July saw me take my first trip to visit MTV Staying Alive funded projects and wow what a trip!
Myself and Executive Director Georgia Arnold accompanied by a long term supporter of Staying Alive visited 7 projects across Uganda and Rwanda meeting so many of our incredible young leaders.
Although each project addresses issues around youth and HIV prevention they were all so different. We saw projects and activities as diverse as an HIV training session coupled with a Zumba class in Muhanga, a town in Rwanda, to a short theatre show by a group of young deaf actors in an extremely rural (and hard to reach) village in Uganda. All the projects we visited are run by incredibly talented and driven young people committed to fighting HIV in their local communities.
One project in particular has stuck with me; our visit to Youth Service Organisation (YSO) who Staying Alive has funded for one year. The activities we saw took place in a beautiful hilltop village. It was stunning but remote with few opportunities, especially for girls. They are twice as likely to become infected with HIV as boys the same age, more likely to drop out of school, often have sugar-daddies (much older men they have sex with for money, phones, education) and the instances of early pregnancy are high.
YSO targets these communities and girls by engaging them with football, using the game to build confidence and give HIV messaging. Along with the 200+ community members who attended the day’s session – we met some of the girls football team from Munyinia. One thing I was blown away by on this trip was the confidence that the young people we fund have. Sam – a youth volunteer for YSO – gave an animated and informative session on safe sex, HIV risks and condom use to the whole community – many of whom are older and traditional (some of whom had never seen a condom before that day) and had them all engaging, laughing and questioning.
As a relatively new member of the MTV Staying Alive team this trip was an opportunity for me to see the work we do and the impact we have first-hand. I got so much more than that. The people I met, the work I saw, the changes being made by young people and their communities to not only stop the spread of HIV but to build a future out of poverty will not only stay with me forever, they will make me better at my job. I’ve come home with an excitement to tell the stories of those young leaders we met and raise even more money to fund these incredible, life-changing projects. I hope you’ll all be as inspired as I am to continue supporting this work.
To end I thought I’d give you all a few final bits of info from our trip. Some are serious. Others, not so much…
- Number of projects visited: 7
- Maximum number of people we crammed into our car: 8
- HIV tests taken at projects while we were there: 306
- HIV positive results from those tests: 19 (in addition 34 more tested ‘likely positive’ and have been refereed for additional tests) So that’s just over 6% of all those tested during our trip testing HIV+
- Showers missed due to no running water: 5
- Number of condom demonstrations we saw: 5
- Amount given by MTV Staying Alive to the projects we visited: $167,624 and counting…
Sara Bowcutt, Director of Fundraising, MTV Staying Alive Foundation