Knowledge for Children celebrated the 23rd annual World AIDS Day (with the theme of this year being “Getting to Zero”) in the Donga-Mantung area of the North West Region of Cameroon, specifically in the town of Nkambe. This Region, located approximately 50 kilometers to the North of Kumbo (where we are based here in Cameroon) was chosen for several reasons; the first being that it is one of the zones where we presently work and have several schools, and the second being that we wanted to bring our message of HIV/AIDS education to an area that would not have access to it otherwise.
Preparation for the day began several weeks prior to the first of December, with the recruitment of volunteer lab technicians (from four local hospitals and health institutions), the donation of 1,300 HIV/AIDS screening tests (given by the Donga-Mantung Hospital, Banso Baptist Hospital in Kumbo, and the Catholic Hospital in Shisong), the logistical organization of inviting, transporting, feeding (two meals in total), and clothing (T-Shirts were made especially for the day and distributed) one hundred primary school children, twenty health club coordinators, as well as six additional volunteers for the day, as well as working in conjunction with the District Medical Officer of the Donga-Mantung Division as well as other important traditional leaders and prominent figure heads as a means of engaging the community to which this occasion took place.
Additional community sensitization was conducted through radio interviews, CRTV (Cameroon Radio and Television) presence and recording of the event as well as the delivery of invitations to primary and secondary schools and technical colleges in the Nkambe area.
You can surmise from the information provided above, that we succeeded in engaging many local health institutions, recruited volunteers spanning the entire North West Region, as well as received the “in-kind” donations of screening tests from other institutions that were not able to be present. We were also supported in the presence of the Fon of Nkambe and his nobles (who, it should be noted, all freely decided to get their first HIV/AIDS test at our event). One main goal of the Knowledge for Children team is to work closely with an enthusiastic community who show their support in many ways, one of which being their simple appearance at our events. We feel as though a community which is engaged is a community where real difference can be made, and in that, the day was successful.
We decided that it was vital to have present with us on December 1st, representatives from all twenty health clubs to which our pilot project is currently running. Out of the twenty health clubs, five schools were invited to prepare presentations for the day which would showcase what they have learned thus far in their individual health clubs. The presentations consisted of skits (themes of the skits included “The Immune System” and “Children Orphaned due to HIV”), speeches on how HIV has effected their lives, poems, songs, and pledges. It should be noted that the schools which presented were invited to bring eleven representatives with them for the day, ten Health Scouts and one Health Club Coordinator and the remaining fifteen schools were invited to bring two Health Scouts and one Health Club coordinator, totaling one hundred invitees in all from the schools.
The schools were excitedly preparing their presentations for weeks before the actual day, and we made it a priority to witness all of the presentations at school level before December first. Watching the effect that this had on the schools as a whole was remarkable; the excitement and pride that existed throughout all of the schools was palpable. Children who previously had had no HIV/AIDS education, and who were not even members of their own schools health clubs were extremely enthusiastic audience members. They were reciting lines of poems along with those on stage, they were engaged in each skit they saw, and they were openly encouraging to their classmates who were hard at work preparing for this big day. Also, the simple act of being invited to another village, representing their school, and being asked to perform instilled a sense of pride in each and every one of them. Rewarding their commitment to the health clubs set a tone of encouragement for members of their schools who previously had not been interested in school clubs. It also spread their successfully gained education on the subject of HIV/AIDS to others in the school as well as their families. Several schools decided to present their work to their own communities at large the day before World AIDS Day, as a means of practicing, but also as a way to share knowledge gained. We view this as a success.
The actual day consisted of a March-Pass (a common occurrence here in Cameroon, where all of the children march through the town center with banners depicting their various schools as well as messages on HIV/AIDS they would like to share with the community), speeches from the District Medical Officer (DMO) of Nkambe (who spoke of African HIV/AIDS statistics) and the Board Chairman of Knowledge for Children, Cameroon (who spoke of the importance of creating open dialog with our children and how World AIDS Day is an opportunity to begin this dialog, for it can save lives). We also had on-site AIDS testing, which occurred due to the volunteer assistance of several lab technicians as well as counselors. We were able to test 200 people on that specific day, but with the DMO and his team who traveled to various secondary schools through out the week proceeding December 1st, there were 900 tested in total. This on-site testing included pre and post counseling. We also had, across the street from the Nkambe Grandstand, condom demonstrations and free distribution. These two aspects, the condom demonstration and the on-site testing, occurred throughout the day while the main events were going on.
The event concluded with a speech by another doctor from the Nkambe hospital. We then felt free to feed the children as well as the health club coordinators with food that was prepared and brought with us from Kumbo, then loaded up the four buses with the children and sent them back on their long journey home. We as a team here in Cameroon plan on taking several of the items from our World AIDS Day event with us when we have our book drops, one of which is on-site testing. We hope to be able to link up with various local health institutions in the locations in which we have schools as a means to facilitate this. The fact that this was, by far the biggest event Knowledge for Children has organized and run, we view it as a complete success and are highly looking forward to the 24th annual World AIDS Day celebration. A word of gratitude also goes to all those who have contributed in any way to make this project a success.Attachments: