Just over 2 weeks ago I was in the DR Congo with the rest of the Christian Aid gap year volunteers, visiting some of our partners there. We got to meet a lot of incredibly inspiring people, people who do an awful lot of good with limited resources. One of those partners we meet was Vorsi Congo, a community organization that works through the church to combat AIDS.
They travel across the whole country, training religious leaders, who in turn get their religious communities talking about the issues, often for the first time. Rodger, the technical director, estimated that across the 11 provinces of the DRC, their message has reached about 8million people. They try to break down the stigma surrounding HIV using mediums such as song & drama.
“Before, if you were HIV positive, no-one wanted to sit in the same pew as you at church. Now people are more happy to sit with them & even take communion with them.”
I meet Nadine when we visited Vorsi Congo. She is the pastor of a church, and also is a woman living with HIV.
At one point as she shared her story with us, she said, “If I hadn’t have worked with Vorsi Congo, I’d be buried.” It really is a matter of life and death for people. The level of stigma surrounding HIV is still massive, and though Nadine is doing well, there are many people who have been shunned by their families and their churches when they find out they are HIV+.
We use this phrase a lot at Christian Aid, about ‘living positively with HIV’, and it’s only after meeting Nadine that I’m starting to understand what that really means. Nadine doesn’t sit around feeling sorry for herself, but instead she’s throwing herself into being a part of the solution. She’s using her story and her position in the church to help educate people.