Seeds of Survival (SOS)
AIDS Alleviation through Education, Food Production and Income Generation
By Rick Lathrop
The SOS Program; Global Service Corps (GSC) initiated the first six-month phase of the SOS Partnership/Fellowship Program with a four-week training held at the Golden Rose Hotel and Tengeru Agricultural College from October 18 - November 12. Five Fellows from the US with advanced degrees in international health or international development were joined by four Fellows from Tanzania with experience in development work. The first training covered the HIV/AIDS prevention and care, nutrition and sustainable agriculture and will be followed by a five-month placement with Partner NGO field offices in Dodoma (Africare), Iringa (Development Alternatives, Inc.) And Arusha Global Service Corps -Tanzania). Fellows will help build capacity of Partner field office staff and assist with the development of community training and education programs.
Global Service Corps has been working to address the ravages of AIDS and the plight of those infected in the areas hardest hit (i.e., Sub-Saharan Africa) for over ten years. During this time, GSC had worked in three different regions of Kenya, and in 2001 moved to Arusha. GSC has been addressing the AIDS epidemic by providing short-term international volunteers to deliberate a series of prevention education campaigns covering HIV transmission, behaviour and attitude issues as well as assistance for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
More recently, GSC=s extensive experience in sustainable agriculture has been incorporated into this work to add a dimension of skills and practical information in food production, nutrition and income generation for PLWHA.
These combined campaigns target farmers, local leaders, school teachers and students as well as local health workers. GSC also contributes to the future of international development by developing capacity both locally and internationally. Locally, it works in close partnership with established local NGOs to draw on and further develop, local capacity as its modis operandi; and globally, its use of international volunteers inducts and trains new generations of international; aid workers at a grassroots level.
GSC has long partnered with local NGOs at its project sites, and it is the policy of GSC to increase capacity among local populations and agencies as a primary goal of our work. In 2001, GSC partnered with Heifer Project - Tanzania, a well established and agricultural based NGO that targets the rural disadvantaged.
Recognizing the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS on rural populations, Heifer Project has prioritized collaborating with agencies experienced in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention and the alleviation of suffering among AIDS victims.
GSC=s sustainable (bio-intensive) agriculture training program focuses on organic food production to supplement nutrition and income generation, both of which are critical areas of need for PLWHA. Since GSC has much experience providing training in sustainable agriculture to rural populations, the two organizations found common ground for working together.
This collaborative venture allowed the two organizations to reach ever more remote areas and hence, populations most in need of these services. For example, joint Train the Trainer (TOT) seminars conducted in Arusha in 2002 provided training in both HIV/AIDS prevention and sustainable agriculture/nutrition to 244 of the local NGO=s staff and its partners from all over rural Tanzania. As a result of the seminars, participants showed a remarkable change in attitude about HIV/AIDS by over 83 per cent (from the pilot project evaluation). The evaluation showed the seminars helped staff Aunderstand the problem (of HIV) more deeply ... and (I) didn=t have adequate information on prevention (before).@ There has been great success in the number of seminars trained staff and partners have conducted in their own areas: six months after the training, over 15,000 people had been trained. While the majority of these seminars targeted village farmers (over 12,000), these numbers include HIV=s most vulnerable populations: students, women, widows and PLWHA. Seminars are a key component of AIDS education, as the survey demonstrated; over 99 per cent of field staff said they acquired knowledge about AIDS via seminars, which is more than through local media or handouts. Some participants have gone so far as to start their own local NGOs: one participant founded the Huruma Orphans Trust Fund to provide resources to AIDS orphans. An evaluation of these seminars has shown not only an overwhelmingly positive response to
the seminars, but the need and desire among local staff for more extensive training.
To continue and expand this much-needed work, GSC is launching the Seeds of Survival Fellowship/Partnership Program. This program will provide trained Fellows in rural zones where partner organization local staff is established. This expansion is based on feedback from past TOT participants, who suggested that further training and assistance be provided to local zones where a larger population may be reached at a lower cost.
This Fellowship differs from other GSC volunteer programs in that it will provide more experienced and advanced-degree professionals to rural areas to conduct in-depth seminars for longer periods of time. The program will also expand the existing training curriculum to include new topics as requested by past seminar participants.
The collective experience of GSC, Partners and the Fellows coupled with the longer time availability of Fellows will allow for greater community penetration and the development of an ongoing, sustainable program. The training of local Fellows to cultivate experienced and trained community experts to continue this work in the future also ensures both the project=s short-term viability and long-term sustainability.
Rick Lathrop is Executive Director, GSC Office, Arusha firstname.lastname@example.org