The Fight for Life
by Alison Rader Campbell
Goal 6: Combat Aids, Malaria and Other Diseases
A mother and child from Bukura, Kenya, where The Salvation Army’s regional team has had a huge impact on the health of community members
IN Africa, Asia, countries bordering the Pacific and Europe, The Salvation Army addresses health issues through 31 hospitals, 105 clinics and hundreds of community and corps (church) health programmes. These numbers are large enough but they don’t even begin to show the many people who are involved.
The word ‘combat’ means to fight or to fight back. The idea of fighting has been especially meaningful with HIV/Aids, which has seemingly laid siege in many areas, gradually wearing down communities through continual losses.
The following is one person’s account. In his story you will see the response to HIV in his community. The emphasis is on psychosocial support, particularly psychosocial support organised by the community for its own members. This way of working is key to the effective prevention of new infections among young people.
The Salvation Army as an organisation has provided support through regional facilitation team visits, which have helped this young man become connected with others and influenced a broad response based on learning and action. Those involved gained confidence as they responded to HIV and their energy was later applied to work on malaria.
Erick Brown Andika, a young man from rural Kenya, writes:
‘Bukura is a place where I lived and was motivated to care for vulnerable children. A number of conditions, from the hopelessness of youth to the oppression of women, made it a place of concern. Ekapwonje, a location near Bukura market, was the worst-hit area. The number of cases of children being left vulnerable was alarming. So many young people were affected by death and most homesteads remained half-abandoned.
‘This situation caused Bukura to be ranked as the third most stricken area in the District HIV/Aids data analysis report 2002. I could not keep quiet and let my fellow young people perish with the silent epidemic.
‘At this point I was running a barber shop at the market, and each day I had a fresh story to tell. In my shop the atmosphere created the opportunity to engage young people. To them, this was a base to spend time even if they did not want to shave or style their hair. It seemed to be a positive experience for them.
‘Members of The Salvation Army’s Africa Regional Facilitation Team came to visit. Because I longed for people who shared a vision for young people and saw the need to care for orphans and vulnerable children, I had the desire to work with them. I had been doing what they were talking about and was inspired by their support.
|A Salvation Army HIV/Aids response team member teaches good practice to community members|
‘Meetings with young people from the community were sometimes held at The Salvation Army. It was as if something new had come into the community. At the end of the meetings no one wanted to go home. This new sense of connection came about through people being available and interacting with the young people. They seemed to sense that someone cared enough to listen to them.
‘I thank God for allowing me to see this happen and even using me as a tool to create change in a community where everyone else believed that change was impossible. Today, the local administration, institutions, community-based organisations and individuals are participating in community responses towards vulnerable children, working alongside young people in community development. Bukura has become one of the best demonstration communities for psychosocial support work among orphans and vulnerable children.’
And it’s not only HIV/Aids that’s being fought against in Bakura. In October 2005 The Salvation Army formed a league comprising facilitators and other young people with various skills. This group, the Rural Youth Empowerment League (RUYEL), began to work on different health issues.
One such initiative was an anti-malaria campaign where The Salvation Army networked with two organisations based in Nairobi – Inter-Regional Economic Network (IREN) and Syngenta, a pharmaceutical company. Almost 1,000 people were targeted, with more than half the beneficiaries being children. First, each person received a mosquito net. With that initial safeguard in place, work began to check and clear mosquito breeding zones. Houses near the breeding zones were sprayed with one of the most powerful insecticides on the Kenyan market. The result is that Bukura was declared a malaria-free zone in January 2006.
Erick concludes: ‘At first when I tried to help others it was difficult for me to demonstrate clearly how an orphan can be helped by the community as I had no skills to support my ideas. Today, the process of facilitation is developing strengths in me and in the community that I never expected, including the transfer of skills, documentation and measurement, and making children happy. Four years down the line we are going strong.’
Alison Rader Campbell is a community development consultant in the Programme Resources Department of The Salvation Army’s International Headquarters