Connecting local responses around the world
I have an experience to share from Molvum village, Nagaland where the involvement of local leaders has increased leading to concrete action on HIV issues. The story was shared by Jacinta, I noted it and Geoff Parcell edited. Thanks to Jacinta and Geoff!
In this village the majority of the population are Christian. The church did not welcome people living with HIV or drug users, and did not want them buried in their churchyards.
After ACP facilitators visited the leaders began to reconsider their attitude towards people living with HIV. “Why did you start attending the community meetings on HIV?” I asked the community members. “The village head would call over the loudspeaker asking us to gather for a community meeting on HIV and we had to attend” stated the villagers. However, slowly their interest and participation grew.
Following the lead of the church leaders everyones attitude is changing. Every last Sunday of the month, the church now collects funds for sick villagers including PLHIV in the village. The Church has also set up up a medical mission. The leaders were impressed with the positive changes ACP approach had brought in the village. They talked with the government and as a result the People in Need Foundation (the local NGO headed by Fr. Joe) have been allocated a government quarter in the village in order to set up an ACP office.
The driving force encouraging the active involvement of local leaders has been Uncle Huolai, the retired village headmaster. He is a respected member of the community and a great advocate of ACP. Because of his respected position Uncle Huolai has been able to engage not only elders but also the youth in the community. He feels that home visits have led to open and deeper discussions on HIV, stigma and testing.
It was a proud moment to see the villagers take ownership and even transfer their experiences to other villages. This approach was shared in a meeting of eight churches representing several villages. Engaging the support of leaders has brought about a change in the way of thinking and working of the entire population and it is spreading to other villages.