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Phew! I’m pooched, but an afterglow of the enthusiasm I felt during our World AIDS Day event still remains. The day was a long one, but it was an eventful and an exciting one. Since there are so many things to tell you, I’m not sure where to start. I think I’ll start at the beginning of the days’ events.

Early this morning, me and my colleague Victoria, along with a YMCA mentor, Rachel, embarked on a taxi ride to Prisoner’s Park. Don’t let the name scare you, the park had no prisoners, only some high-ranking officials from the Regional Government’s Health department. Golda Asante, the focal official dealing with everything related to the Eastern Region’s HIV/AIDS issues originally invited the YCI team to accompany her on the procession and I was excited to be able to participate. The march was high-energy and I’d say it definitely raised awareness of the issue to all the locals we passed by, given the impressive tempo and volume at which the marching band played their songs.

Students holding placards doing the March to Jackson Park

After this invigorating exercise, the large procession arrived at Jackson Park where the rest of the YCI team had painstakingly set up all the elements to make our public World AIDS Day event a public success. We had many activities planned for the day, most notably, a cooking contest which was to be judged by the main speakers. The interesting part of this cooking contest was that members of the “People Living with HIV/AIDS” support group were doing the food preparation. Before the tasting were to happen, this fact would be openly disclosed to help tackle the myth that others can get the virus by eating food prepared by anyone living with HIV/AIDS. This notion is pervasive in society and unjustly, those infected with the virus are ostracized, so we YCI volunteers wanted to fight these false ideas.

Golda Asante, Eastern Regional Focal Person for HIVAIDS giving a presentation

We also had a booth set up where anyone who so wished could get testing and counselling, free of charge by our honoured guest, Nurse Rose from the Municipal Health Directorate. These services were available continuously throughout the event and more than 50 individuals were tested. After the formal introductory remarks made by Mrs. Golda, Nurse Rose, and her colleague Nurse Fanny who would judge the nutritional quality of each dish, activity stations were set up. The station I manned with Rachel was a Myth and Fact quiz. I would read out a statement about how HIV/AIDS can or cannot be transmitted and participants would declare if they though it was a “myth” or a “fact”.  A general informational booth was also there, where anyone passing by could ask any questions about the virus. Eunice, a trusty YMCA mentor was also busy doing the condom demonstrations at her own booth, using a wooden penis and some condoms to show observers how to properly put on a condom.

After these interactive activities, it was decided that no event would be complete without some singing and dancing performances. This segment of our event started off with a bang as a handful of creatively-charged students from each invited school performed some raps about HIV.

Koftown Records doing an HIV rap song

Other performances following this included some songs sung by local hip-hop group, Koftown Records, and an elaborate choreographed dance performed by a few YMCA mentors. After these fun-filled singing-and-dancing displays, the food was finally ready to be tasted. Three groups were responsible for cooking, one prepared tilapia and banku, another made T&Z, while the third group made some fufu with some groundnut soup. If you don’t recognize the names of these dishes, it’s because they are local traditional dishes, but the point is that they were delicious. Ultimately, the fufu was declared as the best-tasting dish but it was acknowledged that the decision was hard to make since all the dishes were mouth-wateringly scrumptious.

YMCA Eastern Region Choreography team performing at the event

So all-in-all, our World AIDS Day event in Koforidua, organized by the YCI and YMCA Ghana was a great and enlightening success.

-Nicholas Percy, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2011

Nicholas is 10 weeks into his 12-week volunteer project with YCI in Koforidua, Ghana. Nicholas and his team have been working with the YCI-YMCA Ghana mentors on a variety of different initiatives. For more information about what the team has been up to, please check out the Ghana category for more posts. 

Jessica Senders is volunteering with YCI as part of an 8-week project in Tanzania that started on October 18th. Today is Jessica’s last day on project with YCI. Jessica has spent the past months working with her teammates and YCI’s local partner, Faraja Trust Fund, on programming that included English classes, computer classes, girls empowerment workshops, World AIDS Day events and rural HIV outreach.

