Monday, 25 January 2010
We have 14 new friends. 14 folk from a wide spectrum of places in North and North-East India: Assam, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Delhi, Meghalaya, Orissa, and Uttarakhand. Our new friends have been brought here to Thane through CANA (the Christian AIDS/HIV National Alliance).
They have all come to be trained as trainers - so that they can help their churches and organisations reach out in love to people with HIV/AIDS.
Its a tall order - and we have some excellent folks: pastors, community social workers, network-leaders, evangelists, a radio programme producer, and a principal of a bible college.
How to share all about what it means to reach out in love to people with HIV? How to spur and mobilise people to work through their local churches to bless those with HIV in their congregations - and in the communities around them?
We have no easy quick-fix solutions - but we do have a set of teachings that JSK has developed over the past 7 years of our work here in Thane. These have been crystallized into a 4 day training programme which we give to local churches 2-3 times a year - with each session given after a 2 week gap. For our friends from North India we are doing them all at once.
But if people came all the way just to hear us give lectures - that would hardly do justice to the learning opportunities on hand. Our challenge is the issue of confidentiality. How to expose our trainee-friends to the lives of people with HIV, without jeopardising the often hidden HIV status that our HIV positive friends have?
What we did was take our trainee friends in pairs to families that JSK has been working with on the first day of the training. We will then be taking the same folks to the same families on the last day - to see how much they have learned in our training - and give them a chance to put it into practice.
In between - on the Sunday (which was yesterday) - we split them up into pairs and send them to worship with different churches - and then visit people with that the churches are looking after. This allows our friends to get a first hand view of the amazing way that people are being cared for - as well as many of the challenges that are involved.
Interspersed with our times of sharing on different key topics - we are also trying to have as much application as possible. We do this through small group discussions, games, case studies and role plays. Since we are not able to take people to people's homes as much as we would like - we have to recreate the challenges that people have - and ways of helping them in the class-room.
Probably the most powerful part of the training comes when people who are HIV positive themselves share their stories.
You can just feel the intake of breath when people say out loud: "I am HIV Positive" ... "I have been living with this disease for 15 years..." Many of our friends have never met a person who has HIV in their lives. To see and hear their story. To become part of their story. To move away from cold abstract statistics to the lived out reality of our friends lives - all of this is very precious.
We are excited about the impact that the current training is going to have in different parts of our country. The last training we conducted for CANA in May 09 seems to have really blessed all the participants - and contributed to some exciting developments in Bihar.
May this current training - born out of sweat and challenge - as well as joy and laughter - have a long-lasting heart-changing impact on our trainee friends from North India - and all whom they are in touch with!