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Twayapa Shotuyowe: a story of courage, determination and success.

In September 2005, twenty-three people living with HIV came together out of a desire to support each other emotionally, spiritually and economically. With the assistance of the Andara New Start Centre in the eastern Kavango the group, known as Twayapa Shotuyowe (Do not be afraid) HIV + Support Group, developed a mission statement and goals. They received local funding and set about to build a small hut with the intention of developing a garden and meat business. Within the next eight months, life's circumstances intervened. Illness, death, stigma, and lack of leadership inhibited the group's cohesiveness and sustainability. Despite this rocky beginning, Twayapa Shotuyowe is today an outstanding success.

Making it happen

In January 2007, a United States Peace Corps Volunteer arrived in Andara. One of her challenges was to gain a commitment from the now disbanded support group, reaffirm the group's mission statement and goals and develop a sustainable income generating project. Over the course of almost two years, membership grew from eight people in January 2007 to sixty-two in October 2008.

With funding from the United States Ambassador's Self-Help Programme, Twayapa Shotuyowe embarked on a meat selling, garden and soup kitchen project. Since September 2007 the group has worked, not without adversity, to ensure the success of the project and the support group. Plans for a market building were drawn up and a local contractor began work in November 2007. The support group and other community members cleared and levelled the land and dug the foundation for the structure. In April this year, the market was opened for business.

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Twayapa Shotuyowe continues to receive funding from private donors, religious and faith-based groups, NGOs and community organisations from near and far, due to the commitment and dedication of their members. Balancing family obligations with those of the support group continues to be a challenge, but members refuse to sit around and wait for a handout. "We don't think of ourselves as sick," says one member. "We face challenges like many other Namibian individuals. Challenges to feed and clothe and school our families. Challenges to live a moral life and be a positive example for our children, our community and our nation."

Resourceful and determined

Members manage the market building, slaughter cattle for selling meat, and plant and harvest the garden in Mukwe, eight kilometres from the market site. Twayapa Shotuyowe feeds, on average, one hundred and twenty people per month. They serve those affected by and infected with HIV and Aids and their families. Twayapa Shotuyowe plans on using bicycles to deliver food to those too ill to come to the market. Recently, an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in the district has halted the meat business. This has not deterred the group, but highlighted the need to diversify even more. Work has begun to construct a large African oven to bake bread to sell at the market. Members are making the cement blocks on site to limit expenses. The market even sells cell phone recharge vouchers to boost their income.

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Educating others

More important than all the tangible items for sale at the market, and economic sustainability, is the interaction of friendship, open discussion and guidance between the support group members and the community. There are usually three members working at the market each day from Monday to Friday. One member is designated to provide information and encouragement to those visiting the market. Information is available on such topics as gender equality, domestic violence, substance abuse, HIV and Aids, stigma and discrimination, nutrition, medication adherence, Know Your HIV Status and other services provided by the New Start Centre.

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Reaching out, reaching forward

The trained support group members accompany the Andara Community Mobiliser on outreach visits to communities and schools and speak on positive living and ARV adherence, thus assisting in the reduction of defaulter rates. They also talk about the importance of knowing your HIV status. The support group participates in Tusano training covering topics such as living positively, life skills and legal rights. Twayapa Shotuyowe also visits communities in the Andara District to register HIV + people and encourage them to join the support group. The group is currently participating in the production of an educational video, highlighting the importance of ARV adherence. This video will be available in Namibia free of charge for health education.

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Twayapa Shotuyowe is now planning to target the far outlying villages of Andara District by establishing satellite groups. The aim is to create local income generating projects to benefit the families of the support group members more directly

Twayapa Shotuyowe HIV+ Support Group welcomes visitors. You can contact them at tel/fax (066) 259 354 or P/Bag 2072 Rundu.

Photos by Mary Atherton
COPYRIGHT 2008 Sister Namibia
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Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:SOCIAL JUSTICE; support group
Author:Atherton, Mary; Kudumo, Angelika
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Dec 1, 2008
Words:790
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