MEDWAY AFRICAN COMMUNITY VOLUNTEERING NETWORK
A new Volunteering Network project was officially launched by Health Action Charity Organisation (HACO) in Gillingham on Saturday the 6th of February 2016. HACO an Organisation that work to improve the health and wellbeing of African communities to reduce health inequalities has received grant from money raised by HealthWhole through The Health Lottery. The Volunteering Network project will be targeting African people in the Medway area. HACO will be working with CTRIM to provide the programme which will include trainings on volunteering, talks on different subjects twice a month on Saturdays and an opportunity for a volunteer placement in order to make a difference in the community they live. Many people from the African communities have never been a volunteer, so this project will give them an outlet to make a difference in their community. With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering are enormous. The right match can help you find friends, reach out to the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career. Volunteering can also help protect your mental and physical health To raise awareness of Volunteering, the charity is hosting a community picnic and Away Day as part of the project in the summer. We will be sharing our experience as the project develops. News and resources will be posted on this website. If you would like to hear more about the project or want volunteers for your Organisation, please email Tina @ firstname.lastname@example.org
HACO Youth started in October 2008 with the hopes of educating African youth with the history and legacies of their cultures. The project leaders recognized that in uniting African youth it meant not just African immigrant youth but all African youth. HACOY is passionate about uniting all youth in the struggle for equality and understanding. Its members strongly believe that no matter where you come from we are all members of the same family, the human family.
HACO Youth Project is a youth-led, adult supported project that empowers youth (ages 11-25) to express themselves and to take action on the issues that affect their lives. HACO Youth Football Team was funded by the Medway Council through the YOF in 2010. This sport for development project is also looking to improve the health and well-being of African youths through involvement and participation. Currently the Football project due to some recent funding loses has dropped off. Part of the work we do is to run workshops around health and interpersonal development. We also deliver assertiveness training to young people and will incorporate this into the sports development.
We look to bring parents and young people together to look at the issues of cultural identity as this is a huge challenge for both the young people and adults. In order to achieve the above outcomes, continue with the football project and introduce other activities that will be relevant to African Youths in Medway, an organisation called Sported (http://www.sported.org.uk/) has agreed to support and work with HACO.
We are therefore seeking your views as youths that will use the project on the way you want this project to go forward There was a consultation in November 2011 asking the young people to tell us what type of activities you will like to see included in the New HACO Youth and tell us any barriers preventing you from taking up sports activities ( See attached questionnaire).
There were 30 respondents some chose more than one activity Football and Table tennis top the list. The sported funding we hope to secure in March 2011 will go towards those two activities.
If you want any further information please do not hesitate to contact me on 01634 844044
AFRICA LIFE PROJECT
THE CONCEPT AND OBJECTIVES:
To commemorate the Black History Month, HACO Trustees, staff and volunteers, the HACO Youth and other stakeholders held a series of meetings to deliberate on what contribution HACO could make to mark the occasion. It was during these interactions that the “African Life Project” was conceptualised.
The need to educate both Africans and non-Africans in Medway Kent about some aspects of the rich African culture was identified as an essential tool:
- to make African Children proud of their rich cultural heritage
- to boost the self-esteem and confidence of African children for a smoother integration in a multi-racial environment
- to create awareness and understanding of some African cultural practices to both Africans and non-Africans in the target are
- to encourage inter-ethnic tolerance both in schools and in the communities within the target area
- to share ideas and identify the best practice in teaching culture as part of the National Curriculum
- to acknowledge and celebrate the richness of the diverse cultures within schools and the local communities
Health Action Charity Organisation MBE (HACO) draws its membership mostly from Medway Unitary Authority in Kent. It was therefore decided to focus on schools and libraries in the area. Letters proposing the project and its potential benefits were sent to all schools by the Medway Council Library Inclusion Manager in the chosen areas and arrangements were made to organise workshops for kids in key stage three. But we only got responses for workshops with key stage two from all the schools. The reason given is that Key stage two seldom take part in community activities so they want them to benefit from this project.
Following the receipt of enthusiastic responses from schools requesting for two or three sessions (two or three days) in one school, twelve sessions of workshops were done in 6 schools that were involved in the project.
The project was made up of a series of workshops mainly held in schools, one in the library, another in the community (Sunlight Centre) and a conference held at Gillingham
Schools such as Riverside Primary School ,All Saints Church of England Primary School, St. Michael’s RCP ( see full list at Appendix A) benefited from workshops on the following subjects:
“Adinkra” Printing (Tie & Dye), Naming Ceremonies and Meanings of Names and Story Telling.