“Today was Play Day for children living with HIV/AIDS. This program is organized by Faraja Trust Fund, and occurs once a month and it allows these children to play in a stigma free environment. Children and their mothers (or care givers, if their mothers have passed away from AIDS) from around Morogoro come to the Home Based Care (HBC) Center and play all morning. They then get a healthy lunch, and the younger ones (aged 1 year – 7 years) go home, and the older ones (aged 8 years – 19 years) stay behind to learn about life skills

To read more about Jessica’s volunteer experience and YCI’s programs in Morogoro, visit Jessica’s blog.

For more volunteer blogs, check out our Travel Diary category.

There is limited space left in the 8-week winter project to Tanzania. Click here for more information.

It’s hard to believe that we only have one week left in Koforidua, and less than two weeks until we leave Ghana! Time here has gone by really fast, and our programming in Koforidua is coming to a close.

This week marks our last week running the MDG workshops with the YMCA mentors, and yesterday we also held our program for World AIDS Day here at the YMCA. We had about 100 attendees, mostly students from nearby schools that we had invited. The theme for the day was HIV/AIDS awareness and stigma reduction, and the program included guest speakers, a drama prepared by the YMCA mentors, and activity that showed how quickly the virus can be spread, and of course, lots of singing and dancing. We also had a nurse from Ghana Health Services talk about the ways that HIV/AIDS is contracted, and she offered free testing for all those in attendance. I would have to say the most moving part of the day was the guest speaker living with HIV/AIDS. He talked about his experience and the importance of education and stigma reduction. His talk was hugely powerful, and I think the students learned a lot. Overall the event was a success. It was a great experience working with the mentors, as we worked together to put on this event.

Daniel Ofosu, Eastern Regional Secretary of the YMCA in Ghana, speaking at the World AIDS Day event in Koforidua

Our remaining time in Ghana will be a lot of debriefing and reflecting about the last ten weeks. Personally  I’ve learned so much in my time here. Working here has been such an amazing experience, and we’ve been fortunate to live and work in both Takoradi and Koforidua, and get to meet and work with so many different people.

-Kelly O’Connor, YCI Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2010. Kelly is currently in Ghana on a 10-week project completing her international placement for Humber College’s International Development Program

There is limited space left in the 8 week winter project in Ghana. Click here for more information.

December 1st 2010,

Today in Koforidua, Ghana YCI ambassadors and staff in partnership with YMCA held “Kick HIV/AIDS out of Koforidua”. Youth from the community, students from three local schools, two People Living with HIV/AIDS, a nurse, and staff of 4H  attended the program which focused on awareness, prevention and stigmatization of HIV/AIDS. The nurse from Ghana Health Service spoke to attendants about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and the importance of knowing your status. The nurse was also available on site for voluntary counseling and testing. About half of the participants took part in this free service.

YCI Youth Ambassadors and Mentors at the YMCA for World AIDS Day

The program featured a drama by YMCA mentors that focused on stigma reduction. In addition, YCI ambassadors facilitated a group activity that demonstrated how HIV/AIDS spreads and how they can limit their risk by reducing their participation in high risk activities. The most engaging part of the program was the speaker who is living with HIV/AIDS. The speaker used his personal experience to engage the students in a discussion about the contraction, the prevention and treatment.

YCI Youth Ambassadors and Mentors Performing at World AIDS Day

One of the most important lessons to be learned from this speaker is the impact of stigma on those living with HIV/AIDS, he said “for the past ten years of being HIV/AIDS positive I have realized that HIV doesn’t kill us but sigma kills us faster”.

One of the participants said in a post interview that this is one of the best and captivating events she has attended on HIV/AIDS and she entreated her colleagues to go for the testing.

Attendees of the World AIDS Day event in Koforidua

It is the hope of the YCI and YMCA that this will go a long way in joining efforts to fight against HIV/AIDS and its associated stigma.

- Fred Dadzie, Ghana Volunteer Program Manager, YCI


It was a sea of red on December 1, 2009! YCI’s HIV/AIDS Volunteer Action Network team collaborated with other organizations within Ottawa for a World AIDS Day red theme party at 1848, a University of Ottawa campus bar.

