Providing HIV services to 20,000 Cameroonian youth

by Education Fights AIDS Cameroon
Community sensitization
Community sensitization

Over this past quarter, EFA staff’s time and attention has been spent planning and preparing for a big day in the history of EFA – the public recognition ceremony for Mairamou Hamandjouma, President of ASSYSGOD, who was honored as an outstanding Community Health Worker by the REAL Award for her tireless work in support of young people infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. EFA took this opportunity to not only celebrate Mairamou’s achievement but also to plan a large scale sensitization event to reach community members with HIV/AIDS education messages. 

On June 28, the ceremony finally took place, and it marked a moment of deep pride for all members of the EFA family. In addition to publicly recognizing Mairmou’s outstanding courage and hard work, the ceremony gave all of us an opportunity to reflect on how far EFA has come since its establishment in 2006. Mairamou’s award ceremony was held on the esplanade of the Lamidat, the home of the Lamido (traditional leader of the Godola area). In total, more than 600 people attended the ceremony, including numerous dignitaries from across the region. The high-profile attendee list and prestigious location demonstrated the respect that EFA now commands amongst local leaders across the Extreme North. These relationships represent years of hard work by the local staff to spread the word about EFA’s unique approach, and they are vital for the continued success of EFA’s work.

The ceremony offered an ideal venue for community sensitization, and the association members seized the opportunity with gusto! Peer educators worked with EFA staff for months to plan a large sensitization activity during the event not only to educate the community but also to increase awareness about EFA’s activities. After an intense planning period, the event was held with great success. The day began with a presentation by the Peer Educators on the AIDS epidemic and opportunities for care and support in the region. Skits, poetry and games related to the fight against HIV/AIDS (and other sexually-transmitted diseases) followed, with lots of opportunity for participation by everybody in attendance. All of the sensitization activities were designed and delivered entirely by the youth association members, under the leadership of their presidents. This event had direct impacts on the community members reached and indirect impact through the media coverage that the event achieved. The months of planning were certainly worth the effort and marked one of EFA’s largest sensitization events since its creation.

Ceremony attendees
Ceremony attendees

It is impossible to hide how proud we are of the ever-so-brave members of the Education Fights AIDS youth associations.  This story is about Djingui a member of our AJEPS association and one of our many remarkable association members!

Djingui, one of the EFA Peer Educators, told us about an every day peer educaiton moment. He was out in town and hopped on a moto to go home.  He and the moto driver struck up a conversation about HIV.  The driver told Djingui that he was concerned about his sister who was bed-ridden at home.  He described the fairly typical AIDS-symptoms—supreme fatigue, weight-loss, and the list continues—to Djingui.  Djingui confidently offered stigma-free and non-judemental counsel to his moto driver and convinced him to take his sister to get tested for HIV the next day.

Sure enough, the test came back positive.  But, then, the moto driver realized to take action to get his sister healthy again, which they believed WAS possible because of Djingui’s testimonials about his own HIV+ status, he needed more money than he had available—moto drivers can usually expect to make $2-3 a day in Maroua.

Djingui brought the moto driver and his sister to us at EFA . . . and through the support that you offered, she got a CD4 test (a test used to measure the strength of the immune system), chest x-rays (she has suspected TB, too), and we paid for her stay at the hospital.

I find this little story remarkable on so many levels . . .

Djingui’s bravery to disclose his own status is remarkable.  His commitment to these strangers is remarkable.

The moto driver’s dedication to his sister is remarkable, when so many families here reject their kids/sisters/brothers upon learning that they are HIV+.

The sister is remarkable for not losing hope as this all got figured out (the health care system is not as transparent as it ought to be!).  And now, she and her brother are officially in the EFA fold!  We are sure that with time they, too, will become outspoken leaders in the fight against HIV just as Djingui is! 

This could not have occurred without your support of our Peer Education Program. You have literally touched so many lives. Thank you for your continued support!!



PS: We are participating in the Global Giving Match Day on May 7th! Won't you share our work with your friends?

ASSYSGOD members at their community garden
ASSYSGOD members at their community garden

In 2006, fear and stigma around HIV ran rampant in Godola, a small, rural and conservative town in the Far North Region of Cameroon.  Around that time, Mairamou Hamandjouma discovered her own HIV positive status and confronted the stigma and fear in her community head on.  After several low-key, specifically targeted, and wildly effective education campaigns, word was out.  The community could seek guidance without shame or hesitation from Mairamou.  Soon, HIV+ people in the community sought Mairamou out and were eager to join her newly formed association - The Association of Sympathizers of the Sector of Godola and Dogba (ASSYSGOD).

In the years since, Mairamou has been at the helm of ASSYSGOD.  She leads her association with a remarkable sense of vision and clarity.  She engages community members in such a way where she quietly and respectfully gains support from key figures within the community despite the stigma and discrimination she faces.  It required tremendous fortitude and strength of character for her to have been the first in her community to so publicly reveal her HIV status. Yet, she is driven by her conviction that her life can act as an example to other people and that she can change the tide of discrimination and stigma.  From the results over the last seven years, it is working!

