Alexis and Brian visited this project on May 5th, 2009. They write:
When we first visited Training the Trainers, we could not have imagined the profound impact this program has had, not only in the local community, but throughout Uganda. This project teaches women long-term HIV/AIDS survival skills including nutrition, agriculture for income generation, and how to care for themselves when they are sick. Initially, 35 women from all over the country were trained. All have since returned to their communities to teach the survival skills they have learned. Nine women have received advanced training, allowing them to train other trainers. This process is being continually repeated, thus expanding the knowledge exponentially. According to Toppi, one of the advanced trainers, over one million Ugandans have received training all over the country.
The lives of many of the women we have met over the past few days have been saved by this project. Justine, who has become our mother in Tororo, described her life before the training: she had become “burned out” by the burdens of her disease, she was unable to eat or sleep, and she constantly worried for her children. Following her training, she is healthy, empowered, and she has become a leader in her community. She uses the strength she has gained from this training to help others develop the same skills. Other women’s stories are similar. We have even heard that as a result of these trainings women are more willing to get tested for HIV because they are confident that they can continue to live a long, productive life with HIV/AIDS. The countless impacts of this project will save the lives of millions of women in Uganda.
When asked what they would tell their friends about this project, Alexis and Brian said, “Incredible: You need to see this!”
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In October, we visited the Rayland Rural Development Organization in Uganda, a community we are helping toward economic sustainability. Lynde Francis, from The Centre Zimbabwe, was inside the vocational training center teaching about 50 people “Long Term Survival Skills for HIV.” I went to see the new bakery -- powered by charcoal fire since there is no electricity in this village. That’s when I saw the starving young woman and her baby. The baby was tiny and listless. The mother was too malnourished to produce milk for the baby.
In rural villages, this image of mother and child is far too common. I greeted her and shook her hand in the Ugandan way. Our good friend Joseph, who runs the RARUDO project, and I agreed that we had to help this person who was in our path. Within 24 hours we had medicine, safe housing, a bed, blanket, food and supplies for the baby. We learned the woman had been starved and beaten by her husband. She had head wounds and a broken leg from being thrown. She had returned to her village, but had no family to help her. The women we trained will look after her – even though they told me they see many like her every day.
Who controls tradition, culture and gender roles? How does tradition affect the health of women and girls in this time of AIDS? How can we as women help other women? What are our hopes for our daughters? These are some of the questions that we ask the women of rural Uganda as we lead workshops in “Long Term Survival Skills for HIV.”
In the workshops, the women put on two skits. In one, a man takes a third wife, abuses the first wife, and forces the new wife into sex without a condom. Infected with HIV, she becomes an outcast. In the second skit, a young man needs money to get married. His parents remove his 14 year old sister from school and sell her to an old man, and everyone celebrates. Both of these scenarios are common, which is why we discuss culture and women’s rights in order to improve the lives of women and children in Uganda.
In its fourth year, the training has now reached over 7000 people and has empowered strong local leaders in three regions of Uganda. Calling themselves “The River Fund Women,” they are developing a grassroots network of trainers, peer educators and community organizers. We came home convinced that these volunteers are ready to run the program themselves, if we can help them with costs for workshops and direct services to families: widows, orphans and grandmothers raising too many children with too few resources. Truly, we are witnessing the African motto, “Educate a woman - Educate the nation.”
In fall 2008, I will be returning to Uganda to host four workshops for Ugandan women. Two will be for women who have already attended the initial "Long Term AIDS Survival" training. One will be an introduction, and one will be for advanced trainers, "Advanced Training in Counseling Skills Workshop" who are already teaching our program all over Uganda.
First, we will host the women of a small mountain town near Mt. Elgon. Many of these women are from cultures that continue to practice female genital mutilation. Then we will teach a short introduction to the workshop concepts in RARUDO, followed by a 3 day intensive of advanced trainers. The fourth group of women is coming from Kitgum in the far North of Uganda very near the border with Sudan. These women have lived under brutal circumstances and in refugee camps because of a war raging around them for the past twenty years!
All the participants will develop their skills as teachers, organizers, presenters and community activists. This is how the program grows – when they go home, these women will be ready to help their communities and reach others through grassroots networks, the most effective way to create change and empower women.
The training is absolutely free for the participants. We provide transportation, room and board and all of the materials needed including seeds for kitchen gardens, training packets, female condoms and mosquito nets for each participant.
You can help us make a difference for women in Uganda.
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