A.C.T.O.R. is in close colaboration with Cultural Association Ask Me, having implemented projects in the “Aici Acolo” Program, financed by Erasmus Plus. During this program, the european volunteers give educational lessons to children in Romanian Schools and Kindergartens on different topics, one of them being related to smoking and methods on how to prevent it.
«Imagine playing football breathing trough the straw»
“According to the statistics from 2011, 20 percent of world population smokes. Listing all the world countries, Romania is on the 5th in the amounts of cigarettes smoked per capita. In fact, all the countries on the top of the list are all from that part of Europe: top most smoked nations are Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Russia.
In Romania, smoking cigarettes represents one of the most socially accepted health-risk behaviors; the recent statistics indicate that in Romania smoking kills over 33 thousand persons annually, almost three quarters of them between 35 and 69 years old.
Those are big numbers, way to big for the smoking issue to be left aside. Being inspired by the work of our colleagues in Marius Nasta Pneumology Institute, part of Ask me team decided to address the groups of kids we work with in schools, with the topic of smoking prevention. Anti-smoking lessons, as we call them, were given in different age groups (from 3rd to 8th grade) in Scoala 92, Bucharest. At first sight – judging with my foreigner eyes – it seemed like a large percent of population is not even aware that smoking is a really a drug. Yet, talking with kids in schools in Bucharest made me think differently.
We went prepared for the worse. We were ready to get low interest on the topic and even some rebellious smokers in the highest classes. We were spending quite some time on the visual materials that would attract their attention and choosing the right activities, by which we will try to show them all the reasons why not to smoke. We counted also on the charms of being a foreigner – asking them for help with translating our basic Romanian knowledge, tagging them with FUMAR MATA and KAJENJE UBIJA stickers (meaning “smoking kills” in our languages).
At all the first lessons we had, their response was way better than expected. Most of 4th graders already knew how to explain what tobacco does to the lungs. Most common association to smoking in 5th and 8th grade was cancer and addiction. Awareness of the bad effects of smoking was way higher that expected. Our imitation of tar, that stays in the lungs of a smoker and makes the lungs heavy and dirty is a great supplement to imagine better what they seem to know already. “Do you want to imagine how is it to have lungs full of this black thing? Imagine breathing trough the straw. Now, try to imagine playing football breathing trough the straw!”
“So… We are going to have two teams: you guys are a group of non-smokers. And the other team: I am sorry to inform you guys, but you are going to be a group of smokers. For the group of smokers this activity will be a bit harder. You are going to have to make genoflexiuni with 4 extra kilograms of water in your hands. Let see, which group can make this relay race faster!” The frustration of the smokers group not being able to win the game not a single time is amusing us in a way. In the explanation of the game, when we say it is a simulation of the disabilities smokers get, they nod approvingly every time.
Another activity that we have learned from Marius Nasta training and had worked nicely is a rather simple poster making activity. Four groups have 15 minutes to make a poster with all the possible past-time activities they can remember, presenting them in drawings. After starting with the competition for the nicest poster in the room, 2 working groups are send out repeatedly for 3 minutes, as if they would be smokers on their cigarette break. Meanwhile the non-smokers continue with their task. Pretty obviously, the non- smokers have a lot more time to think and get the job done, and the group of smokers is angrily complaining about the time they are loosing being sent out. “Well, time is just one of the things that you loose if you are a smoker.” The activity is also a metaphor for showing how many of their favorite activities can not be done on the long run if they will become smokers – it is going to be about health, time and money problems that come with cigarettes.
Unfortunately, their awareness is not the only thing that is unexpectedly high: a great majority of kids of all ages live in smoke environment, having at least one smoker in the family. We are aware that the lessons are so nicely accepted because we are addressing a non-smoking target group. Way harder is for our colleagues at the institute, where they are holding quitting programs. We can only hope that some of the ideas will stay in their heads for those few more crucial years, also because of the space dedicated to that in their further educational process. And that quit line in Marius Nasta Institute will keep on ringing that heavily as it was every time we were there.” (Kristina Piskur, Slovenia, Healthy is the New Trend, Cultural Association Ask Me)