Lyn @ PACANet General Assembly. Entebbe 28- 29/9/2006.

The first Pan African Christian AIDS Network (PACANet) General Assembly was held in Entebbe on the 28th and 29th of September 2006.

The organisation has been operating under the auspices of a Steering Committee since it was founded and a new Board of Trustees had to be chosen. CABSA was present at the founding meeting and it was a privilege to be part of this first delegates meeting. I was privileged to represent CABSA at this meeting. Also attending the meeting was Rev Teboho Klaas, the Director: Health Programme of the South African Council of Churches and a Board member of CABSA. meant that Teboho and I could spend some time strengthening the relationship between our organisations

Although a number of governance issues and formalities had to be attended to, the ultimate focus of the assembly was on relationships, networking, fellowship and partnership. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with other Christians grappling with so many of the same issues as we are in South Africa.

Lyn van Rooyen (CARIS), Dr Edward Baralemwa (Executive Secretary PACANet) and Rev Teboho Klaas (Director: Health Programme of the South African Council of Churches) together in Uganda

The staff of PACANet under the able guidance of executive secretary Dr Edward Baralemwa did a remarkable job organising a smooth running and professional meeting at the beautiful Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel. The re-elected chairman, David Cunningham from Family Impact, steered the meeting through the difficulties of finding consensus in a very disparate group in his usual wise and calm manner. The new Board and expanded staff of PACANet committed themselves to a period of renewed effort and energy in strengthening the Christian response in Africa.

You can read the Press Release provided by PACANet below.

While in Uganda I had the opportunity of spending time with Dr. Edna Baguma, National Health/HIV Specialist of World Vision Uganda. She, together with Sam and Gladys, World Vision staff members in the area, sacrificed their Saturday to give me some idea of the work they do in Uganda, specifically in the Kasawo Area Development Area. I emphasised that I have not come with answers, but in fact came to learn from the experience they have, and the oft quoted successes of Uganda. Still, I sometimes felt overwhelmed by the needs of poor communities and my inability to offer constructive help.

I visited the Kogogola Health Centre and saw what it means when churches become channels of hope. The Pastor of this area attended a Churches Channels of Hope workshop. Together with World Vision and a number of Christian volunteers (doctors and Pharmacists) from Kampala, they started a free clinic operating on Saturdays. Although there is no power and very little infrastructure, a wide variety of medical issues are dealt with. The time spent waiting for medical care is not wasted. While people sit and wait on the veranda, health workers and advisors spend the time talking about a variety of health issues, including how to prevent malaria and HIV transmission. One of the speakers was the sheik of the local mosque. Himself living with HIV, he comes to the Christian clinic for medication, and also shares the platform with the local pastor to give HIV prevention messages! To me this is a truly inspiring example where the barriers separating people are broken down by compassion and care.   

Once again I was very aware of the universal nature of need and suffering. Here also the problems of orphans can seem overwhelming if communities are not able to unite in caring for them. The lack of financial and physical resources to truly respond to all the needs was emphasised, as well as the value added when children could be sponsored through the World Vision programmes.I constantly heard how valuable the Churches Channels of Hope programme was to those who attended, and actually experienced jealousy from those pastors outside the World Vision area who could not attend. Various ways in which this could be overcome was addressed. It was wonderful to hear how highly esteemed this programme is and to feel that, in a way, we are connected to this much larger group of people word wide who are becoming Channels of Hope. Personally, I also experience a ‘first’ on this trip. A young child was innocently playing in the sand when I came round the corner. He took one look at me and started screaming! According to the translator, this was the first time he had seen some-one with a white skin! I never thought I would become part of a poor child’s nightmares!

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