Chiruza couldn’t keep from asking questions. A young student representing his school in the HIV/AIDS training that day in Mumosho, Congo, he stood up often, clarifying facts, challenging the status quo, making sure he had all the info to return to his classmates fully armed with an education on how to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.
He was one of the many kids in the training session that day, children and teens who dream of graduating school to become lawyers, politicians, or, like Chiruza, an engineer in industrial electricity. After learning the statistics, that in sub-Saharan Africa, 1.1 million [1.0 million – 1.3 million] people died of AIDS-related causes in 2013, and that Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for almost 70% of the global total of new HIV infections, Chiruza and his new friends in the meeting were angry. Armed with information, they were ready to engage in a battle against the disease, so they and their classmates, their sisters and brothers, could achieve their dreams.
“The proliferation of armed groups, successive wars, and poverty at community levels in connection with the movement of military groups and young people, especially to and from mining sites, along with the lack of mass education on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are some of the root causes of why HIV /AIDS is a serious threat that kills people every day, with the potential to spread rampantly through communities without this education,” Amani tells us.
How can we serve our mission, Amani asks, to invest in the women, children, and communities of Congo, if they are dying from a disease we can prevent through education? All Together Against HIV/AIDS is a community-based anti-HIV/AIDS campaign by ABFEC (formerly ABFEK), Action Kivu’s partner in Congo. The program consists of diversified activities centered in the community, with a focus on settings with large populations such as schools, churches, and community-based organizations in eastern DRC. Sub Saharan Africa represents almost 70% of the total new HIV infections in the world, according to UN AIDS.
Action Kivu sends a small stipend to help pay Nurse Jeanine for her work, who headed up the training along with with nurses Safi and Toto, women who volunteered their time and experience of over 10 years of work in local hospitals, with specific education in HIV/AIDS. They came concerned for a community that was unaware of a disease that continues to decimate their country and continent.
“Out of 37 million people estimated to be living with HIV, 19 million do not know their status. In other words, one out of every two people living with HIV does not know that they are HIV-positive – and therefore does not access treatment and care.” (The Global Fund)
Brigitte and Chanceline – ready to educate their peers.
Both Brigitte and Chanceline live at the Mumosho Women’s Center, part of the Teen Mother’s Program that is supported by a grant from Jewish World Watch. Strong young women, they both survived rape, and, left alone to raise the babies resulting from that assault, found a new home and new hope through the community of women at the Center, as well as the opportunity to finish school. Brigitte became a mother before she was 14. Joining our family four years ago, and now back in school, she has one more year of Secondary school, and wants to become a lawyer, to defend and protect the rights of the oppressed, especially women and children. After attending this training, she is also now a strong voice in her school in this campaign against HIV/AIDS.
The participants for the first training were selected by the school principals based on their leadership qualities and ability to pass along what they learned to their classmates. Five secondary schools in the area were represented by two students for each class, as well as two local churches. The school principals unanimously agreed to integrate this program in their weekly school activities, in which the students from the training course will be given space and time to share what they have learned with their peers at school, sessions that will be overseen by Nurse Jeanine.
All Together Against HIV/AIDS is based on BCC methods – Behavior Change & Communication. Jeanine started the day with a questionnaire to learn what the community already knows about HIV/AIDS, including the definition of key terms like HIV/AIDS, PVV (a person living with HIV) and their rights, PTME (mother-to-child HIV transmission protection), ARV (treatment with the use of antiretrovirals), how HIV is transmitted, what the protection methods are. After the training session, Jeanine proctored a follow-up test, to determine that her students were set to return to their schools and churches, to educate others and spread the facts. The most popular community radio station arrived to air the event in support of the initiative: All Together Against HIV/AIDS.
“People who don’t know their status, or who are not able to access treatment and care, are at risk of developing AIDS or of passing the virus on to others – at a huge cost to themselves and to society.
“… Today, with access to lifesaving treatment, an HIV-positive person can expect to have the same lifespan as someone who is HIV-negative.
“One of the cornerstones of this lifesaving treatment is the use of antiretrovirals (ARVs). ARVs are given as a combination of drugs that can reduce the amount of HIV in the body or prevent HIV in people at substantial risk of acquiring the virus. However, ARVs are not a cure for HIV; a person living with HIV who is on treatment will need to take ARVs the rest of their life. ARVs also have another benefit: treatment reduces the chance that an HIV-positive person will pass the virus on to someone else by 97 percent.” (The Global Fund)
Learn the facts from the UN AIDS fact sheet below, and support our work to combat HIV/AIDS in Congo. Action Kivu pays a small stipend to Nurse Jeanine for her work in our community, from family planning to this HIV/AIDS awareness building. If you’d like to support her life-saving work, please consider a monthly donation by clicking here, and mark in PayPal’s note to seller: NURSE.
