alaska

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