Bicycles Donated for AIDS Volunteer Workers

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By William Mbangula Oshakati About 310 HIV volunteers of the Catholic Aids Action (CAA) in Omusati and Oshana Regions were given bicycles, helmets and first-aid kits worth close to N$300ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 by the Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN) as part of efforts to alleviate the transport needs of the volunteers. After 18 months of active volunteer service, the bicycles – 310 in all – and related items will become the personal property of the volunteers, it was announced. BEN is a non-profit organization established to empower disadvantaged people through the provision of sustainable transport such as bicycles, as well as training the recipient communities in repairs and maintenance of such facilities. Before the donation of the bicycles at Okatana last Thursday, BEN had distributed 3ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 bicycles countrywide through 22 different community-based organizations. In a speech delivered on his behalf by the Councillor of Oshakati East, Lotto Kuushomwa, the Governor of Oshana Clemens Kashuupulwa commended BEN for supporting the provision of home-based family care and youth education and prevention services in the community. “I call upon our business sector in Oshana Region to emulate the socio-economic responsibility exhibited by BEN by assisting disadvantaged communities in the region to help themselves. We all can make a difference to help in our communities by proactively supporting self-reliant projects that contribute to the alleviation of disease and poverty in our region,” said the governor. CAA is one of the well-organized church-based organizations, a criterion which was used by BEN to identify it as the recipient organization. Founded in 1998 as the Catholic Church’s first response to the HIV/Aids crisis, and operating under the motto: “The courage to fight and strength to care for the benefit of all”, it has since grown to be one of the largest church-based organizations dealing with the pandemic. Receiving the bicycles on behalf of the CAA, Operations Manager Godwin Chisenga said the CAA builds on its network of 91 parishes, over 300 out-stations, 16 Catholic hospitals and health centres, as well as 31 affiliated schools and hostels. Increasingly, he noted, the CAA is working in partnership with other churches and faith-based organizations, he business sector and the government through the ministries of Health and Social Services, Education, Gender Equality and Child Welfare. Chisenga explained that the CAA’s work and mission have four principal focuses, namely: home-based family-care with an average 6ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 300 clients, youth education and prevention covering 6ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 youths countrywide, care and support for about 17ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 orphans and vulnerable children, voluntary counselling and testing centres with 6ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 tested and counselled last year. A pilot project is to start soon in Omusati Region which will train 200 volunteers in palliative (help lessen pain) care. At the moment, the CAA has about 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 500 volunteers providing monthly services to close on 6ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 300 HIV-positive clients and their family members. Volunteer support services, noted Chisenga, include amongst others counselling and emotional and spiritual support, practical assistance with household chores, encouragement to live positively through good nutrition with locally available food, talking openly about one’s HIV status, preventing the infection’s further spread, referrals for medical intervention, provision of key roles for individuals enrolled in antiretroviral treatment programmes and helping decrease the stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS. Said Chisenga: “All these tasks and others I have not mentioned are done in very difficult circumstances. In most cases, volunteers have to endure harsh weather conditions and long distances to carry out their tasks. As an organization, we are aware of these realities, and that is why we have tried to do our best to provide all we can to ease the burden of the volunteers. Obviously, the reality is that no amount of incentives will account for the huge tasks the volunteers carry out on a day-to-day basis, but we are still grateful to the donors for having responded favourably to the needs of the volunteers.”