Monday, June 18, 2007

William Fleming, HIV/AIDS Program Specialist

Note from William: I am the CCF HIV/AIDS Program Specialist, responsible for supporting our projects, supporting HIV prevention, and affected families. I came to Uganda to learn more about the Australian Partnerships for African Countries (APAC) project and to identify opportunities for developing new programs using effective approaches developed by the APAC project.

Mr. AIDS crawled out across the grass to explain how he was finding his way into homes across Uganda. Snarling from the ground in a wig and scary mask, Mr. AIDS warned the audience against organizations seeking to help them understand and defeat HIV - including CCF and the APAC project. As he crawled away, the peer educators performed a moving song in English and local language explaining how HIV is spread and what can be done to prevent infection.

"Be wise for a better future…" this was the theme of the poem the young man from the Mafubira Youth Resource Center shared with us. During a recent visit to the center, several young people shared poems, songs and skits they use to raise awareness and support behavior change to prevent HIV infection. We had come to learn about the youth center, which was started with technical and financial support from CCF-Uganda with funding from AusAID through ChildFund Australia.

The center is a rectangle room with walls covered with posters addressing topics such as HIV prevention, family planning, and self esteem for young people. There is also a computer for teaching computer skills, a television and VCR showing educational videos, and shelves with books, newspapers and games. Two basketball poles stand in the corner waiting to be installed. Though too small for the number of youth present, the room is welcoming and educational all in one.

I was part of a team including CCF staff from several countries seeking to learn lessons that we could use to strengthen our work to support children affected by AIDS around the world. The APAC project, implemented in Uganda, Kenya and Zambia seeks to improve the care and support provided to vulnerable children. There is a special focus on improving psychosocial support through training parents and key caregivers, such as teachers and helping them to be better able to care for vulnerable children and youth, including those affected by HIV/AIDS. Through a team of peer educators, CCF and Mafubira Youth Center are also involving youth directly in support for vulnerable children.

APAC project successes include a network of youth organizations that span the sub-county, increased behavior change among youth, improved school attendance, and vocational training that helps youth to develop small businesses. Furthermore, the center is expanding income generation that will help it sustain its activities. But perhaps the most remarkable change is the change youth see in themselves. They are emerging as confident, capable leaders, able to speak to adults and community leaders about the needs of children and youth in their communities. Seeing youth grow into their potential and serving their communities is perhaps the most promising and important development of all.

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