Coming back from my usual morning jog and looking forward to a hot cup of coffee when I noticed a young girl standing outside the gate to our house. I ambled up to where she was while wondering what it is she was looking for or selling that early in the morning!

It was 9 year old Esther, a twin and an orphan. Both parents had died some years back from HIV/AIDS. Esther and her twin sister were in the care of grandma in the village close by.

Esther had been one of the 20 orphans selected by the local school to participate in a 12 days, 10th to 22nd May 2010, S.A.L.T program. The program was co-sponsored by Canadian University students on holiday and Spring of Life. During the period, we sang, did some art work, took instant photographs of ourselves and the community around, flew kites, played soccer, had sewing lessons but the highlights were when we shared our perceptions on care, community, change, leadership and hope at different age levels,at the end of each day. How transfer can be more effective through trust, attitude and presence while using every day things that people are able to respond to and are familiar with.

Ultimately community is based on communication. Communication can be heightened and exciting using sport, art and other activities.

Esther had come to collect her photo and frame. The day we all had collected ours, Esther had gone to the hospital to pick her Anti Retroviral drugs. You should have seen the smile in her eyes as she looked at her photo and frame.

As she turned round the corner, I found myself thanking God for the experience and privilege. I thanked God for the years I had spent in Chikankata where the Home Care concept was first practiced as the option to respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The experience has continued to define my work and responses to personal, community tragedies and/or celebrations. Especially in the area of HIV/AIDS.

It was in the ‘80s when it happened. HIV/AIDS. Mental images linger, of a small group of staff huddled together in prayer after another trip into the community where shock, negative emotions and thoughts were slowly consuming the community. HIV/AIDS was slowly moving everyone from the natural state of faith and hope to that of fear and loss of memories of the way it was. Theirs (the team) was a mission in worship, a genuine resolve to succeed and identify with the community not as providers but facilitators and partners in the search for the inherent responses.

The lessons and outcomes were a miracle. Individuals as well as communities had capacity as well as resilience to respond to trauma because they live believing that, ‘I am because you are’. Given the environment where interaction is based on ‘as human beings’ with whom, my capacities combined with yours do lead to solutions and sustainable development and not pre-established social roles’ which can hinder true dialogue

The outcomes were the realization that we all want to go ‘home’ when in pain and fear where those who love us and we love are! That, some of the traditional and/or cultural beliefs were the reason for our pain i.e. ritual cleansing, polygamy, lack of moral boundaries that protect our rights etc while some were beacons of our strength i.e. extended family and sharing in our sorrows and joys! Defining lessons for the facilitators!

Pain tends to isolate us not only from ourselves but even those around us through our thoughts. Sometimes, hospitals and other care environments do make it hard for us to detach our self from the situation as they emphasize the thought that I am a ‘victim’. A quiet environment where our name is quietly whispered not as a number but as one of us is invaluable as it gives us moments to forget the pain. To receive and allow.

The understanding and use of S.A.L.T as a method does not only encourage participation but promotes spontaneity, lightheartedness and real joy to everyone involved. Authentic relationships become possible because social images disappear. Genuine approaches activate inner resolve to succeed. SALT is more than sympathy and acknowledgement, it goes beyond forums, and it understands the rules and knows the exceptions. Effective facilitation makes everyone feel valued as interaction is based not on content but presence.

The biggest lesson is the opportunity to re-define our realities and the beginning of discovering who we really are!

We did that with the mothers, teachers, students and Orphans for two weeks. Soccer was most interesting at the age of 57(my mother wonders why 22 people can spend all their energies chasing a round rubber thing).

Joy is doing something you love and

have a passion for. It is internal and never external. Something we were created for

Please pass me the S.A.L.T.!

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Comment by Sanghamitra Iyengar on January 3, 2012 at 1:59pm

Inspiring reflections, Elvis!  Yes, we are all givers and receivers of joy, of thoughts  and of love and if our responses can just flow from that space where there is no victim and no rescuer, it would be so wonderful

Comment by marjolein on February 24, 2011 at 1:34am
Elvis what a wonderfull story! Makes me want to know more about SALT as a method. Seems to me it is a marvelous non-violenced way of communucation whit each-other Given the respect one diserves.
Comment by Zoengpari on August 8, 2010 at 6:27pm
Elvis..... was in Chikankata in November of 1993 for the Regional Meet of African nations ...and visited the hospital and communities was my first experience and exposure to the beginnings of SALT and AIDS Competence .......we had gone fishing in a nearby pond digging for bait on the way caught a few but put them back ....... . your blog brings back so many memories. We have certainly come a long way since then ...............
Comment by Olivia Munoru on June 29, 2010 at 7:12am
Elvis... Please pass me the SALT too! Your writing style is lovely. It makes me hungry to jump out of my chair and be there playing soccer with those children. You are so right that sport and fun and sponteneity are condusive to better communication and transfer. It reminds me of the other day, when I watched a World Cup game on a little television set up in one of the kampung streets, here in Indonesia. I was the only woman and the only non-Indonesian huddled around this TV. But I felt completely comfortable and safe. Immediately, my fellow viewers became my friends, as we were united in the enjoyment of a great game. Amazingly, one asked what I was doing here and I told him about Aids Competence. All of a sudden I had a dozen questions about HIV and how it spreads. We chatted about stigma, and I asked them about HIV in their community. All whilst watching Germany completely kill England ;-). Thank you for your story and for inspiring my day.
Comment by Doug Pedersen on June 24, 2010 at 11:25pm
the goal of facilitation is certainly met within the strength of SALT - As a trustee of Spring of Life and the facilitator of bringing the Canadian Students (through the ZIM Project) the story of Ester and the other 37 orphans/vulnerable child to reality - the touch of people to people in real human love and caring. Thank you Elvis for sharing.
Comment by Bheri M R on June 22, 2010 at 9:15am
thanks Elvis for the inspiring experience and :'"The biggest lesson is the opportunity to re-define our realities and the beginning of discovering who we really are!" is great strength of the SALT and SALT attracts and provides space for people hwo have concerns about oneself and the society and irrespctive of their age and proffessin loves Salt thank once again for the great experience

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on June 18, 2010 at 8:30pm
Dear Elvis,

This is so inspiring. You have captured the essence of facilitation - I am because you are.Thanks.

Best regards

Comment by Roy Mwilu on June 16, 2010 at 9:42pm
Elvis, Its great to learn that you are still passing on the S.A.L.T. Keep it up, I am doing the same in this part of Zambia - the Copperbelt province. Will passby to share experiences on my way to Livingstone. Will tell you when.

Thanks for sharing.
Comment by Patricia Palale on June 16, 2010 at 11:56am
This is amazing and inspiring. To be able to bring a smile to a nine year old who has gone through much more than some will their entire life time, that is a deep reward. Life changing work that touches others at their core, you and your team are deeply admired.

Thank you for the inspiration.
Comment by Gaston on June 16, 2010 at 11:13am
Thank you Elvis for this in depth blog. My personal favourite: "Effective facilitation makes everyone feel valued as interaction is based not on content but presence." That one made me reflect.

And your sentence: 'I am because you are' goes deep and touches many religions including Buddhism. A Buddhist monk I personally enjoy mentioned always: 'This is because that is'. Another way of seeing this is: "Every snowflake falls in its appropriate place." It acknowledges the interconnectedness that binds us all, especially in a community.

Thanks again Elvis.


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