Returning to a foundation already set!

Aleta, Paula, Lorna, Michael and Autry participated in a ‘Self Assessment” SALT visit with inmates of the Lusignan Prison in Guyana.

We expected reserved participation since the community of prisoners based on their incarceration may not want to be engaged in an exercise related to HIV. Our surprise!

After lunch, the number increased from 23 to 27 because four other inmates requested to be involved based on the feedback from participants during the lunch period. The community was
vociferous, eager for information; the introductory session lasted longer than
the time planned. The questions about HIV and STI’s, sex and relationship in
general kept flowing; we did not want to disappoint them. There was fun and
laughter as information and learning was experienced on both sides. I never
know about “Winky Blinky” (ocular sex) was one remark. There was call for our
return and need to do test for the HI-virus.

At the end separation was hard, but we had to leave. At our reflection there was very much to talk about, there was reminiscing of a lot of local responses during the experience. While we had
some knowledge of the community what actually happened was beyond our

So knowledge about the community does not mean it will react the same way so be prepared for the unexpected as well.

Everyone left with the sobering thought “We all might not have HIV but we all have a family.” This family
is which we as individual belong to, the one we create with being a parent or
even the extended family and so our dream should be to care for our family as
the nucleus of society. It was mooted that the response, the wealth of ideas,
from this community was a result of their now having the opportunity to

There were four different dreams from four groups which in some way related to the family as mentioned above. In some way the dreams state that at creation the world was at peace, love and
families were to achieve their full potential but because of sin (missing the
mark of perfection) we now live in a world of “STIs” (representative of all the
ills that affect us as humans).

The dream therefore included restoring family values as a mean of achieving our full potential. And that if people were to live by two of the many commandments we will restore family
values. The two laws are: [1] Man should love thy creator and [2] love thy
neighbor as ye love thy self.

It was also discussed that a challenge for competence is merging of individual dreams into a common dream. Here negotiation, compromise and agreement among participants were necessary.

Each participant in each group had personal dream which had to be merged into a common group dream represented in drawing. If this could be achieved at the group level it could be achieved
at the community/world level as well. Explaining the concept of “Self
Assessment” was easy as compared to doing the actual assessment with the

What is the meaning of competence was asked and in an effort to help all participants of the exercise the illustration was done using the popular exercise as a mean of achieving healthy
lifestyle. The relationship between the dream and assessment was noted but that
to achieve the dream goal setting is an important part of planning. Discussion
on the different levels related each practice was challenging, time consuming
and needed more time.

The community however seem to understand the requirements and were able to apply the concept to others spheres of life.

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Comment by Laurence Gilliot on August 9, 2010 at 10:38am
Hi Autry and friends,

Wonderful sharing about a visit that seem to be a great success. I'm so inspired by the great work you are doing in Guyana, with so much energy and perseverance. Keep going! We are all with you in this journey!

Last week I talked to Jean Kabwau from DRC. He told me his experience with SALT in prison:
"We experienced a very emotional moment in a prison in Kananga. When we arrived, there were about 600 prisoners and we split into small groups of 60 to discuss about HIV. Immediately after that, 400 prisoners were lined up to get tested. " You can read the full experience here.

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 7, 2010 at 12:55pm
Dear Autry,

Thanks. You have shared what I have always thought about. I have few friends working with people in prisons in India, Belgium and Philippines and have often discussed application of strength-based approach in prisons.

In India UNODC has done the first HIV intervention in Tihar Jail, the largest prison in Asia. Vipassna meditation was also introduced by Kiran Bedi in this prison.

Please see this inspiring article I read on work being done in prisons in Chicago

Please accept my sincere appreciation for your work. Was it the first meeting? or you had done SALT visits before?

Warm regards,



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