Hello dear friends,
Did you know that the Circle of Love project started nearly three years ago on a very hot day in Maroua?
I was a Peace Corps volunteer posted with Education Fights AIDS. I was lucky enough to have my aunt and cousin come to visit. They proposed a day of volunteering with Education Fights AIDS during their visit. To be honest, I was skeptical. After all, what could I plan that would be meaningful for all parties given the language and time barriers?
My aunt suggested doing art project with the women of EFA. I was skeptical of that, too. After all, I had never done something like that before (mostly because, confession, I am decidedly un-crafty). And, women in the developing world aren’t usually known for using their time for idle purposes—there is always too much water to haul, too many acres to cultivate, many children to care for…you get the picture.
And now, looking back I am tremendously glad that I didn’t listen to those voices of skepticism.
That very-hot day we spent with the 25 HIV+ female members of our associations making a quilt in Maroua proved transformative in many ways.
On the surface, it was a lovely day that we spent together that offered the women a break from their many responsibilities. We shared stories and a good meal.
It could have ended there leaving everyone pleased.
But it was also that day that sparked the Circle of Love campaign. Little did you know it would be the day that you became intimately connected with a young, HIV+ Cameroonian.
Together, over the years, we raised more than $7500 to support the health of 150 young people living with HIV. The money raised with this campaign has provided CD4 tests and antiretorviral medication. Quite literally, your support has saved lives.
How can I possibly thank you for that? After spending 2 years with the150 people you have supported, I feel like I am thanking you for improving and even saving the lives of members of my family. How can I thank you for including them in your Circle of Love?
Now, we are at a transition point. Education Fights AIDS is transitioning from an international organization to a Cameroonian led organization. As a part of that transition, we are closing this project to streamline our fundraising efforts. We are going to have one Global Giving Project: Providing HIV services to 20,000 Cameroonian Youth. Would you consider supporting that project? We are so appreciative of your support thus far and your continued involvement and support means the world to us! If you have any questions or concerns about the transition or about your contributions, please do not hesitate to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always more than happy to brag about our association members!
In Cameroon, people often use the expression “a thousand times over: thank you”. One thousand times is not enough in this case.
So, I thank you. My Cameroonian friends thank you.
A million times over.
We could not be more proud of Mariamou of Godola, Cameroon, and the inspiring work that she does so tirelessly for her community!
Mairamou was recently awarded an international Community Health Worker award that honors her committment to her community and her relentless desire to fight HIV stigma in her community.
Please read about her nomination here.
Mairamou is particularly passionate about her work with orphans and other children who might be vulnerable due to their or their parents' HIV status. The support that you have given through the Circle of Love helps to make her job easier. When the HIV positive parents of a child are on treatment and have good medical care, their child becomes less vulnerable. Thank you for all that you have done to support the work that Mairamou does.
We are lucky to have her in our Circle of Love.
I try my best to follow the news in Cameroon, especially the news that might affect the young people in our network. This week, I came across an article called Cameroon: Enduring HIV Stigma in Cameroon.
The article highlights all of the ways in which people living with HIV are stigmatized...there are no laws on the books to protect someone from discrimination, there is discriminiation within health care, within banking and insurance, within the formal and informal sectors of employment,
In reading the article, I could have been discouraged. I could have thought the worst for the youth in our network for they could even be seen as doubly discriminated against--for their HIV+ status and their age.
Yet, when I read the article, I was reminded of all the significant ways in which Education Fights AIDS (EFA) tackles all of these issues.
First, by creating associations around the region that are linked with each other, we are creating a support system to guard against discrimination and to fight discrimination when it occurs. I am reminded of a story of one of our association members who sold breakfast outside of her home each and every morning. One morning, when she was setting up for the day, she noticed that there was graffiti on the exterior wall of her home: "Eat Here and Get AIDS". She alerted her association members and they acted fast to paint over the graffiti. Then, they went to the authorities and ended up fighting the case as a hate crime in the courts. She was victorious in the end.
That is the power of EFA! Not only did she have a support system, she had a support system that was empowered enough to act out their support!
At the very center of our fight is a fight for health. The Circle of Love helps us win that fight by providing medications and transportation to access health care. By assuring health, we can assure that we also fight discrimination at every turn. Our youth deserve nothing less.
The headline “Cameroon: Shortage of ARVs Hits Cameroon HIV/AIDS Patients” sent me into a spiral of concern. The actual article did not do much to quell my worry: half of those who need the life-saving medications will not be able to get them and a solution does not seem to be forthcoming. I have written before about how fragile the supply chain in Cameroon can be. Hospitals may not have equipment. Pharmacies might not have medication.
While the headline is nothing but shocking, we at EFA established the Circle of Love to counter-act such events. The fund allows our members who are living with HIV to access their treatment, in cases of stockouts, at private facilities that operate outside of the parameters of the national supply chain and funding stream. Our members contribute towards the cost of their visit, but the fund allows for them to visit the private clinics when necessary.
ARVs save lives. Simply. Our association members do everything in their power to protect their health and to prolong their lives. The Circle of Love gives them a little more power to care for themselves by allowing for continued access to their medications. In moments of massive drug shortages, the Circle of Love becomes even more critical to the continued good health of our members.
Thank you, again, for your support of the Circle of Love. Without you, your support and the Circle of Love, such news would be a devastating blow to our association members, their health, and our work together.
We at Education Fights AIDS are in the optimism business. Of course, there are lots of reasons for optimism in the fight against HIV: greater availability of life-saving medications, effective prevention of transmission of HIV from a mother to her child, and increased political will around the world to fund HIV prevention and treatment efforts. Our optimism makes us tireless and relentless. We will not tire in our fight to support our friends in Cameroon who are living with HIV nor will we relent in our efforts to educate their communities and participate in HIV prevention efforts.
The Circle of Love project is a testament to our optimism.
We believe in the potential of our association members. Life-saving medications will help them to realize their potential. If you recall, I had a visit from Pehlem in June. She came to the United States as a part of a United States Department of State program called the International Foreign Leaders Program. She was chosen to participate because of her inspiring work with EFA. During Pehlem's recent visit, I heard all about how our association members are realizing their potential. Of course, Pehlem is a prime example. In my excitement about her visit, couldn't help but think about when I first met Pehlem nearly five years ago. Five years ago she probably wouldn't have imagined that her life would have brought her to the United States. Five years ago she probably wouldn't have imagined that her daughter has a chance at college. Through the support and commradarie offered by Education Fights AIDS, Pehlem has been able to realize her potential.
Before she came to visit, I thought about how much she has changed and grown in the last five years. After her visit, I am filled with boundless optimism for what Pehlem is going to bring to the world in the years to come.
With your support of the Circle of Love, you are proving your optimism and believing in the potential of our association members. Thank you!
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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
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