As a part of my work as the Africa Field Manager, I spend a lot of time with our African partners. Sometimes this is in their offices looking at reports or planning next projects. Sometimes it is in the field checking out ongoing work or completed projects or needs that could become future projects. In Central African Republic, our partner has HIV/AIDS clubs that are a place where people can learn about HIV/AIDS and support each other in activities to prevent contracting the disease. This is a blog I wrote after visiting one of these clubs.
This week I walked into a village for a meeting that I thought would be with just the HIV/AIDS club. But as I arrived, it seemed that the whole village was gathering. They were not just gathering around the truck, but proceeded to sit in the meeting area and seemed to wait for the meeting to start. As I addressed the village and tried to start a conversation, it came up dead; there was no desire to engage in conversation. It became awkward, and I worked to end the large meeting in hopes of meeting with the club.
That is when I found out what was going on: the village was not there for the meeting, but was waiting for candies and cigarettes. The evening before I had thought I was out on walk with the host of my local guesthouse when I had found myself in this same village. My host proceeded to give children candies and adults cigarettes. Under no circumstances do I support such behavior - I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I reaped the consequences of this unfortunate timing the next day as the village remembered my very white face and hoped for the same candies and cigarettes they regularly receive from my host (who was not with me at that time). No, I was not there to give tokens and handouts, but to learn.
When there was nothing to be had, the village went about their activities, and I was able to meet with the HIV/AIDS club. I learned about how they are working together to prevent HIV/AIDS in their own lives and in their community. I learned about how families are becoming stronger and the community more healthy. It was an excellent meeting and I am thankful for the hour I spent with them. And that day I learned to ask more careful where we will go and what we will do when a the host at a guesthouse asks if I would like to go for a walk.
Learn more about our work in HIV/AIDS at www.bloodwatermission.com/aids
Blog post written by: Pamela Crane - Africa Field Manager
Discuss November 23, 2011