16 Oct UFI’s Humanitarian Component: Stay Alive
UFI’s Humanitarian Component: Stay Alive
Dear Friend of the Family,
Recently, our, Director of Operations Julie Walker and Controller Rochelle Witharana spent 10 incredible days in Africa paving the way for the introduction of our Stay Alive humanitarian program into the African nation of Tanzania. Below, Julie shares with us some of the successes and highlights of their trip..
Carol Soelberg ,
President United Families International
Stay Alive Program Expanding in Tanzania
By Julie Walker, UFI’s Director of Operations
Our trip to Dar es Salaam reinforced the need for the Stay Alive program in Tanzania . We visited HIV/AIDS orphans and met with community, government and religious leaders exchanging knowledge and wisdom as we shared information and ideas across cultures.
I traveled with Rochelle Witharana, a native of Sri Lanka who serves as UFI’s controller. We worked with Reach the Children-Kenya (RTC) and Good Faith Tanzania (GfT), both indigenous non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), on a plan to teach the Stay Alive program to 940,000 children in five regions of Tanzania. GfT has been teaching HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention since 2003 reaching children in 60 primary schools as well as thousands of transit authority workers in Tanzania and Zambia. RTC has overseen implementation of Stay Alive in Africa since 2002, covering nine nations and over 800,000 children.
The Stay Alive program is based on the knowledge that the future of the HIV/AIDS epidemic lies in the hands of young people. As highlighted in a UNAIDS report, the behaviors youth adopt throughout their sexual lives will determine the course of the epidemic for decades. Stay Alive is a holistic, developmental approach to HIV/AIDS prevention education providing training in the biological, psychological and sociological factors contributing to HIV/AIDS infection. It operates on the premise that to really make a difference in this fight, we must involve the family unit since no plan for prevention will be sustainable unless it becomes a part of everyday life.
Tanzania has a 7-percent reported infection rate with more than 80 percent of infections resulting from sexual intercourse. As such, the key to prevention is preventing sexual transmission. Most people dying of HIV/AIDS give no thought to the consequences of their actions—actions that lead to contracting the disease. This is where the Stay Alive program comes in, effectively teaching consequential thinking skills.
UFI was thrilled to be joined by 20 members of RTC-Kenya and GfT for four days of training. Many shared personal stories that applied to the principles taught. For example, one community leader from Nairobi shared that his father was not faithful to his mother and contracted HIV/AIDS as a result. Although a young man at the time, this leader was able to teach his father the principle of thinking of others that might get hurt before choosing your actions. This among other teachings of a young man to his father have resulted in his father now calling his own son “father” for the wonderful influence he has been in his life. I was impressed by the amazing insight and skills these African friends have relating to family relationships.
We also increased our perspective of how many African cultural taboos have contributed to the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. For example, because having the disease is so stigmatized, many will not be tested when symptoms appear. Those that test positive may be rejected by friends and family or even thrown out of their own homes, being rejected by their communities. Some, in anger, spread the disease on purpose because of the emotional pain inflicted upon them. Faithful wives are blamed for the spread of the disease when their unfaithful husbands become infected.
It was an amazing exchange of ideas, and I feel privileged to have been a part of it. Our friends in Africa are very humble and have a passion for learning, beyond anything I have seen in the United States.
While there, we had the opportunity to meet with private, religious school officials who have been working to find a way to improve and encourage parent and child communications. The Stay Alive program proves to be a perfect fit as it focuses on opening up communication between the parent and child as lesson material is discussed and pledges are made including a pledge for the child to find something they can do which contributes to a happier family life. In this way, Stay Alive not only helps prevent the destruction of families by limiting the spread of aids but also strengthens family ties through improved communication.
I want to thank the wonderful people of Tanzania and Kenya for the incredible opportunity for learning we just experienced with them. We went to teach principles of business and came back full of wisdom about life.