Today was the first time this week that we met direct beneficiaries of our project, and wow did we meet a lot! We traveled to Keyo parish to meet a men’s group, a women’s group, and a youth group, all of which were funded by our chapter. We were greeted by a group of women chanting and dancing. We hopped out of the car and immediately joined in on the dancing and drumming. After all was settled, we heard from three representatives from the women’s group, three of the elders, and three of the youth. It was so interesting to hear their stories and how our project was able to empower them to change their community.
All of the women in the group are HIV positive mothers. Some directly benefitted from seeds that we gave them to plant in order to make income, while others indirectly benefitted through sensitization and education campaigns. Franny told Lillian that Zainabu, one of the women we interviewed, was very sick from HIV before GWED-G’s HIV education initiative. Franny had to do 20 home visits to her house before she recovered. Now Zainabu is the secretary of her Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) and is a serious advocate for health in her community. She is proud that her fifth child will be HIV free and assured us that she will not be dying of HIV soon.
We have met many women beneficiaries in our previous field visits, but this was the first time we were able to meet men’s and youth groups. The men’s group consisted of many elders in the community who educated younger men about the importance of health. One of the elders actually got very angry, saying that NGOs expect them to help, but then do not perform any livelihood projects for them. His anger was definitely overwhelming, especially since it was directed at Lillian because he thought she knew President Obama! Luckily everyone just laughed it off.
The youth group, which is composed of only young men, do similar initiatives. Like the women, the youth group also has their own VSLA group. Bosco, who is the treasurer of their group, taught us a lot about what they do within their community and how their peers are starting to recognize the necessity of living healthily. He told us that before GWED-G intervened, the youth were not thinking about the future; they were only thinking in the moment. Bosco’s group plays cards with their peers and travel to households, even multiple times if they have to, in order to sensitize youth about the importance of safe sex and HIV prevention.
The most amazing part for me about meeting these youth is the fact that people our age are making significant changes in their communities. I instantly felt a connection to Bosco. He is struggling with his peers trying to change their mindset and their behavior. Within GlobeMed, we are trying to get people to care about global health and social justice. Though Bosco’s task is harder than ours, it is reassuring to know that youth everywhere are working for change in their communities.
Well that was a lot of blog posts in one day! Hope everyone enjoys reading about what we’ve done so far this week. Tomorrow, we are excited to meet the beneficiaries of GlobeMed at Columbia’s first ever project with GWED-G!