Volunteering for a Social Cause: Scaling Up the Response to HIV and AIDS

May 20, 2014

National UN Volunteer Jovin Jonathan facilitating a breakout group during a Community Capacity Enhancement, Community Conversation Workshop in Pemba.

Fifteen months of volunteering as a national UNV District HIV/AIDS Officer supporting the Zanzibar AIDS Commission (ZAC) to scale up the response to HIV/AIDS has paid up the indebtedness I had towards contributing to the fight against the epidemic.  Having lost family members, friends, neighbors and more painfully, having seen many young people die of the disease; I felt an obligation towards participating in something bigger than myself.  And here I am!

It has been my pleasure to be on the UN Volunteer Tanzania team whereby, through volunteerism, I have managed to cut across the whole of Northern Pemba Region and some parts of Southern Pemba while conducting advocacy and awareness raising campaigns on HIV as well as enhancing capacities of the local and district HIV/AIDS committees, including the District AIDS Coordination Committees (DACCOMs), the Shehia Coordination Committee (SHACCOMs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) and the AIDS Business Coalition in Zanzibar (ABCZ), on how they can identify HIV related factors and address these challenges using available local resources.

Three such activities were held with the community of the Shehias of Ngwachani, Mkoani District, Pemba South Region, Shehia of Kinyasini Micheweni district and Shehia of Kangagani, Wete district, both in Pemba North Region in late March, whereby, awareness was raised around issues such as gender based violence (GBV), religious and cultural practices, parent to child transmission, lack of knowledge on use of condom, and their connection/relation with HIV transmission.  This awareness was done through activities such as focus group discussions and presentations, story-telling, meditation and brainstorming. The sessions helped the communities to reflect on their culture, traditional norms and practices, perceptions, attitudes, their associations, interconnections, and social economic roles.  These sessions enhanced the communities’ understanding of HIV transmission, as well as the HIV situation in Pemba.

For this assignment as a national UNV HIV/AIDS District Capacity Support Officer under UNDP’s programme of support to ZAC within the context of the UNDAP,  my own capacities were strengthened, when, as part of a group of 28 UNVs,  we undertook a 10 day intensive induction on community capacity enhancement through community conversations. The training was important for me. “I can now discuss issues and convey pertinent messages related to HIV prevention, care and support and particularly on key populations much better than before”.

 In addition to the technical aspects of my assignment, I was engaged in promoting volunteerism among the youth in Pemba, through various events such as the International Youth Day (IYD) activities.  Being a youth I clearly understand the anxiety of young people but I also know where their energies and enthusiasms lie. I gave them my own testimony of how volunteering has widened my knowledge, sphere, experience, exposure and has contributed to my own self confidence and personal growth.  It has offered me a unique opportunity, to contribute in the fight against the spread of HIV, an area which has affected me most.

“It is my understanding that everyone has been either affected or infected by HIV /AIDS. We have suffered a lot, we lost our brothers and sisters, and we have also been left with many orphans to take care of, therefore indeed HIV left us with gaps both economically and socially.  I would like my fellow youth to know that HIV is a global and social problem which needs to be addressed in a multi-partnership process which should be dealt with from the individual to societal level, putting emphasis on culture, traditions, ethics and norms.”    Jovin Jonathan (UNV-Pemba)

UNV Jovin Jonathan who contributed this article is a National UN Volunteer, based with the Zanzibar Aids Commission (ZAC) in Pemba, Zanzibar.  Jovin hails from, Kagera, Lake Zone Region of Tanzania.