|An AIDS journey|
|Written by Annemarie Boks|
Who can help?
Who are the people who can help? Everybody.
You can pray; pray for more mission partners to come to Congo, short-term or long-term. Pray also for funding that will allow the AIDS Awareness Programme to continue in Aru Territory.
You can give; give your time, talents, or money.
You can go. The Church in Congo needs people to stand beside her, mentor her, teach her, and learn together with her. The Church needs all kinds of people with all kinds of gifts willing to use them in their service for God. Nurses, doctors, teachers, Bible teachers, pastors, youth leaders or young people with a heart to reach out to their peers, people working in ICT, computer technicians, literature, AIDS. These are just some of the opportunities. If you think that God is calling you to come to Congo, please don’t hesitate to contact us to ask for more information.
You are needed.
Annemarie Boks’ passion for AIDS education has led her through many struggles and challenges, but, as she writes, great changes are happening and you can help.
Fear of DRC
For many people the Democratic Republic of Congo is a country to avoid. Rebel groups are active, there’s political insecurity and, above all, negative travel advice given by many countries.
However, that is not the full picture; many places are secure and AIM still has its mission partners serving in the country, though not in the numbers of the early ‘90s or the last century. Back then there were more than 100 while in 2011 AIM’s presence counted five missionaries active in different ministries.
Setting up the AIDS programme
Out of those ministries AIDS prevention is one of them. In 1999 Communauté Evangélique au Centre de l’Afrique (CECA20), AIM’s Partner Church in the DRC, decided that it should be involved. This then led to the AIDS Awareness Programme, which started under the leadership of the Co-ordinator of Education and I joined him in 2002.
The aim of the programme is to make AIDS and its problems known to the population. It is done through seminars and workshops but also through personal contacts with people who approach our staff members or at the end of the workshop/seminar sessions. We also teach at schools.
Moving the programme
During that time the programme was based in Bunia and together we ministered in local churches and schools.
Because of fighting in Bunia in August 2002, the programme was relocated to Aru Territory and started to focus on teaching in CECA’s Bible Institutes. When the Co-ordinator left in August 2003 I continued, working with local pastors and volunteers. In 2005 other workers entered the program and when I returned from home assignment in 2007, the programme expanded to include many more activities with funding from Help A Child, Holland.
Its base then moved to Adi. In 2009 one of the former missionary houses was prepared as an office and a team worked as paid workers for the programme. Films were shown in the different communities and schools and were followed up with teaching.
The AIDS message on film
Building up the screen for the film show in Keri
Film is a very effective way of getting across the message, and so, in 2010, the AIDS programme was involved in the production of a movie in the local Lingala language on DVD. Local actors joined in the production; a visiting team of two helped with the filming and I edited it together. The film’s premiere was 28 November, which was a poignant time as it came just before World AIDS Day 2010, and reactions to it were very positive.
Another great accomplishment was the translation of an AIDS manual into Lingala that was also put into circulation at the end of 2010 and which is used at the Bible Institutes and local churches. With the film finished and manual in wider circulation, we had more resources available to help educate more people about AIDS.
The team had started to bond and work well together when the programme was struck with a blow: in December 2010 the funding period ended. No more money would and will come in for the AIDS ministry in Aru Territory. Help A Child continues funding medical (including AIDS) and education ministries in another church district. Co-workers needed to be dismissed, although some of them still continue work on a voluntary basis.
Teaching at Adi Bible Institute the day after a film show.
The challenge now is how to continue this ministry and consolidate the small results that were observed. For example, AIDS orphans were helped with school fees to enable them to go to school, people who tested positive for AIDS are no longer as hesitant as before to share results with others, young people take the decision for purity before marriage, and within churches Support and Action Groups are being created to teach about AIDS in church gatherings and to assist people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
Because of more openness, the medical workers in Adi want to be able to treat people with AIDS at the hospital in response to a request that has been expressed by them. The government asks for an expensive fee for this training to be given to the medical staff who are to be involved in the treatment of PLWHA.
MinistryFocus - Annemarie Boks
During the Second Congo War (1998-2003), missionary nurse Annemarie Boks earned her Master’s in Community Health. Afterwards she returned to develop an AIDS Awareness Program—teaching youth and encouraging CECA-20 outreach.
“There are lots of young people, even from primary school age, who visit the so called ‘night markets [outdoor dance parties],” says Boks. “I've worked with three young people to produce a video… we want to point out the dangers of these markets and other areas where risky behavior can lead to AIDS.”