The workshops involved an explanation of the history and development of the “adinkra” symbols (in Ghana) and Tie & Dye (in Nigeria) and Adinkra’s use as a means of non-verbal communication. Participants were made to draw and produce some of the symbols on their own. Participants were asked to bring in old or new white T-Shirts which they changed into Adinkra by tying them with plastic bands and dipping them into different colours of dye to produce beautiful new shirts. Practical hands-on approach was adopted to engage participants in tying and producing some samples “adinkra” cloths. The use of the cloths for special occasions like funerals and festivals was also explained
The Story Telling workshops received a lot of interest from participants who were taken through African story telling sections loaded with symbolic animal characters used as satires on society. Participants’ attention was drawn to the moral lessons to be drawn from the stories as they are considered as the most important reasons for telling the stories
Another important peculiarity of the African story telling tradition that was highlighted was the use of songs to intersperse the story telling. It was explained that for such songs to be suitable and appropriate, they must have bearings on an event or a character in the story. Such songs bring variety to the story telling section and also enhance its entertainment value.
NAMING CEREMONY AND MEANINGS OF NAMES
This involved dramatic demonstrative performances of the naming ceremonies of new born babies. The resource person then explained the various ways of choosing appropriate names for babies.
Example: Names based on day of birth:-
Other special names include:
Names given according to the order of birth among siblings (eg. Mensah= third male, Mansah= third female) and
Names given to twins and those born after twins by the same parents (Ata=male twin, Ataa=female twin, Tawiah=one born after the birth of twins).
The essential lesson is that the naming of babies among most Africans are serious events, and the rituals involved together with the names chosen have significant meanings.
To end the activities of the project, a conference under the theme of “Diversity and Culture” was held on the 31st October 2014 at the Sunlight centre. The conference was broadly aimed at providing a platform for professionals working in the fields of Education, Health, Youth, Social Services, and members of the BME communities in the Medway area, to examine and share ideas on best practice in service delivery on culture and diversity issues.
Specific objectives of the Conference were:
- To identify and share effective ways of working to empower and build the confident of pupils from BME communities
- Sharing best practice in the teaching of culture as part of the National Curriculum
- Acknowledging and celebrating the richness of the diverse cultures within schools and within the local community
ICTs IN THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV AND AIDS IN AFRICA
Information and communication technologies can offer key opportunities for organisations, communities and people living with HIV and AIDS, to intensify their efforts in the mitigation of the epidemic. Exploratory research conducted in Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique revealed that people working in the field of HIV and AIDS are interested in the use of ICTs. Yet the high cost of equipment and maintenance as well as limited knowledge and skills for using ICTs were highlighted as barriers to effective use of ICTs. Participants suggested that the use of ICTs made assist to improve the flow of HIV and AIDS between communities in the southern African region, to promote advocacy and networking on a global level and provide support the health care systems.
Recommendations from the research included the implementation of a process of vision building and awareness creation among AIDS Service Organisations (ASOs) on the potential use of cost effective ICTs. In addition, it was also recommended that smaller pilot projects need to be created, providing internet access to community radio programmes through the development of community access points.
HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa
The HIV and AIDS epidemic is the greatest development challenge facing the Sub Saharan Africa today. UNAIDS (2005) estimates that currently 25.8 million people are living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa, as compared to 25.4 million in 2004. Although the region accounts for only 10% of the world’s population, it is home to two thirds (60%) of all people living with HIV.
In 2004, seven of the ten countries in the southern Africa region reported prevalence rates over 15% (Table 1).Over the past twenty years, the epidemic has eroded many of the development gains. Overall life expectancy has decreased and morbidity and mortality have increased.
UNAIDS (2005) reports that approximately 2.7 million deaths of adults and children in sub-Saharan Africa were caused by AIDS. This accounts for 87% of all AIDS related deaths in the world. However, UNAIDS Global HIV/AIDS report (2005) shows that adult HIV infection rates have decreased in some countries. This has been attributed to behaviour change as reflected by increased use of condoms, delay of first sexual experience and fewer sexual partners; yet, it is important to note that the overall trends continue.
