After much anticipation, Global Service Corps (GSC) proudly completed its first six-month Seeds of Survival (SOS) Fellowship Program. The program, which ran from Oct. 18, 2004 to April 18, 2005, brought together organizations and practitioners to support communities affected by HIV/AIDS in Tanzania, where an estimated 1.6 million people live with AIDS.
Through training in AIDS prevention, sustainable agriculture, and nutrition, fellows from GSC and its partner organizations worked in rural areas to emphasize the significance of nutrition and access to healthy food in the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
The SOS program implementation and recruiting was coordinated in conjunction with three partner organizations: Africare and Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), both respected international development organizations, and GSCs in-country counterpart, GSC-Tanzania. GSC carefully selected four US fellows Sarann Nuon, Devin OShaughnessy, Louise Myers, and Laurie Rushton from a pool of candidates with backgrounds in public health and experience in developing countries. These fellows then joined Tanzanian colleagues recruited by the partner organizations for a month-long training period in Arusha, Tanzania, during which they enjoyed visitor presentations by several government and NGO representatives.
|SOS program fellows and their in-country counterparts work together
preparing the soil at a community garden plot.
Sistie Moffitt photo
“This fellowship has been an in-depth, hands-on experience for me,” described Lead Research Fellow Nuon in an e-mail from the field. “The highlight of my work, I would say, is working directly with rural farmers and teaching them how to improve their gardening techniques.”
The initial month-long training period was separated into four one-week topic-specific sessions, dealing first with HIV/AIDS prevention, then sustainable agriculture, HIV/AIDS and nutrition, and culminating in a final week of field training workshops in which fellows began teaching subject matter to community members.
During the HIV/AIDS prevention session, fellows discussed basic facts surrounding HIV/AIDS in Tanzania. Throughout the week, the training explored different ways to assess risk and motivate change in health behavior among youth and adults in the area. The HIV/AIDS prevention session also included visits to an HIV/AIDS hospice and home-based care facilities.
The sustainable agriculture training session gave fellows a week to gain experience in practical methods of appropriate agricultural technology. Fellows were trained in all aspects of Bio-Intensive Agriculture (BIA), including composting, plant spacing, companion planting, planning, pest control, and double digging, a two-tiered soil preparation technique. The BIA method of organic agriculture has been specifically designed to promote a diverse, high-nutrient diet for people who primarily grow subsistence crops.
Over the course of the nutrition and HIV/AIDS portion of the training, fellows focused on several area-related subjects, including special needs and immunity boosting diets, nutritional care of pregnant and lactating women with HIV/AIDS, herbal treatments and remedies, and safe food handling. Fellows also visited local food markets to gain practical knowledge of region-specific sources of nutrition.
“Were not going to teach about artichokes and strawberries,” said GSC Director of Operations Susanna Beck, explaining that much of the produce familiar to Americans is unavailable to Tanzanians. The idea is to identify and produce plentiful sources of nutrition that can be obtained locally.
|Lead research fellow Sarann Nuon.
Sistie Moffitt photo
At the conclusion of the month-long training, SOS fellows were individually assigned to five months in the field offices of partner organizations. During this time they assisted those organizations in capacity-building and training community members in HIV/AIDS prevention and care, nutrition, sustainable food production, and income generation.
“The SOS Fellowship Program has a lot of future potential,” Nuon said. “Since the fellows are placed here for a longer period of time, there are concrete opportunities to make an impact in the community and fully launch a project.”
One major project to which fellows contributed was the coordination and building of a market stall and demonstration garden for a local womens group in the Tengeru marketplace, the opening of which was attended by Tanzanian President Benjamin William Mkapa.
“I had the chance to shake hands with the President as I was recognized by the Arusha Rotary Club for my contribution,” remarked Nuon.
Beck explained the role of the SOS program and its overall vision, stating that its approach “addresses both the circumstances that lead people to put themselves at risk of HIV/AIDS (and) the circumstances that individuals families and communities go through after one is infected.”
|Take action: GSC is currently accepting applications for the next six-month SOS Fellows Program. For more information contact Susanna Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Based on the success of this first project, GSC hopes to expand the breadth of the program and its affiliations, seeking to branch out into other areas and join with more partner organizations. Eligible fellows for the next SOS program hold a masters degree and are prepared for a long-term in-country placement.
For the next group of incoming fellows, Nuon had one piece of essential advice.
“‘No hurry Africa’ is the motto… Projects, meetings and time frames dont always proceed as quickly as you may want. Take a deep breath.”
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