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"What is the secret of Guyana?". This was the question my colleague asked me yesterday after seeing, hearing and reading the results after 9 days of learning event on AIDS Competence in Guyana. Apart from excellent organization, logistics, good preparation and impressive UNAIDS leadership, there was something else that made this event such a success.

Although Guyana is nr 114 on the ‘Human Development Index’, it is probably in the top 10 on the ‘Human Index’! From the first exercise (the heart exercise where we share our hopes and concerns as human beings), the people in the room revealed their humanity. They could put down their cap of ‘service provider that must bring things to the helpless communities’. With Usa taking us along the question: are we human? we started an inspiring journey to discover our ways of thinking and working with communities.

With 3 SALT visits and self-assessments facilitated within 9 organizations, it was a lot of practice. The self-assessments led to lively discussions bringing up the local reality within many of the organizations. And exactly that is the whole objective of self-assessment. The last two days, we collected through story-telling a Guyana Knowledge Asset on five practices of the Self-assessment that can help others around the world to improve on their AIDS Competence.

It was not easy. It was hard work, for all participants. Taking 9 days off, which most of the 38 participants did, is challenging. We had only one drop-out. That does say a thing. The group connected strongly. “We used to leave workshops divided and with tension, this event brought us together and seeing our joint strengths”. "We leave this workshop with such practical tools and ideas that we can directly apply in our work". The faith coalition on HIV, joint UN team, Network of PLHIV, Business coalition on HIV, NGOs, Red Cross, Youth organizations and more...all in the same room learning about and applying SALT and AIDS Competence. The diversity is what made it so powerful!

The closing yesterday was touching. Singing, dancing, new energizers, beautiful gifts (I have a full suitcase!) and some tears of joy. However, this is just the start. SALT/ AIDS Competence has already been included in work plans of the Faith coalition, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the PEPFAR funded program (GHARP) and many other organizations. People are applying it in their daily work, new programs and interactions with colleagues. It became also clear that SALT affected people's personal lives. We have heard beautiful sharings about how it changes the way we look at ourselves and deal with our family and friends.

This week, 5 teams have signed up to go through Blended Learning the next couple of months. Those that finish become certified Constellation community facilitators. A National Support Team is selected of 3 members, Korey, Abbas and Ashanta, headed by the Red Cross. A next visit of Constellation coaches is planned for May. We are just getting started :). Let's learn from the inspiring Guyanese and follow their example!


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Comment by Nazim Hussain on February 20, 2010 at 4:15am
Thanks Gaston.
Comment by Jewel Corlette on February 16, 2010 at 3:44pm
Gaston Im over whelmed with the inspiration and experiences you have had in Guyana I hope and pray that you would take these principles in your daily life.
Comment by Marlou on February 11, 2010 at 8:40pm
Thanks Gaston and Usa for transfering the fire with SALT.
Thanks all new friends in Guyana for showing the example of humanity and sharing your inspiring stories.
And thanks Ruben for your vision and determination.

I truly enjoyed following your two weeks together - and look forward to so much more!

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on February 11, 2010 at 6:05pm
Hi Gaston,

Overwhelmed! Excited! Delighted! that's what I feel after reading your post and all other messages that the team members from Guyana have been showering us with. I wish I was there in person!!!

I am so proud to know that this event was supported by UNAIDS. Good luck!

Warm regards,


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