Life has been wonderfully busy here at Shanti since I arrived for my volunteer placement 2 weeks ago. Last week we helped facilitate a Teen girls Health and Wellness Workshops in the neighboring village of Katakamu. This was Shanti’s first outreach Teen girls Workshop and the turnout was fantastic! Twenty four girls between the ages of 14 to 17 attended the workshop where we covered topics on sexual health, menstruation, STI’s, HIV/AIDS, healthy relationships and openly answered a number of thought provoking questions. We also taught the girls how to make re-usable menstrual pads and everyone left the workshop proudly carting a new package of AFRIpads.
This past Tuesday I had the privilege of representing Shanti Uganda at Luweero District’s World AIDS Day event. Traditionally celebrated on December 1st, World AIDS day is used as a global platform to raise awareness on the AIDS epidemic, reflect on those whose lives have been taken by the disease, and discuss plans for future prevention and treatment. Luweero’s all day event included speeches from the District Health Officer, the District Commissioner, and many other prominent members of Luweero’s health community. There were also traditional performances of Kigandan dance and a short theatre performance speaking out against violence and sexual abuse in the family unit. One especially touching speech was made by a 13 year-old boy who bravely stood before the crowd and told his story. At thirteen he had outlived all of his older siblings who had died of AIDS. He spoke of his struggles to stay healthy while being HIV positive and how his access to ARV’s have already saved his life. Between tears he told the crowd how the other kids at school would tease him for being sick and how hard it was for him to keep up with his studies while continuously missing class. It was touching to see members of the community wiping their eyes and relating to his story. With a statistic of one in twenty-four people testing positive for HIV in Luweero, I am sure this testimony struck a personal chord with almost everyone in the crowd.
With each day that passes I love being at Shanti even more. I have already experienced so much after only being here for a short time, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time here will bring!