Help 100 Babies Be Born HIV-Free in Togo

 
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A million thanks to GlobeMed at MIT representatives Sherry Fu and Elizabeth Shanahan, who brought six computers to our clinic in Kara and spent two weeks training our staff.   While working with a translator to teach computer lessons in a different cultural environment proved difficult, “everyone’s motivation and great efforts to learn and understand made it easier to teach,” said Fu and Shanahan.

In everyone’s opinion, this training was a huge success.  A large part of our staff had never even touched a computer. “I had to learn how to double-click, save a file, even turn on the computer!” said Nadege, our Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) Assistant.  Now, all of our staff are able to enter data into computers, and a good number were able to learn advanced functions in Excel such as vlookup, sumif, conditional formatting and data validation.

Elise Takao, HTH Financial Officer, learning Microsoft Excel functions, with instruction by Sherry Fu and Elizabeth Shanahan.

Thanks to our friends at GlobeMed/MIT, we will be able to monitor data with much more precision.  From pharmaceutical inventory analysis to electronic socio-medical records for our PMTCT program, this training will help us in our pursuit to provide the highest standard of care here in one of the poorest nations in the world.

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In celebration of the spirit of Thanksgiving I am thrilled to share a short video from our team in Togo.  

I have been supporting Hope Through Health since I first got involved with their work while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo in 2006. I am thankful that I can make a difference in the lives of children living with HIV. I know that my donation helps to deliver essential services, like home visits made by Community Health Workers to children living in hard to reach areas.

Please take one minute to watch this video and learn what children in Togo are thankful for this year.  They inspire me and I hope that their message will inspire you too. 

On behalf of Hope Through Health, thank you for all that you do!

Sincerely,

Aimee de la Houssaye

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Therese didn’t think she would make it.  Hardly able to stand to her full height of 5’ 4”, she weighed just 85 pounds when she first came to one of Hope Through Health’s clinics in Togo. HIV was decimating her immune system, leaving her vulnerable to bacterial infections.  A count of the T-cells in her blood revealed that, while a normal count ranges from 500 to 1000, Therese had just 24.  “No matter how sick I was, all I could think about was my 5 year old son,” Therese said. “I knew that I had to survive for him.”


Thanks to the Global Fund, Therese was able to get the medication necessary to rebuild her immune system.  However, the medications alone wouldn’t provide all the support that she needed.  “The medicine was so strong.  I was nauseous all the time and kept throwing up.  I used to take just half the dosage so that the side effects wouldn’t be so bad.”  Hope Through Health assigned Therese a Community Health Worker, a Hope Through Health member who was also living with HIV and was already experienced in the treatment regimen.  Her Community Health Worker counseled Therese to take the whole dosage, explaining that the side effects would soon pass.  In order to calm these side effects, Therese was linked with Hope Through Health’s Nutrition Program, where she received food assistance to assure that she was taking the medicine on a full stomach.

That was 7 years ago.  Now, Therese weighs 120 pounds and keeps strict adherence to her treatment regimen.  “Thanks to Hope Through Health, I have found strength again!”  Therese said as she held back tears of gratitude.  “Did you know that I till, sow, and harvest my own corn field?”  Indeed, her immune system is now strong enough to function normally, with a T-cell count of nearly 500.  “If it weren’t for Hope Through Health, I would have passed away a long time ago.  My son is now 13 years old and in a few years he will participate in the men’s initiation rituals.  I can grow old in peace now.”

Hope Through Health invites you to Stand With Therese and join our Stand With Us Campaign.  For only $20 a month you can ensure the health of one individual living with HIV in Togo for an entire year.  Sign up for a recurring monthly donation of $20 or whatever you can give.  Thank you for your support!  

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On December 1 2011, Hope Through Health and our partner organization, Association Espoir pour Demain (AED-Lidaw), organized a candlelight vigil in Kara, Togo.  The following account is provided by HTH and Peace Corps volunteer Stacie Knight.

"When I got close to the clinic I encountered the crowds of people surrounding the building and spilling out into the road. Dozens were already holding lit candles and the banner was unfurled. I was speechless. We planned for three meeting points across town that would converge at the market and continue onto the Congress Building. That meant that this mass of people was only a third of those who would be participating. As the banner holders started off, hundreds of people streamed behind them, singing, chanting, and holding their candles out proudly.

