Masasi News - December 2012

In September this year the Minchinhampton HIV project members set out on their 5th trip to Masasi. The aim of the trip this year was to continue to build and develop upon the ongoing knowledge base in relation to HIV and AIDS, to include harm reduction and health promotion whilst continuing to challenge stigma and providing simple methods of how to care for the sick. The team has built up a repertoire of factual material and practical skills which support the training we provide.
At the request of Bishop Patrick, the focus for the team during this visit was to concentrate on men within the communities. This was the first conference to be directed solely at men, and the material that we planned to use had to reflect this different audience and would need to engage men in a very different way. In engaging and empowering men we would be challenging and breaking down perceptions and myths and testing their cultural customs.

The conference was designed to be interactive and equip delegates with practical information delivered by short presentations using power point followed by small group discussions with the opportunity to revisit the presentation, ask questions, discuss issues and practice and learn role play scenarios.

We found that using ‘the game of football’ as a vehicle for engaging with men within the conference setting was an excellent method of helping the delegates see the issues around HIV transmission. The aim being that the delegates would be able to support their local young people similarly using football as the theme in promoting ‘stay safe messages’ and addressing ‘stigma’, all directly related to HIV, and its effects for the individual, family and community. This also enabled the delegates to have practical messages to deliver health education. It was great to see and meet a group of men, who quickly became known as the “next generation of African men”. Delegates had travelled from far and near to attend the two and a half day conference.

During the seminar we were joined by Dr Dianna, the local hospital doctor for infectious diseases, and the nurse who runs the outpatient clinic for HIV positive patients, both the doctor and nurse contributed in terms of highlighting current practices and dispelling myths. They also enjoyed the alternative methods of teaching and training, so much so that the hospital have informed us they are going to revise their training to replicate our model.

All delegates enjoyed the conference and from the small group feedback, individuals reported how they had welcomed the opportunity to learn and how they were looking forward to supporting their local communities. As always we left training materials to support all areas of our teaching and we have sent additional resources to the voluntary testing centre in Mtandi.

This was the first visit to Masasi for Archdeacon Paddy Benson, who joined the team and was a valuable asset with his Swahili. We had the added opportunity to visit Rondo and also reassess the chapel’s current state of repair.

The team also had the opportunity to have a guided tour of Masasi Diocese’s new testing centre managed by Magdalene. The premises were impressive and a credit to the diocese, the staff clearly implementing their skills and knowledge with limited resources, but it was good to see a vaccine fridge and the plans for adding solar panels.

We saw a novel use for the sun ovens in sterilizing equipment, an inventive and practical method to reduce needless infections and cross contamination. This practice was also evident in Rondo.

At Rondo we were fortunate to see the beginnings of the new dormitory and class room, for pre-form one, together with the new dispensary clinic in its embryonic stage of construction.

It was also good to meet Sr. Helen who had travelled from Newala; it was good to hear of the sisters plans to secure their future and long term sustainability. As always our time was limited, and we were unable to meet everyone we had hoped to.

Spending time with Patrick and Emmie and listening to their retirement plans in their final year before retirement, was an added bonus, given their hectic and demanding schedule. We were able to visit their new home, the foundations of which have been firmly laid, with a huge underground water tank in situ, and a number of out buildings in their final throws of completion. The plans for water collection will ensure that they will be popular with their new neighbours and give a sustainable future. There are extensive grounds much of which is already under cultivation but which will give them scope to both work, and enjoy. Emmie had been busy planting for the coming years and they are well blessed with some established mango and cashew nut trees, ensuring a plentiful on going crop.

Yet again it was another successful trip, and rewarding to see such progress in many aspects of life in the Diocese.

Helen Cosnet