Light for Children Update 23/04/07

Written by: Gordon Pearce, Kumasi District Co-Ordinator / Volunteer

HIV Education Outreach Programme for Schools in Kumasi.

LIFOC continued the expansion of its HIV and STI education work in the final week of term before the Easter holidays, with field and voluntary staff paying a first visit to Chipatare Anglican Preparatory Junior Secondary School in South Kumasi. Around 100 pupils aged between 13 and 18 took part in an interactive presentation given by Mike Owusu and Gordon Pearce, with discussions and activities focussed mainly on helping pupils to make behaviour choices that would reduce their risk of exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. A key element of the two hour session was the ‘Journey of Hope’ activity in which participants were encouraged to think about how three major tools for avoiding HIV transmission – abstinence from sexual intercourse, faithfulness to a faithful partner and/or correct and consistent condom use – could help them achieve goals for later life by reducing their risk of contracting the virus. This approach, which was developed in Uganda, places a particular emphasis on abstinence for younger people and has in the past been highly effective in bringing about behaviour change among the target demographic.

The addition of Chipatare Anglican Prep. JSS to the group of schools working with LIFOC represents significant progress in our organisation’s long-term aim of ensuring that as many secondary school children as possible in the Kumasi area are provided with quality HIV/STI education and are thus able to adopt lower-risk patterns of behaviour.

Forthcoming Collaboration with the Kumasi Methodist Educational Unit (MEU).

At a meeting with LIFOC staff on Thursday April 19th the director of the Methodist Educational Unit in Kumasi gave his support to a proposed collaboration between Light for Children and the MEU. LIFOC intends to provide support and counselling for pupils in Methodist schools who have fallen victim to sexual abuse and have come forward with their problems as a result of their participation in sex education programmes. In addition the organisation will provide sensitisation and counselling for the families involved, in an attempt to avoid the difficulties associated with stigmatisation of victims who may be deemed to have brought shame on their relatives. LIFOC would also arrange for voluntary HIV counselling and testing (VCT) services to be made available to victims of sexual abuse, as well as to any other school children who have been involved in sexual activity and wish to know their HIV status.

It is also proposed that Light for Children should be involved in the delivery of HIV/STI education in Kumasi’s Methodist schools, both to reinforce and enhance the current curriculum and additionally to familiarise pupils with LIFOC staff and volunteers so that the children will feel more comfortable discussing with them any problems that they may wish to disclose. LIFOC’s input would take the form of presentations similar in content to those which it already gives in other schools in the area.

The agreement to collaborate in the areas outlined above will now be formalised when details of the proposed work are submitted to the Right-Reverend Nuh Ben Abubekr, the Methodist Bishop of Kumasi, after which a timetable for implementation of the project will be drawn up. The next meeting between Light for Children and the MEU is scheduled for Wednesday 2nd May, immediately after the end of the Easter holidays.

Home visits to Vulnerable Children in Kumasi.

On Sunday 22nd April Yaw Baffour and Gordon Pearce paid home visits to Kwadwo and Nicholas, two of the children living with HIV that LIFOC has identified as being in need of financial support. Kwadwo’s grandmother, who has been responsible for his care since his mother’s death soon after Kwadwo was born, told Light for Children that recent hospital visits showed his health is progressing well and that pending the results of three further tests he will be able to stop taking prophylaxis antibiotics (Septrin). This is great news, especially given Kwadwo’s poor state of health just a few months previously when he was severely underweight and had to stay in hospital for an extended period. Unfortunately, Kwadwo’s family have not received his food ration from OICI this month due to a lack of stock so he is in danger of missing out on some of the specialist nutrition he requires to maintain his current level of wellbeing; his doctor has said that Kwadwo needs to consume more milk and dairy products which are often expensive and difficult to come by in Ghana. This highlights the urgent need to find a sponsor who can help meet the costs of Kwadwo’s treatment and dietary requirements, as his grandmother’s income is only around US$60 per month and she is also responsible for the care of her three daughters and Kwadwo’s brother.

Kwadwo received a school report recently which demonstrated that he is a very able and hard-working student, with particular aptitude in Maths and PE. His teacher describes him as, “a promising child with a bright future.” Finding the necessary funding for Kwadwo’s food and medical care is crucial in helping him to fulfil this promise.

Nicholas is scheduled to visit hospital this Friday, when he will learn from the doctor about his HIV status and receive counselling to aid him in dealing with the news and tackling the situation with the right frame of mind. Although he was diagnosed when he became unwell two years ago and is receiving ART, Nicholas’ mother had previously been reluctant to tell him the underlying cause of his illness as she feared that he would be unable to cope with the resulting stress. However, now that he is going to be fully informed about his condition Nicholas will be able to take an active part in the management of his health and wellbeing and begin taking steps towards living positive living with HIV. Light for Children intends to visit Nicholas again this Thursday and also soon after his hospital appointment to aid in providing the support he will require at this difficult time.


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