Monday, April 7, 2008

Learning how to manage HIV/AIDS

Selling AIDS ribbonsIt’s my heartfelt appreciation to (OFID) The Opec Fund For International Development and The Foundation for Professional Development (FPD) for their dual support and sponsorship ofthe HIV/AIDS workshops in Nairobi, Meru and Eldoret. The two bodies have worked tirelessly in support of various social and educational workshops around the globe zero in on HIV/AIDS pandemic.

From 17 to 19 March 2008 all roads led to Sirikwa Hotel in Eldoret for the above forum. Through the Family Health Options Kenya (FHOP) the above mentioned bodies managed to reach quite a substantial number of youth and middle aged people from other organizations to attend the workshop. The opening remark from the facilitator that got most of the young people off balance was about the rate of infection among the middle aged people. He reiterated that the global figure of People Living with HIV stands at 46 millions and if there is no determination towards behaviour change, especially amongst the youth, then the figures are likely to sky rocket.

The mood of the workshop became gloomy once the theory surrounding the origin of HIV was brought to the fore. It was unpalatable for some youth to learn that the two viruses, HIV1 and HIV2 are traced from the African soil. It was alleged that HIV1 has its roots from chimpanzees in Central Africa and HIV2 was found in Sooty Mangabey Monkey in Western Africa. It sounded more humorous for the young people when they heard that at some point while skinning the monkeys, blood crossed over to the humans through open wounds! After an exhaustive discussion it was apparent that no one is pretty sure about the origin of HIV in human beings.
From the group exercises, it emerged that most people living with the virus had defaulted taking drugs due to various reasons, chief among them poverty. It was indicated that some drugs from the First Line Drugs (introductory drugs within the antiretroviral therapy) were too strong and could not be taken without food. Therefore, those families that could not afford the food taken along with drugs, had no option other than avoid the treatment altogether. This scenario has cost lives, though the majority have also benefited heavily from the food supplies from Ampath in Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.

Youth were also encouraged to go for VCT (voluntary counseling and testing). This would enable them to know their status and if necessary change their behaviour and live their life to the full. The three day workshop closed with practical skills on counselling. Participants were made to understand the approaches they need to develop before they offer counselling services to their clients. At the end of it all a vote of thanks was given to the facilitator, the organizers and the participants for the successful workshop.

by Simon Mudi
Youth Leader Eldoret

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Healing the trauma of post-election violence

There are so many versions given regarding the genesis of post election violence in Kenya. It’s not apparently clear as to why so many people were killed, displaced from their homes and their houses torched! Nonetheless, through the mediation process a commission of enquiry has been established to dig deep into the root cause of the problem, to make recommendations and to reconcile the feuding parties.

SOS Children’s Village Eldoret is among the many organizations that were affected due to the post election violence. Staff and children from the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School witnessed all manner of violence committed. Children as well as teachers saw people being butchered, houses torched, and mass displacement and exodus to unknown destinations. These negative experiences have adversely affected the learning process at school: teachers, children and students are grossly traumatized. For this reason the Kenya national office, in conjunction with the Eldoret children's village and the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School sponsored a post election workshop for the staff and children both from the community and the children’s village.

A counseling group was contracted to provide services to the traumatized members of the SOS fraternity. It was a one week exercise that emphasized practical aspects of healing. Children were given priority to draw pictures of things they had experienced after the elections. The violent drawings depicted the real trauma that had engulfed the school community. Children were given group therapy, and those who deserved specialized treatment got personal attention. At the end of the process most children seemed relieved of their burdens to some extent.

SOS co-workers went through the same process but at a deeper level. They were first taken through theoretical aspects of counseling and trauma; then had group discussions through which many horrifying experiences were narrated. Some of the teachers explained circumstances through which they lost either their property or even their relatives; most of the staff members suffered indirectly by being forced to contribute money to self styled vigilante groups.

One of the teachers in the primary school narrated how he was compelled to give money to a gang of boys who wanted to buy petrol to burn down houses. He had to do it or suffer adverse consequences. In addition, another primary teacher is a typical example of an internally displaced person (IDP). She was displaced from her original home on the outskirts of Eldoret town: her house was looted, she was chased away and sought shelter around the SOS Children's Village Eldoret. She confesses that psychological torture was part of her trial, though she has now forgiven the looters. Many more narratives were expressed through drawing and writing. Finally the papers were burned bringing relief to many of the participants.

The SOS Children's Village Eldoret and the Hermann Gmeiner school have resumed their daily chores, the mistrust amongst staff members has faded away and people look at each other as colleagues again. It’s our prayer that the national healing process will be speeded up in order to allow internally displaced people to resettle in their new homes. I would recommend that any other multicultural institutions in the country to emulate this gesture and enable everyone to undergo a psychological therapy so that trauma may be lessened nationally.

by Simon Mudi
Youth Leader- Eldoret.