Africare News Release

 

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Recent Columbia Univeristy graduate and team leader Bryan Mochizuki shares digital photographs with children in the Dodoma region.

2007 Students of the World Columbia Team with Africare staff (left to right): Sara Blackwell ('08), Gilli Messer ('10), William Snider ('09), COPE Project Service Delivery Officer Emmanuel Mkangaa, Elizabeth Bokan ('07), Sarah Halberstadt ('07), Bryan Mochizuki ('07).

In Tanzania, the Columbia students traveled from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma, then on to Moshi in the Kilimanjaro region — before returning to Dar es Salaam.

NOTES FROM THE FIELD:
Columbia University "Students of the World" Finish Documenting Africare Work in Tanzania

WASHINGTON, DC, July 23, 2007 -- In the country of Tanzania, within the district of Mpwapwa, there lives a young girl, no older than 15 years of age, named Joyce. At first glance, Joyce is like any other child. She loves to act in plays, spend time with her siblings and laugh with her peers. Upon closer examination, however, Joyce’s childhood is anything but carefree. The plays in which she acts all impart lessons in HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, reproductive health and other topics not always addressed at such a young age. And yet, they are topics that hit tragically close to home. Two of Joyce’s three “siblings” are AIDS orphans -- both their mother and their father died of AIDS -- whom Joyce’s mother adopted as her own. And Joyce’s new family structure is not unusual: many of her peers and their families have similarly provided new homes to AIDS orphans.

During the month of June, six American students from Columbia University met Joyce, her family and many of her peers. Watching some of their plays and sitting in on a meeting of the support group that Joyce’s mother and other caregivers in the village belong to, the American students saw firsthand how Africare and local volunteers are lessening the impact of HIV/AIDS on orphans and other vulnerable children in Tanzania.

The six students returned to the United States on the morning of July 4, 2007, after four weeks of studying and documenting two Africare projects in the Dodoma and Kilimanjaro regions of Tanzania. As part of an organization called Students of the World, the group recorded their experiences in the East African country through film, photography and a daily online blog in an effort to raise awareness of and support for Africare’s work in Tanzania.

While in Dodoma, the team of students followed the work of Africare’s Community-Based Orphan Care, Protection and Empowerment (COPE) Project, which aims to reduce the socioeconomic impact of HIV/AIDS on orphans and vulnerable children as well as their caregivers. To document the collaboration between Africare and local communities, the students visited many of the COPE project sites in the districts of Kongwa, Mpwapwa and Kondoa -- all within the Dodoma region. During their tour of the area, the team met with and interviewed several Africare HIV/AIDS Service Corps volunteers, whose responsibilities include conducting training sessions in the community and serving as liaisons between those outlying communities and more-centralized COPE-sponsored assistance. In addition, the students met with numerous Most Vulnerable Children Committees, which work within communities to identify orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), monitor and report their needs, and provide support services to the children and their caregivers.

The students visited many COPE Clubs throughout the Dodoma region. Unique to the Africare project, COPE Clubs are groups of approximately 40 children each -- both in- and out-of-school children -- who gather at least once a week under the guidance of Service Corps volunteers to play sports, sing songs, write and act in short plays, and attend “life skills” training workshops. Through these activities, COPE Clubs teach the children about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, reproductive health, good hygiene, discipline, relationships and trust building, prevention of substance abuse, and other essential topics.

In addition, the American students documented the COPE Project’s Insecticide-Treated Mosquito Net (ITN) Equity Voucher Program. Through the program, community members identify pregnant women and children under 9 months of age -- individuals particularly vulnerable to malaria -- and enable them to obtain ITNs at no cost, significantly reducing their chances of contracting malaria. Those identified receive vouchers from USAID; combined with subsidies from the Tanzanian government, the vouchers allow beneficiaries to access ITNs for free.

 

Corresponding to Africare’s focus on food security and agricultural programs, the COPE Project works with district agriculture officers to ensure that OVC caregivers receive training on improved agricultural practices in order to enhance household food security. While in Dodoma, the Columbia University team documented the training of caregivers in the use of Double-Dig Beds: a farming technique in which the earth is layered with grass and fertilizer to create a nutrient-rich plot. This technique helps farmers to produce successful crops that yield enough produce to improve the nutritional status of the household and potentially yield a surplus that can be sold in order to support outside activities and purchase essential materials.

Following their observations of the COPE Project in Dodoma, the Columbia team headed north to Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro region to document the impact of poverty, unsustainable resource use, climate change, HIV/AIDS and weak community-resource-management systems. They also saw an example of Africare’s environmental conservation work: the Kilimanjaro Landscape Conservation Partnership Project, which will focus on (1) improved conservation of forest, grassland and alpine ecosystems within the Kilimanjaro region and (2) improved livelihoods for communities through environmentally friendly income-generating activities.

This coming fall, the Columbia team will present two short documentaries outlining each project -- COPE and the Kilimanjaro Landscape Conservation Partnership Project -- at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual summit in New York City, which brings together current and former heads of state, top business executives, eminent scholars and representatives of key non-governmental organizations from around the globe to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Keep an eye out in the coming months for links to the videos at www.africare.org.

To read more about the students’ experiences in Tanzania and to see photographs from the trip, please visit www.cusow.wordpress.com.

Students of the WorldStudents of the World (SOW), an organization conceived by college students and led by students, is dedicated to raising public awareness of and activism on social issues affecting international communities. The SOW mission is executed through teams of college students who spend four weeks immersed in, learning from and documenting developmental issues surrounding a localized international community. The crux of the mission is achieved in the students' return and subsequent documentary work production and advocacy in their own university communities. Through documentary film production, photography and art exhibitions, policy studies, and newspaper and magazine articles, Students of the World works to inspire Americans toward global understanding and activism.

 

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