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Community Newsletter | April 2023

Dear Friends,

It’s been three months since my last newsletter, and I have been nomadic during this time. Mostly in London, but also in Hertfordshire and in Mexico where I participated in a field trip.

It’s great that we have our HIV and AIDS storybook published now. The story and the poster sit alongside as sister resources for those wanting to conduct HIV and AIDS projects with children aged 9/10-14 in their schools.

The Girl Who Was Pushed Outside is the story of a girl who is going through the shock of an HIV diagnosis and the response of her classmates. It addresses the problems of stigma, ignorance, false beliefs, non-compliance with treatment, and what we all can do to support families who might be suffering. It is aimed at children aged 9-14 and is for children of this age to read to younger children. In the back of the storybook there is an activity section with lots of questions and activities for teachers and older children to use.

Here is a photo of the children during the workshop to review myths and misconceptions, the 10 messages, and to create story ideas!

A huge THANK YOU to the teachers and children of Enkhaba Primary School in Eswatini who have worked with us on:

  • Reviewing 10 key messages for children to learn and share on HIV & AIDS
  • Participated in workshops to generate story ideas
  • Reviewed the story and the artwork before it was finalised.

It seemed that they enjoyed the process too! Here are a few words from the teachers and the children.

We had a great time working with you and we also benefitted a lot, especially our learners. They gained a clear insight of HIV/AIDS because most of them knew the myths as facts.

It was all an amazing and insightful journey. A learning curve as well on HIV, especially the learners. The facts and misconceptions or myths were highlighted and we all have benefitted.

Being part of the HIV programme made me realise many things about HIV. I learned to never run away from an HIV positive person. HIV cannot spread by playing, do not get in contact with anyone else’s blood and I also got to know that we should respect people living with HIV as we respect those that do not have it. It was fun because we played with teachers, and we also had some delicious food.

Being a part of this programme I got to know that you should not judge a person when he/she is HIV positive. I got knowledge about how HIV is spread and how to prevent HIV from spreading. While doing this programme we played a lot of games, and we made people feel good about expressing their feelings.

Being part of the programme made me realise that it is not good to avoid an HIV positive person and judge them for things that they did not do. I also got to know that HIV cannot be spread by playing with an HIV positive person and touching him/her. We also had a lot of fun because we ate food and played a lot of exciting games while doing the programme.

Same Partner, New Project

Silhouette of Freddie Mercury with a gold to red gradient positioned over the words The Mercury Phoenix Trust

Our funding partners were the Mercury Phoenix Trust and they are delighted at the results of the project. We are starting discussions about doing a second project with the inspiring headteacher, this time on the causes of early sexual debut and the issues around compliance with HIV and AIDS medication.

We hope to go to Eswatini to work directly with the staff and children there and to do some of the ‘discovery’ part of our participatory process there.

The Children for Health Discovery Process

As most of our regular readers will know, part of what makes our work distinct from others who develop health education resources and projects is that we work alongside our partners to co-design strategies, tactics and resources. The scope to do this is usually defined by the local partners and how THEY want us to engage with their projects.

Our expertise lies in knowing what makes a project participatory in PRACTICE and helping local partners to create the conditions in which children’s participation can thrive. If they wish to change or develop particular health behaviours we can help them understand the root causes of the current behaviour. These are the ‘best’ choices this person, family or community is making for whatever reason and is the Starting Point A from which the programme will need to begin.

Changing health behaviour is not about information or pushing, neither work. It’s a complex interplay and the sustainable solutions have to come from the people who are affected by those decisions. Children can play an amazing part in this process, given the chance. We have developed a tool to help us with this work called the Rainbow Circle.

Setting up and conducting a discovery process is complex. It’s about people asking the right questions of the right people, in the right way and at the right time and not just once. In addition, it’s about enough time to build rapport, have deep conversations and then build upon these conversations. It cannot be done quickly. It’s not about administering a survey. It’s about creating trusting relationships and being able to work in a relaxed and fun way. A discovery process does not work if the setting is formal, uncomfortable or if the time available for the discovery process is rushed.

Do get in touch if you would like to find out more!

Our Type 2 Diabetes Toolkit

The toolkit has taken a very long time! It’s a difficult topic and we have involved a lot of people including several schools and groups of children.

What you will find (in our next newsletter) is a link to a simple storybook with activities. You won’t believe the months and months of work that has gone into what will look like a simple publication. I am proud of our process.

SuperBetter Children for Health

Now that our Toolkit, SuperBetter Children for Health has been published we are seeking ways to expand the programme into other schools in Isoka district. We are in discussions with advisers who know the areas and who have insights into the topic in Zambia and beyond.

Our allies, are keen to see how their new look app can be linked to the work we have set up in our toolkit so we are looking into this idea too.

The toolkit sets out a curriculum that can be used in low resource settings and in mainstream schools or as part of an after-school activity. Throughout the toolkit, there are comments from teachers and children set out in pink boxes, like this one:

The SuperBetter/Children for Health curriculum has played a vital role in the lives of children and youths in the Sansamwenje community of Isoka District in Zambia. The SuperBetter activities have helped shape the children’s mental health and now they’re stronger, healthier, and more resilient. Children who piloted this model have grown to learn that they are the masters of their own thoughts, no situation can harm their feelings without their consent, and that they live in a world full of precious allies to turn to in bad times.

Inclusion Poster and Storybook sponsored by the Brian Murtagh Foundation

We are in the final stages of completing the poster, but the storybook wasn’t right for the reviewers. It was a reminder that we are lucky to have critical friends who are experts and when they said, ‘there’s just something we don’t like about this story’ – we listened. This was despite several readers giving it the thumbs up and the local partner loving it.

News on the progress of this project in the next newsletter!

With best wishes to you all,

Clare Hanbury