Community, Collaboration, and Free HIV Testing
Community Day at Akeri Village, July 29, 2017
For an entire year, we’ve waited in anticipation for our second annual Community Day in Akeri Village, Tanzania. We’ve dreamt about young, smiling faces running in every direction, and we’ve imagined Mount Meru peaking from behind the clouds above us. We’ve shared our favorite stories with our friends and families and have imagined ways to get even more of our neighbors in Akeri to be involved in our festivities. Now the day is finally here. It is Saturday, July 29th, and even in the earliest hours of the morning we are bubbling with excitement. The children’s laughter can be heard from a mile away and everyone passing by Akeri Field has a smile on their face. We are all greeted by elders in the village and they tell us how thankful they are that we are here. Little do they know, we are the ones who are beyond honored to be working with them and be in their presence.
Our 2017 Community Health Facilitators and Teaching Partners have worked passionately during the course of our program in Tanzania to deliver a day of joy, laughter, and awareness. They have worked pamoja (“together”) with village officials and school headmasters to create a space for anyone to take action in community health. They collaborated with an incredible community member to put on a HIV stigma play with local high schoolers, and they have brought powerful leadership to all that they do.
Community Day is not just an end of program celebration for our Community Health Facilitators, and it is not only a means of hosting activities for the students whom we’ve taught over the past 5 weeks. Community Day represents love, acceptance, joy, and a new future for people to act on that which is of importance to their health and quality of life. Over 500 children and over 250 adults came to Akeri field on July 29th to join hands with us and teach us what it looks like to stand together and push for community health. The district hospital provided us with 250 HIV tests, and every single test was used within 6 hours. Of the people tested, 114 had never been tested before and 136 were returning testers; 159 were male and 91 were female. The turnout for HIV testing was nothing short of spectacular. Our trusted nurse and counselor in charge of testing were elated by the support of the community.
Our hearts are so full and our success was only possible because village officers, district officers, headmasters, teachers, children, and their family members continue to be an incredible contribution to us.