Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Touchy Feely Nirvana

Finally after 20 years of searching I’m working somewhere that begins each day with a group singsong and some gentle stretches. Mbuya Reachout was the inspitation of the Italian catholic parish priest Father Joseph and a doctor Margrethe Juncker in 2001. Since then it has grown into a massive enterprise based entirely within the poor Kampala parish of Mbuya. It now employs 234 and looks after 2300 people living with HIV / AIDs and their families.
The remarkable thing about it is its community focus. Counsellors and support workers are recruited from the local area (and are often HIV positive themselves) and work on education programmes in local schools and community centres to encourage testing and to break down the stigma around HIV. Each worker provides moral and practical support to his / her HIV infected neighbours. Within the project there is a literacy programme, a school fees programme, a food programme, a tailoring workshop providing much needed work and income and a loan scheme for small business start ups. The medical programme is supplementary to all this and works on the premise that without food, financial support and hope, medical care alone is insufficient. The clinics are run by specialist nurses and nurses attached to Mbuya on a 6 month HIV training course. I will be one of 4 medical officers supporting the nursing team in the clinics (there are 3 clinics in the parish) and am already learning loads!!

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