The Haitian Red Cross hosted seven Red Cross Societies from around the world March 3-16, 2007 for a workshop designed to increase the impact of Together We Can, an HIV prevention peer education program. The workshop took place as the Guyana, Tanzania and Haitian Red Cross societies enter their fourth of a five-year project, funded by the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief. In partnership with the American Red Cross, which provides capacity-building and technical support, the three societies have already reached 500,000 youth with HIV prevention approaches and achieved 30 percent gains in HIV prevention knowledge, attitudes, and skills through the Together We Can curriculum.
Peer educators facilitate a 'body-mapping' exercise
"I am most proud that I can now attend school since I was too ill last year, and it is difficult to attend school when living on the street," proclaimed a young school girl participating in a Together We Can self-esteem activity.
Behind these successes, however, lie the complexities and the challenges of daily programming – all of which the ten day workshop set out to address. Using recognized HIV Peer Education best practices as a framework, the Red Cross Societies discussed ways to increase the program's impact on the more than 20,000 youth that Together We Can reaches every month.
Beyond the participation of the three target country societies, Tanzania, Haiti and Guyana, the workshop also benefited from the rich perspective of representatives from the Netherlands Red Cross (operating in neighboring Dominican Republic as well as in Haiti), Kenya Red Cross Society and the Jamaica Red Cross, all of whom are working with either Together We Can or some other form of peer-delivered HIV prevention program.
The workshop saw several partnerships built and strengthened. Indeed, the Jamaica Red Cross and American Red Cross renewed a partnership dating back to a collaboration in the early 1990s that led to the initial roll-out of the Together We Can curriculum.
Although societies operate in unique geographic and socio-cultural settings ranging from the sparsely populated Amerindian areas of the Guyanese hinterland, to the conservative Muslim and Christian populations of rural western Tanzania, to the inner-city extreme poverty and volatility of Haiti's Cite Soleil –their common challenges and successes were as prevalent as their differences.
Participants explored new strategies for increasing youth participation in supervision systems already validated by independent evaluators; improving participation of and outreach to people living with HIV and AIDS; and strengthening youth-adult communication and cooperation. The discussion enabled participants to sharpen existing tools such as referral systems that promote access to and use of reproductive health services. Societies also adopted and developed new tools as fellow societies presented initiatives, such as a curriculum adaptation process in Haiti, life-skills approaches in Guyana, and 'follow up activities' in Tanzania whereby peer educators reach out to beneficiaries with awareness and skills-building activities after the completion of the seventeen activity Together We Can curriculum. Further, by attending peer education sessions and related meetings, participants observed different applications of the program, and picked up modifications to enhance their own existing activities.
The workshop ended in a closing ceremony in Port au Prince. Workshop participants were joined by about 100 stakeholders, including peer educators and the Prime Minister of Haiti. On center stage stood some of the youth participants who benefited, delivered, and managed the program, 14 of whom received awards in recognition of their outstanding outreach efforts.
Participants left Haiti energized and mobilized to continue their work towards stopping the spread of HIV-- equipped with a replenished tool box of best programming practices. Although operating at a distance from one another, they had been brought closer through the common bond of working together to promote prevention, reaffirming that Together We Can goes a long way towards halting the spread of HIV and AIDS.
As part of the world's largest humanitarian network, the American Red Cross alleviates the suffering of victims of war, disaster and other international crises, and works with other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to improve chronic, life-threatening conditions in developing nations. We reconnect families separated by emergencies and educate the American public about international humanitarian law. This assistance is made possible through the generosity of the American public.