Carrie Jones, SIL, Papua New Guinea

The (Channels of Hope) training ended yesterday, and was VERY intense but really excellent. At first I thought we wouldn’t be able to use a lot of the material in our context because so much of it is personal and highly sensitive, but Christo and the other facilitators proved that those activities are a necessary part of the process of change that must occur internally before we can be effective at helping others to recognize where they need to change to effectively love and care for infected and affected people, as well as protect themselves and others from HIV infection, be it via blood contact, mother-to-child or sexual contact. I liked the fact that the authors, facilitators and materials openly acknowledge the complexity of issues contributing to HIV spread, and help us to identify the vulnerabilities and obstacles in our area and brainstorm about possible practical solutions via the church and others in the community. It’s very adaptable, therefore, to each unique community and culture. They don’t have a “one size fits all” approach, and they seem very keen to hear what our particular challenges are. They told us what’s being done in other areas of the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa.  
I have my Masters in Public Health and completed all the course work for my Doctorate in Public Health in Epidemiology, but I learned things I never knew before about how the virus and disease work. They even gave detail on the intercellular level! As I said, this was very intensive, and on the 7th day, after our 3 hour exam in the morning, I was absolutely done in. We had afternoon sessions that day, though, and by 5:30 I was almost whimpering with exhaustion and information overload. My biggest concern, therefore, is that few people would be able to learn all that is taught. I had such a head start due to my background and English being my first language. However, I don’t know how other students did – they may have been fine and I’m underestimating their abilities. It’s just a HUGE amount of material in such a short time, although it’s quite well broken up by interactive, energizing, frequently controversial activities. It sure made us examine which of our beliefs are in-line with Scripture and ethics, and which are merely cultural or learned in our background.
... I certainly feel well-equipped, including with a beautiful “toolkit” of super helpful aids, to facilitate workshop when the time comes. We’d like to do it with pastors in our area, the church that meets on our Centre, and our employees (a condensed version, since they are not church leaders), to start with. I am also traveling to the easternmost tip of the country in 12 days to do a HIV and AIDS workshop for some PNG co-translators who are preparing to translate HIV and AIDS materials, and I will definitely apply what I learned and use some of the Channels of Hope methodology and materials for that.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this training for others throughout SIL, but I would advise they be very sharp, well-educated people as it is so intense. The more people we can equip to run workshops, the better and more effective will be our outreach, obviously.
My one other (ever present!) concern is funding as the training isn’t cheap, and running workshops will not be cheap, either. I don’t think SIL can just leave HIV and AIDS ministry to others, though, and this is an excellent way to work through existing churches and community resources, not reinventing the wheel.
Thanks again, to all who helped this happen!
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