Exploring ICTs more to mitigate HIV/AIDS
Recognising the potential of ICTs, SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency) and its affiliate SPIDER (Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions) commissioned research to explore the opportunities for using ICTs in mitigating HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa. Using a participatory approach, the study focused on three countries, Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique. It addresses two key questions:
( i ) how can ICTs contribute to the empowerment of people living with HIV/AIDS and (ii) how can ICT improve ongoing and planned HIV/AIDS programmes in the region. In this research, a literature review was conducted to explore current and existing research on the use of ICTs within HIV and AIDS prevention, care and treatment programmes in southern Africa. Using a participatory approach, researchers explored
Table 1: HIV and AIDS prevalence among adults (15 – 49) by the end of 2003 in selected countries
|Country||Adults||Adults with HIV||Women with HIV (%)|
|1||Angola||220 000||3.9||130 000|
|2||Botswana||330 000||37.3||190 000|
|3||Lesotho||300 000||28.9||170 000|
|4||Malawi||810 000||14.2||460 000|
|5||Mozambique||1 200 000||12.2||670 000|
|6||Namibia||200 000||21.3||110 000|
|7||South Africa||5 100 000||21.5||2 900 000|
|8||Swaziland||200 000||38.8||110 000|
|9||Zambia||830 000||16.5||470 000|
|10||Zimbabwe||1 600 000||24.6||930 000|
the perceptions and experiences of HIV and AIDS organisations in three countries (Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique) with regard to the use of ICTs in their work. Data were collected and analysed, using a variety of qualitative methods such as focus group discussions, informal interviews and participant observation. Recommendations for exploring and expanding the use of ICTs within HIV and AIDS were developed.
What’s revealed, what’s needed
In the three countries, participants from the focus group discussions emphasised that ICTs could be instrumental in mitigating HIV and AIDS. In particular, participants emphasised the role of ICTs in documenting and sharing experiences, enhancing networking, improving HIV and AIDS knowledge management, and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of HIV and AIDS programmes and health care services. Key barriers for using ICTs can be divided into two: 1) internal challenges such as the cost and expense of purchasing and maintaining ICT equipment and services as well as the lack of capacity to use ICTs among NGOs and ASOs, and 2) external barriers such as high illiteracy rate among clients and poor infrastructure in large regions of the country.
To enhance the use ICTs within HIV and AIDS prevention, care and treatment programmes, participants emphasised that several basic conditions need to be put in place. These include:
- Improved coverage of basic infrastructure for telecommunication, data communication and electricity supply;
- Enhanced capacity of individuals and organisations to use, operate and maintain ICTs;
- Improved capacity of target audiences and clients of NGOs,
CBOs and ASOs to access and use ICTs;
- Improved capacity of information producers to use ICTs to create and communicate accurate, relevant information on HIV and AIDS and other health issues.
Participant s also provided recommendations on ICTs interventions, which may strengthen the quality and coordination of HIV and AIDS prevention, care and treatment programmes. It was suggested that ICT programmes should focus on:
- Developing a platform for vision building, planning, coordination, monitoring and evaluation amongst the HIV/AIDS stakeholders groups and support a coordinated multi-sectoral approach in countering HIV/AIDS;
- Providing access to vital information which can support individuals to shield against the worst effects of the epidemic;
- Rehabilitating health delivery systems through the application of ICT for distance counselling and logistic support;
- Make use of existing traditional and modern ICT programmes, such as existing community based radio networks.
Need of pilot projects
Based upon the priorities defined in this research, pilot projects are proposed to explore the viability and impact of the recommended interventions. Pilot projects recommended include:
- The establishment of Community Access Points (CAP)
- Developing and implementing system for distance consult and improved logistic support for drug distribution are also required.
- Support research on ‘expert’ systems
- Facilitating the process of awareness and vision building on how ICT can be used in prevention and care is another necessity.
Since the completion of the research, several projects and programmes have or will be started which focus on strengthening the use of ICTs and HIV/AIDS in the southern African region. The numbers of best practices in this field are limited and therefore, it was recommended to research and share experiences in an effort to strengthen knowledge around ICTs and HIV/AIDS.
ICT to be use by HACO
The Health Action Charity Organisation is a registered charity based in the Medway Area in the United Kingdom.Established in 2003, HACO uses information as a tool to enhance dialogue and catalyse social change within communities of practice in order to significantly scale-up the regional HIV/AIDS response. With support from local partners, HACO currently implements its programmes amongst the African Communities in the Medway Area in the United Kingdom and The NOAF in Nigeria. HACO’s core activities include capacity development; information production, collection and dissemination; networking and building partnerships, and promoting dialogue and debate on cutting-edge issues related to HIV and AIDS. In its future programmes, HACO will explore new and available technologies in an effort to increase its reach and impact.
HACO to introduce ICT in the fight against HIV/AIDS;
Health Action Charity Organisation (HACO) aware of the big gap that exists in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is planning to introduce the use of ICT relayed information in Schools where no such facilities exist. In the majority of rural schools across Africa, computers are non existent, however judging from the enthusiasm which most of the children who attend these schools together with their dedicated and hard working teacher it is imperative that much can be achieve if accesses to computers and internet networks are made possible.
This project will be initiated simultaneously in the Benin City in the Federal Republic of Nigeria where we have an on going project on the fight against HIV and the newly born state of South Sudan where all structures are starting from the scratch. However the success of this project will depend on the generosity of our partners, friends, and donors. At this initial stage look towards the Higher Institutions of Learning in the United Kingdom and Ireland to donate their used Computers, USBs , Servers, projects to this humanitarian cause. I strongly believe that we can find warm hearts and giving hands from these institutions. As we intend to train the school teacher on how to deliver teaching materials which will help to raise awareness amongst students from both sexes, w hope that it will also initial fruitful debate on how best these young people can conduct themselves in the face of this pandemic and go on to become not only health role models but also health Champions.
The use of Computers in the HIV labs in the school certainly to attract school children because of it being a new thing in their settings, however it will also in the long run open the horizons of wider knowledge and an endless window to the outside world. In the nascent state of South Sudan for example, peace means the returning of thousands who were largely displaced to the refuge camps of East Africa where HIV/AIDS rate are very high. Although neighbouring countries like Uganda has developed very much material on how to help people change their attitudes and life styles in order to fight the spread of the HIV epidemic, these materials can only be accessed by school children of South Sudan through an accessible computer based project.
Once HACO has everything in place, we intend to send a team to Nigeria and South Sudan. Much of the trip will be involved in working with children, young people and schools. As people with special interest in extending education and awareness we remain overwhelmed by the challenges in African classrooms. The dedication of the teachers and desire of the children for learning will continue to provide us with the needed aspiration. Through the generous support of our different partners, we hope to take teams to trips to Nigeria and South Sudan. These visits will focus on working with teachers and students.
As a key focus of providing educational resources for teachers and students we plan to establish a network computer lab at our centres in Benin City (Nigeria) and Mundri Town (South Sudan) The lab will include a server that provides a wide variety of educational material in a web based format.
MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS PROJECT
SERVICE TO IMPROVE HEALTH
|NHS Medway commissioned Health Action Charity Organisation (HACO) to deliver Volunteer Service to Improve Health for African Communities in Medway to provide a community based health project for Black African Communities in Medway.
The primary aim of this service is to reduce health inequalities by working with people from Black African communities who are not frequently exposed to health promotion activities in other parts of the health or social care sector, in order to increase healthy behaviours and offer opportunities to learn new skills and employment
This project is increasing African community’s knowledge and understanding of key healthy lifestyle and public health messages and they are being empowered to take action to improve their health.
The Project started in earnest in February 2011 with the recruitment of the staff / volunteer team, one paid part time Outreach worker and three volunteers recruited.
There is high response to this project by members of the African communities in Medway which means the demand for assessment is higher than we anticipated.
A reasonable number of older members of the African communities are experiencing isolation because of language barrier and not knowing what services are out there for them to access. This isolation will affect their mental health well-being if something is not done to address this problem. A befriending scheme is something to look at with this target group.
We will continue working with the African communities around raising awareness of all aspects of Health and Wellbeing to reduce health inequality
For more information about this project please call HACO on 01634 844044
TB AWARENESS PROJECT
HACO SUPPORT GROUP
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SAFER HOUSE SCHEME (Free Condom Distribution)
Aims and Objectives of the “Safer houses” Scheme
The “Safer houses” scheme seeks to:
- Engage African communities who are infected with HIV to become condom friendly- enabling them to use the right condom for sexual activity thereby reducing the onward transmission of the virus
- Distribute condoms to Africans who otherwise would not have used condoms – asking for feed back from them on problems re: condom use
- Meet with student groups and distributing condoms to them. Majority of the existing people living with HIV generated from the student population
For significant shifts in behaviour to occur, there must be broad agreement within communities that HIV is real and undesirable and that safer sex is necessary and desirable hence this project.
HIV / STIs is not equally distributed among the population. Britain’s African communities have been particularly badly affected by HIV/AIDS. Although gay men remain at greatest risk of acquiring the infection, the number of people who have acquired the infection heterosexually has risen. (House of Commons 2003)