East African and Canadian fellows unite!

The Aga Khan Foundation East Africa runs a  program similar to the one I am currently in with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

Essentially, the Young Development Professionals are to AKF EA what the International Development Management fellows are to AKFC.

The Canadian IDMers here in Nairobi (Sam, Jess, and myself) were invited to spend a day with the Kenyan, Tanzanian, and Ugandan YDPers during their three-week training workshop.

When I walked into the meeting I was transported back eight months (eight months!) to the Management Seminar the AKFC fellows underwent in Ottawa and saw the reflection of ourselves through the discussions happening with the fellows from AKF EA. Seventeen Young Development Professionals against our eighteen IDMers, YPMers, and IMMers. The Canadian fellows are nearing the end of their placements as the YDPers are just starting theirs.

That training day the focus was on HIV/AIDS and we were going to visit an organization that supports children and their family who are HIV positive. After spending the morning discussing HIV and the level of inclusivity (or exclusivity) in society, and sharing experiences between the IDMers and YPDers during breaks, we all piled onto a bus and headed out to Kangemi to visit Lea Toto, which means To Raise a Child.

After a brief of the organization’s activities, we split up into smaller group to visit people living positively in the Kangemi area. When the woman I met found out she was HIV positive she went to Lea Toto for help, and in the process became a Community Health Worker with the organization, providing support and direction for other people in the community who are positive.

In rapid Kiswahili (explained in English to me afterwards), the mother shared how she found out she was positive (while she was pregnant with her third child), her anxiety and the recommendation she received to seek support from Lea Toto, her fear in disclosing her status to her husband, the mutual decision between herself and her husband not to blame each other but to move forward, having her children tested and learning that the eldest is not positive, but both of the younger ones are. Because this woman was tested she is now on ARVs and her children are receiving the medication they need and will grow up knowing how to live positively.

A YDPer asked the woman how she deals with stigmatization and being associated with Lea Toto, which is known for helping people who are positive. She said she copes with it because it is more important to get the support. She spoke with a determination and resolve that was inspiring and I felt very fortunate to be able to participate in this home visit.

It was a full, interesting day and I look forward to learning more about the work of Lea Toto and hearing how the YDPers get on in their placements.

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