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News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 5 Spring 2008

Volunteering in Tanzania

I am working as a VSO volunteer in Tanzania, part of East Africa with Kenya and Uganda, and based in Ndanda. This is a large Benedictine abbey mission station with a hospital and many other facilities, in the very south-east, near Mozambique. I work for the parish as the Community HIV AIDS Co-ordinator of a project with two aims: home-based care for people with long-term illness (including HIV AIDS), and prevention of HIV AIDS. Although I am primarily a project manager with a health and education background, VSO fortunately for me decided that this was what they needed, not a community nurse.

Tanzanian villagers

HOME-BASED CARE My work covers six villages which are very spread-out, and quite different sand and coconut palms in one, red soil and cashew nut trees in another. I work with two nurse supervisors from the hospital, who are trained HIV counsellors and trainers for home-based care. We have trained 62 local volunteers to carry out home-based care, approximately half and half men and women, Muslim and Christian. We go out to each village in turn, meet the village leader and the volunteers and then visit any new patients or those needing attention. This takes us into peoples homes and while it is a very poor, rural area, a great deal of courtesy and greetings are offered, which make it easy to handle.

PREVENTION is about providing education and awareness to prevent HIV AIDS infection in the first place, again with volunteers to help. Focusing on youth, we run a programme of two sessions a week in the six primary schools, and are just starting up health clubs lots of football, netball and some drama. For the older ones and the villages we have Stepping Stones, dealing with behaviour change and making life choices. We have organised ten village events (one attended by Sandra and Tony Schur, friends from Woodbridge St Marys) which were rather fun usually under a mango tree, with a very home-made band. We also offer HIV AIDS testing, a very good way of reaching people, rather than hoping they will come into the hospital.

The placement details said that I would be working in a Catholic framework and that is very much the case, in a good way: I work every day with monks and nuns, and have plenty of Christian worship. But it has been very nice to get such good support from home with Contemplative Prayer and Guidelines, and lots of kind messages and e-mails from many of you. The parish church here is St Marys also so Greetings!