At this event, there were opportunities to engage youth about the issues concerning those who are affected by HIV/AIDS in Canada and overseas, and to win great prizes. The World AIDS Day party took place on one of the bar’s busiest nights, and was a collective effort between six organizations, which made for a large turnout.

Our team of volunteers looked for small prizes from local businesses (~$10 and up) for a fundraising game that was run at the event called “Pop the Stereotype.” In this attention grabbing game, our volunteers circulated the pub with red balloons. On each of the balloons was a myth or stereotype about HIV/AIDS. This created an opportunity for youth to get engaged and learn about the issues related to HIV/AIDS in Canada and internationally, as well as win a prize ranging from local artwork to restaurant and store gift certificates. Attendees at the red party were invited to “Pop the Stereotype” for $10, all of which will go towards YCI’s work of engaging youth in their own development and in the development of their communities.

We would like thank the following sponsors for their generous donations: Cafe Alt, Kundstad Sports, East Side Mario’s, The Body Shop, Parma Ravioli, Sugar Mountain, and artist Melanie Lapointe. Because of our sponsors’ support, our team of volunteers were able to raise over $190.  “Pop the Stereotype” was a huge success. We would also like to thank the other organizations that we collaborated with to make this event possible: Faculty of Medicine’s Global Health Interest Group, Dignitas Youth, Keep a Child Alive, Health Promotion and International Health Program as well as University of Ottawa’s campus pub, 1848.

On behalf of Youth Challenge International’s HIV/AIDS Volunteer Action Network team, THANK YOU.

-Hilary Smith, Co-Leader for HIV/AIDS VAN Team

Like many NGOs, governments, communities and individuals around the world YCI is marking World Aids Day on December 1st.

New figures released by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS estimate the number of new HIV infections have declined each year by about 17% from 2001 to 2008, which is an achievement to celebrate (http://www.worldaidscampaign.org).

Yet, of every five people infected, only two start treatment and more than two million AIDS related deaths were reported globally in 2008, with two million children under the age of 15 now living with HIV (http://www.worldaidscampaign.org).

In the countries YCI works HIV/AIDS rates are particularly high amongst youth and especially female youth. Lack of sex education, poor access to health services, limited employment opportunities and gender inequality are some of a number of factors that make young people vulnerable.

YCI’s HIV/AIDS programming is focused on mobilizing and sensitizing youth, providing education, distributing condoms, producing multi-media initiatives and working directly with high-risk groups, such as sex trade workers.

YCI partners, staff and volunteers have been active in working with young people and we’ve been part of some dynamic partnerships not only with our existing partners but new organizations as well including PSI and Action Aid in Mombasa, Kenya.

A 17% annual reduction rate over the past seven years is something to celebrate and a positive example of the ability of governments, civil society, individuals and NGOs to effect positive change on a global level. As we recognize World Aids Day there’s more work to do and YCI is committed to its partners and the youth we work with to continue this important work.

Lastly, as the passage below illustrates, we’re also engaging young people in Canada. The Volunteer Action Network (VAN) is an opportunity for YCI alumni and Canadian volunteers to become involved in development issues in both a local and international context. Marika Escaravage, a YCI alumni and now a VAN team leader, has continued her engagement with YCI by organizing an outreach and education program to mark World Aids Day.

-Steve Cumming, International Programs Director

YCI volunteers at Ushujaa in Tanzania

Our team is bubbling with excitement over here in Ottawa, as we prepare for World AIDS Day on December 1st. We’ve been collaborating with 5 other organizations to plan a Red Theme Party. Too often the focus is placed on needs and shortcomings, but the Red Party gives us a chance to celebrate the advances that have been made and the passion and energy of people throughout the world who are actively fighting this pandemic!  The organizations present will be able to provide information on what more can be done. For our part, we’ll be running a game called “Pop the stereotype” which will have participants debunking myths about HIV/AIDS and HIV positive people, while winning prizes donated by local sponsors! An extra little perk is that there will be drinks at reduced price.  All we ask in return is for everyone to wear red and bring an open mind.

What: Red Party

Date: Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Time: 7pm until bar closing

Location: 1848 (bar) in the University of Ottawa, Jock Turcott University Center

Come out! Wear RED!

-Marika Escaravage, VAN Team Leader, Ottawa

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