I was absolutely overwhelmed by the response of the community. Not in my wildest dreams did I think that we would get this many participants. Being swept up by the crowd, we walked through the streets of Kara, slowly growing in numbers as we progressed. The procession overtook entire streets in downtown Kara and traffic was forced to a halt. The spirit was festive and lively, but intermittently there were faces of quiet contemplation and remembrance.

As giddy as I was for such a successful event, I took time during the march to reflect on why we embarked on this journey in the first place. I thought of Bienvenu, a tiny 13 year old boy I had known my whole service who had recently died. Personally I marched for him and the others I have known that also lost their battle against AIDS.

During my preparations for the event, I had read that 2 million people die every year due to AIDS, and 30 million worldwide are infected. Those numbers are incomprehensible; but the idea that two million deaths could have been avoided, that Bienvenu’s death could have been prevented, made it all hit home. Two million is just a figure, but mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, and spouses had needlessly died. We were marching for them.

By the time all three groups merged upon reaching the Congress Building, our numbers were well above five thousand people. I was awe-struck at the sight. Candles lit up the night in every direction. I felt privileged just to witness such a sight.

I am happy to say that the World AIDS Day 2011 Candlelight Vigil in Kara was an overwhelming success. It wasn’t an event that people had to be coerced into helping organize or attend. It was something that people truly believed in and wanted to be a part of. It was truly inspiring to see the community of Kara come together. It was the proudest moment in my Peace Corps service thus far."

New PMTCT Assistant Coordinator Nadege
New PMTCT Assistant Coordinator Nadege

HTH and AED-Lidaw recently hired a new assistant program coordinator for the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) program.  Nadege Piyalu Kewenewe was recruited and evaluated through a competitive application process.  A former participant in the PMTCT program herself, Nadege is very familiar with both the needs of expecting moms living with HIV as well as the best ways to support and care for women throughout their participation in the PMTCT program.  Said one of her colleagues, “Nadege is a petite woman with an unassuming manner, but her passion for helping women in the fight against HIV/AIDS is bold.”

Nadege began her journey with AED-Lidaw in 2008, when she discovered that she was HIV positive during a prenatal consultation.  She recalls, “I was shocked.  I was in a crisis. I thought it was a death sentence.  I cried out and was very upset.  The nurse told me that there was help if I was not too ashamed to get it.  I said, ‘No, I am not ashamed.  If there is hope for me and my baby, I will get help.  There is no shame in that!’”

Nadege turned to Justine Teou, Coordinator of the PMTCT program at AED-Lidaw, and there she found the medical, emotional, and social support that she needed to walk the road that lay ahead of her.  "What are the results I gained from following the program?  They are happy ones!  My health has gradually improved, and when I look at each of my children, I am very proud!”

Nadege has a vision for going to help other women who are in the place where she once stood.  “Women who suffer, I understand them.  I prayed, "Why has this happened?  Is it for my sin?  My little baby knows nothing of this?"  Every night I cried with great suffering for the little child inside of me who was innocent.  But now I can help others to have hope.  I can show them what God has done for me through HTH.  I can show them my children who are negative.  I can help Mama Justine who helped me, and together we will bring hope to women who have lost their hope and their joy in living.”

According to HTH policy, individuals living with HIV are explicitly sought to fill non-clinical positions.  HTH believes that no one is more qualified or more effective in program management roles than the people who have lived through the programs themselves.  We have found time and again that the participants and beneficiaries of our programs intimately understand the challenges and strategies required to be effective.  These participants-turned-leaders are also able to provide authentic and responsive support to other program participants.  HTH is proud of this capacity building element of all of our programs, including the PMTCT program, and strongly believes in maximizing the human capital found within the communities with which we partner.

Nadege credits the people of AED-Lidaw and HTH with her positive attitude and her joyful outlook on life.  “Today I can go out in public and proclaim my status. I can tell others the good news that there is hope and give my testimony so that they can know.  They can know that they can be seropositive, but have a healthy child without HIV.  I pray for our supporters and ask that they continue to join us in helping women and these unborn children.  This is the beginning of the fight.  If we can teach these mothers and their children, we will overcome this infection!”  HTH is grateful to have Nadege and others like her who have the courage and compassion to make a difference in their community and the world.

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Organization

Project Leader

Jennifer Schechter

Volunteer
Medway, MA United States

Where is this project located?

Togo   Health
Map of Help 100 Babies Be Born HIV-Free in Togo