Wednesday, September 1, 2010

TOT Refresher Training Meeting

May 27th, 2010 final day of a three day meeting

Author: Krystle Praestiin

It was the final day of the refresher training course for Trainers of Trainers (TOTs). 28 TOTs were participating in the refresher trainings and it was evident from the moment I walked into the room that each TOT was eager to refresh their knowledge and skills in HIV/AIDS counseling.

TOTs are appointed as leaders who are then responsible for training counselors within their local areas. The majority of TOTs are key religious leaders both Adventist and Non-Adventist, health professionals, teachers or other influential community leaders. Each year they are expected to train a minimum of 10 HIV/AIDS volunteer counselors, these counselors will then provide pre and post-HIV/AIDS test counseling, which includes teaching people about nutrition and providing referrals that link people with the health and social services they need.

Throughout the course of the meetings I got a chance to speak with some of the TOTs. It was rewarding to learn from them how important being a TOT was for themselves, their families and their communities.

Ethel Madondolo, as been a TOT for two years previously she had just been working as a counselor. In the past two years she has trained 20 volunteer counselors in Blantyre. She told me that she has enjoyed learning new skills and knowledge about counseling, nutrition and Human Rights. All that she has learnt has also benefited her children as she is able to communicate to them information about HIV/AIDS and the importance of being safe in today’s society. Ethel says that the biggest impact she has made to her community has been to teach them about nutrition and how to use local products that can be easily obtained such as beans, peanuts and locally grown vegetables. Those who have listened to what she says have started making positive changes to improve their health and better their lives.

Abdulrahaman Sadat Kika Gama was another TOT that I spoke to. He has been a trainer since 2007 in the District of Phalombe and up until now he has trained 30 volunteer counselors. One of the best parts about being a TOT for him was interacting with and training counselors, as well as interacting with various Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and NGOs (Non-Government Organisations). The information that he has learnt, like Ethel, has helped him in the “administration of his family,” as he tries to teach them about the right ways to go. His training and knowledge has also helped him teach his students about HIV/AIDS, as he is a teacher by profession.

Abdulrahaman, together with a team of people was even involved in coordinating a self-funded HIV/AIDS campaign in Phalombe. The members of TOTIC each contributed their own funds, raising a total of KW 9,580, which was used to independently run the event that was held on the 19th of May 2010. The purpose of the campaign was to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to promote HIV/AIDS counseling and testing. On the day they offered HIV testing and counseling to 73 clients- 56 were women and 17 were men out of whom, 5 were found to be HIV positive: 1 man and 4 women. This is a great example of what can happen when people are empowered with skills and knowledge.

The topics of yesterday’s meeting focused on community participation, self-awareness, and stress management and the theology of the suffering and HIV/AIDS and how it relates to the church.

The most inspiring part of the meetings for everyone, not just me, was the presentation on HIV/AIDS and the church. Pastor Petersen Kamanga passionately encouraged TOTs most of whom were church leaders, to show love and compassion to members in the church and people outside the church that have been infected/affect by HIV/AIDS. He expressed the point that no longer can church leaders pretend that church members are immune to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in fact in Malawi 20% of the Seventh-day Adventist congregation are HIV positive. Giving the example of Jesus healing a leper, he stated that we must represent Jesus Christ, who never withdrew from people in need of His healing, love and compassion. It is therefore, our duty to love and support people with HIV/AIDS and if we are busy fulfilling this duty there will be no time to judge or condemn others.

It was a successful three day refresher training course and each TOT left feeling even more inspired and equipped to train the next 10 volunteer counselors.