ASSYSGOD, with Mairamou as its president, is now one of the most productive associations in EFA's Youth Empowerment Network. Each one of the association members conducts their own individual income-generating project - repairing bicycles, for example, or selling beignets - while also contributing to the association's central revenue-generating activity: a commercially successful community garden.  The income raised by these activities supports the health and wellbeing of the association members and their families, covering the cost of vital expenses such as medical care and school fees for the members' children.

Mairamou is also a trained and highly experienced peer educator and an official trainer-of-trainers for future peer educators. This means that she not only educates her own association members about HIV and the means of living positively, she leads the association members in community-wide HIV prevention and stigma-reduction education efforts. In affiliation with the local community health center, ASSYSGOD's peer educators run prenatal consultations with HIV positive women in the community, coordinate vaccination campaigns and hold training sessions on family planning, malnutrition and the prevention of opportunitistic infections, including cholera and malaria. This vital work has largely been possible thanks to your donations, which have sustained the Peer Education Program over the years. 

This past World AIDS Day (December 1, 2013), Mairamou and the rest of ASSYSGOD coordinated an extensive sensitization event, which reached more than 3,000 community members.  In addition to the community-wide event, the association members scheduled individual counseling with more than 20 people and made 62 home visits, referring more than 30 people to local HIV care and support services.  

Today, we are thrilled to announce that it is no longer only her association members and the EFA community who recognize Mairamou's tremendous leadership.  Mairamou has been selected as an honoree for the REAL Awards in recognition of the remarkable and inspiring work that she has done to support those living with HIV in her community. We have always been in awe of Mairamou, the strength of her conviction, and the vision that drives her. Please join us in celebrating this wonderful recognition of a remarkable young woman. Congratulations, Mairamou!!

Community sensitization event in Yagoua
Community sensitization event in Yagoua

It’s been an exciting few months for EFA’s newest association, AJUPS in Yagoua!

Since achieving its legalization in April, the inspiring members of AJUPS have worked incredibly hard to establish their operations, plan for their future financial stability and build their capacity to educate their community about living positively with HIV/AIDS.  Having completed EFA’s Peer Educator training, made possible by your contributions, fourteen AJUPS members are now working as qualified Peer Educators in their region.  A recent evaluation by EFA’s partner organization, PAIBLT or the Projet d’Appui a l’Initiative du Bassin du Lac Tchad­ (The HIV/AIDS Support Network of the Lake Chad Basin), estimated that these early efforts have already reached nearly 800 local young people, with over 60% of the neighborhoods in Yagoua already having benefited from a Peer Educator visit. 

One of the most exciting things to see in the AJUPS experience is how the association has benefited from EFA’s work with local partners in the area. We have already seen the Department of Social Affairs in Yagoua give AJUPS a space in their office, free of charge. Our local partner, PAIBT, has also given AJUPS a donation of two kiosques and approximately 5,000 condoms which the association hopes to sell – at 100% profit! – as an income generating activity in the future. 

The young members of AJUPS Yagoua have made incredible progress in only six short months. We can’t wait to see what they are capable of doing in the future!

Alim, Country Represenative, presenting new poster
Alim, Country Represenative, presenting new poster

EFA International's associations, Peer Educators, and staff have been busy these last few months! First, we are proud to report that Peer Educator extraordinaire, Pehlem, spent a month in the US as an invitee to the prestigious US State Department's "International Visitor Leadership Program."  She had a fantastic experience and is excited to take what she learned while visiting NGO's, health organizations, and government entities in the US, home to Cameroon to share. Congratulations Pehlem!

Staff and Peer Educators made visits to Yagoua and Moutourwa for community outreach, and gathered for six intensive days of training to refresh their messaging to their communities, and to learn how to incorporate new material into their presentations. We also had a visit from the new Peace Corps Director, Jackie Sasonga!  And Technical Assistant Soureya Oumarou travelled up to Kousseri, on the Chadian border, to visit the AJUBS association to establish an executive committee and to present the new educational posters EFA printed with funds from PEPFAR, VSO, Peace Corps, and YOU! 

The large posterboards were printed as a tool to aid in community presentations - a visual presenation of our health messages intended to make the lessons more impactful for a larger audience.  The messages pertaining to health and HIV/AIDS prevention have already proven to be invaluable!  Alim Ousmanu, Cameroon Country Representative, presented the new materials to Peer Educators from each association who gathered in Maroua for an educational session about how to effectively incorporate the posters into their community outreach. 

Thank you for your continued support. We are together! Nous Sommes Ensemble!

Peer Educators with new health posters
Peer Educators with new health posters

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Organization Information

Education Fights AIDS Cameroon

Location: Maroua - Cameroon
Project Leader:
Alim Ousmanou
Maroua, Extreme North Province Cameroon
$43,781 raised of $50,000 goal
596 donations
$6,219 to go
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