– Between 2005 and 2013 the number of AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa fell by 39%.
Treatment coverage is 37% of all people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
– 67% of men and 57% of women were not receiving ART in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013.
– Three out of four people on ART live in sub Saharan Africa.
– There were 210,000 [180,000 – 250,000] new HIV infections among children in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013.
– Since 2009, there has been a 43% decline in new HIV infections among children in the 21 priority countries of the Global Plan in Africa.
-67% of men and 57% of women had no access to Antiretroviral care in 2013.
As nurses Jeanine and Safi and Toto began the training, one graded the pre-test. 96% of the participants had no knowledge on the topics covered that day: general knowledge of HIV/AIDS, global and DRC HIV-related statistics, modes of transmission, prevention, care, living with and accepting people with HIV (PVV), the clinical symptoms, briefings on different techniques used for voluntary testing, and mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention.
When the students took a similar test after the training session ended, 92% answered all the above, and new questions, correctly. They were very interested and kept the nurses as long as they could with more questions, before leaving with training materials to ensure they will have resources to use for passing on the education to their peers at school.
As a trusted source of education and training in the community, our partner organization ABFEC plays a key role in this education process. Almost all the women who attended the anti-HIV campaign stated that it is not always easy to convince their husbands to undertake a voluntary HIV test. Through your partnership with Action Kivu, you provide the means for ABFEC to be a bridge between the community and local health facilities with capacities to provide antiretroviral medication, in addition to providing expanding education on HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmissible Diseases one day every week, as well as individual and group counseling before voluntary testing.
For those who test positive, the program will provide an orientation, practical ways to avoid transmitting the disease, and be put in immediate contact with one of the two hospitals are able to provide antiretroviral medication in the area: The Nyantende and the Panzi Hospitals, both located at about 15 km from Mumosho.
Nurse Jeanine is committed to tirelessly spread the word, to stop of the spread of this preventable disease. Will you join us? We currently send a stipend of $100 / month for Jeanine’s critical work, and want to pay her $150 more, as well to hire an assistant for her, to help address the community needs, prepare the training sessions, and begin to provide female and male condoms. Email us at email@example.com with any questions, or note NURSE in your PayPal donation.
Thank you for partnering with the people of Congo in this way!
Amani writes: The photo with everyone with two fingers up means we are all ready to go go go go!!!!
A rare dry day in rainy season Congo, some of the girls and women of the Sewing Workshop set up outside the Mumosho Women’s Center, creating more space for their day’s lessons. M’Bagalwa Francine started the sewing training last spring. She pauses, pulling the bright green and fuschia fabric from her Singer machine, and holds up the dress she’s working on today.
“When I make something like this, I make a profit of nine dollars. Being part of this program has dramatically changed my life. I was not lucky to be sent to school because my parents were very poor before they died and I was not a priority. My brother was, but unfortunately he did not also graduate from secondary school for luck of funds. Today I am mending my own life. I am expecting the graduation ceremony to [proceed] and I will start working on my own or join a sewing cooperative with two or three others from my program. Thank you for changing my life.”
Your partnership with Action Kivu’s programs in Congo gives girls and women like M’Bagalwa Francine the tools to mend their lives and craft a better future for themselves and their children. We are raising $15,000 for the Sewing Workshop Class of 2016, to graduate these amazing entrepreneurs this spring with their own Singer sewing machine, fabric, scissors, and thread to launch their small businesses and sewing co-ops, earning income to break the cycle of poverty that threatened to cut short their dreams.
$200 will buy one graduate a sewing kit, purchased there to invest in the local economy. With your investment in these women’s future, they’ll be able to feed, clothe, and send their kids to school, growing a new Congo from the fertile ground of their persistence and hard work. CLICK HERE to donate today, and mark “Class of 2016″ in the note to seller on PayPal to support their graduation!
Watch the Class of 2015 video here to hear, in their own words, how learning a trade and earning income has already changed their lives!
Read more from our programs in Congo on our blog:
Meet Cikwanine, Nadine, & Chanceline – three teen moms who are back in school!
Meet Claudine, and read her story of coming “back to life”
Meet Grandma Mwayuma and see some of the children at play
Meet Amani through the Enough Project’s “I Am Congo” video series
Meet the goats in our animal husbandry program, Your Goat is My Goat
New People, New Actions, New Congo: Christmas Celebration & New Year Resolutions
With your support, Action Kivu is sowing seeds in Congo: literal seeds in our Organic Food for All Program, virtual seeds of education through our Literacy Program for women and Education Assistance for children, seed money for small businesses run by women. And we are already seeing the harvest of lives transformed: women sharing stories of how they can support their families through their new sewing skills, feeding their families with vegetables grown on the farm, and starting small businesses with investments from people like you, our partners!
The mother of five children, Namuto was abandoned by her abusive husband, and left to care for the kids on her own. Having heard about the vocational training programs at the Mumosho Women’s Center, she arrived, hoping to join the Sewing Workshop, to learn a trade to earn income to support her family. Upon learning that the training took 8 months, Namuto instead joined our partner ABFEK’s Micro Finance Program, learning financial literacy and starting a small business selling smaller food items at the market: groundnut flour used to season food, cooking oil, and palm oil. After paying back her loan, she recently joined the Small Business Seed Project sponsored by long-time Action Kivu / ABFEK supporters from Rhode Island and California.
With $100 of seed money, Namuto purchased more small goods to sell, and works hard every day to ensure her children are fed daily and can go to school. Her third son is pictured helping her grind the groundnut to ensure they do not lose any customers that day.
A donation to Action Kivu is an investment in the future of Congo, supporting our vocational, educational, and community building projects and helping a woman like Namuto start a small business so she can feed, clothe, and send her kids to school, transforming not only her life, but the future leaders of Congo!
Every year, Action Kivu raises money to create a Christmas & New Year’s celebration for the kids we serve in Congo. Once a year, kids who have next to nothing, who often have lost parents due to the poverty and disease and violence resulting from the long-term conflict in their country, are invited to a celebration. At the party, over 300 children are fed a meal, and receive gifts of shoes and a set of clothes, sometimes the only ones they’ll get for the year. They are so happy, our partner Amani tells us, and we see it in their faces.
Donate today, and mark “New Years” or “Christmas” in the note to seller section on PayPal. $10 goes a long way: A simple gift of shoes, clothes, and a meal tells these kids that their lives matter, that their stories are heard, that people around the world are cheering for them!
Not all are so goofy posing for the camera. Rehema’s face shows her determination to make her dreams a reality, and is taking her gifts of shoes, clothes, and an education very seriously. A little girl from a family of eight children, her parents could not afford to send her to school. Enrolled in classes now, thanks to ABFEK (Action Kivu’s partner in Congo), Rehema plans to graduate school and use her education to help other kids like herself, working for ABFEK!
Donate today! Thank you!
The girls and women step inside the Mumosho Women’s Center, take off their flip-flops, set their kids down on the floor to play, and gather up handfuls of colorful bright rope. They watch and follow along to the basket-making teacher’s advice, weaving the rope into gorgeous baskets to sell at the local market and in their villages. For half a year, a class of women come together three days a week to learn the art of basket-making and marketing, so that, like graduate Chantal (pictured below), they can sell their art, and earn income to feed their families and send their kids to school. Depending on the size of the basket, they sell from $3 to $8 dollars a piece.
Many people agree, plastic bags are the bane of our modern existence. While convenient, they are not only unappealing when they escape to get caught in trees or stuck in gutters, but they are terrible for the environment: According to a 2014 report from the Earth Policy Institute, “worldwide, a trillion single-use plastic bags are used each year, nearly 2 million each minute. Usage varies widely among countries, from over 400 a year for many East Europeans, to just four a year for people in Denmark and Finland. Plastic bags, made of depletable natural gas or petroleum resources, are often used only for a matter of minutes. Yet they last in the environment for hundreds of years, shredding into ever-smaller pieces but never fully breaking down.”
The government in Congo banned the use of plastic bags, and when that law takes effect, it will mean even more need for and better sales of these beautiful baskets!
Read more about our work on our blog, and consider a monthly donation to partner with the women in our vocational training programs in Congo, from basket-making to sewing to literacy classes, your dollars make a difference, giving hope and empowering the girls and women with the means to change their lives.