The Enthusiastic response to Good Samaritan
Based on the parable of the Good Samaritan in which the HIV/AIDS virus is depicted as the robbers who attacked the man on the road to Jericho, Bible Society's Good Samaritan programme is being received by governments, churches and Christian agencies in Africa with a degree of enthusiasm far beyond the original expectations of the project initiators.
This year, 15 countries including Kenya, Ethiopia, Gabon and Côte d'Ivoire are running the programme.
There is a great deal of interest by African countries to expand the programme further. The only limitation is the lack of funding!
68% of all HIV-positive people live in Sub Saharan Africa*
*HIV/AIDS stat for Sub Saharan Africa in 2009.
We're real people, not a terrible disease
Hannah and Peter share a sad but very similar history. Both lost their spouses to HIV/AIDS. Both were rejected by their families when they learned that they were HIV-positive. Hannah's aunt even tried to poison her to hasten her death. Both Hannah and Peter have found hope through a Good Samaritan group in Muranga'a, Kenya.
"In the group I have found people who see me as a real person, not as a terrible disease. Now I in turn want to help others," says Hannah.
Peter also is very enthusiastic. "Through the Good Samaritan training, I have learnt that we must show mercy and compassion. I know I can love those who abandoned me when I most needed help," he says.
Working from the lowest level
"We work from the very lowest level," says James Muchina, the leader of a Good Samaritan group in Githungari, Kenya, which has 50 people attending from 12 different villages.
"We are a part of the people. We know their problems and what needs to be done," he says.
"Often we have to literally feed people first before moving on to other things such as taking them for medical treatment."
"Our aim is to help people in areas such as education, employment and health care so that they no longer need to beg on the streets," he says.
Bringing hope to the orphans of Uganda
Bringing hope to some of Uganda's 1.9 million AIDS orphans is one of the great success stories of the Good Samaritan programme there.
Children like Farouk who never knew his mother. Once shy and withdrawn, Farouk used to keep his face covered with his cap when he attended the sessions. Today, he is a very different child. In fact, he is almost unrecognisable as he confidently sells food from a makeshift stall he set up himself.
Another young person whose life has changed through the programme is Namuli Rose Mary. Like many AIDS orphans, 15-year-old Namuli Rose Mary is raising her siblings on her own.
Now that she has learnt new craft skills, she is able to earn a living to support her brothers and sisters.
The Good Samaritan programme is helping children to overcome the discrimination, poverty and lack of education they face. But there is still much work to do.
There are still many children affected by HIV/AIDS like Farouk and Namuli Rose Mary, who desperately need the spiritual, emotional and practical tools the Good Samaritan programme offers.
"The Good Samaritan programme isn't big or sophisticated, but practical and easy to use, especially at grassroots level in the community."
- Konstanse Raen, United Bible Societies' HIV/AIDS Consultant for Africa.
1.3 million AIDS-related deaths*
15 million AIDS orphans*
1.8 million people newly infected*
* HIV/AIDS stat for Sub Saharan Africa in 2009
Good Samaritan changing community attitudes
Not only is the Good Samaritan programme helping HIV-positive people, it's also changing the attitudes of others in the community.
"I never imagined I could do this work," says John, a participant in a Good Samaritan programme in Kenya. "I used to be prejudiced against HIV-positive people but the Good Samaritan training has completely changed my life. I now have a burning desire to help people in need."
Another who is working with the programme is Pastor Simon.
"I am very impressed with the Good Samaritan programme," he says. "It has really assisted me in my ministry, especially in encouraging members of my congregation to change their attitude towards those affected by HIV/AIDS."
Good Samaritan leads to life
Three years ago Beatrice tested HIV-positive. She was thrown out by her family and abandoned by her husband. Left all alone, ill and with five children to support she could see no other option than to commit suicide.
"Then a woman from an association in Kenya that supports people with HIV/AIDS, showed me the Good Samaritan video, Who is responsible?" says Beatrice.
"I immediately felt encouraged. I realised that I could take the initiative, follow a course of treatment, feed my children and live with my HIV-positive status.
"Here, we are all like part of a family," says Beatrice. "We laugh together, cry together and bear one another's burdens."
A positive, peaceful future
"My name is Aklilu Yohannes. I am from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
"I was very scared when I went for my HIV-test. When I got my result back, I fainted.
"I decided to tell my boss that I was HIV-positive. He told me to come to work to collect my salary and that was all. When I went to work the next day, people treated me like a stranger.
"I lost all my friends and I became lonely. Then I saw a banner saying, Where is the Good Samaritan today? outside a church. I attended a three-day workshop run by Bible Society.
"It was a turning point for me. It gave me hope for a positive, peaceful future."
Driving all in a day's work for coordinator
It's just as well that Beth Mbuga, the coordinator of the Bible Society of Kenya's Good Samaritan programme, is a good driver.
Her work training volunteers to lead Good Samaritan groups takes her all over Kenya, both through the crowded streets of Nairobi and into remote rural areas.
"People with HIV/AIDS have been called the lepers of our times," says Beth.
"Many factors are leading to the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus," she says.
"Poverty, gender inequality, ignorance and superstition are just a few of them. Our aim is to change those attitudes that are leading to the spread of the disease."
It's a big task but Beth, who has already established 14 Good Samaritan groups throughout Kenya, is tackling the problem head on.
"The Good Samaritan programme is so powerful that people willingly volunteer their time. But more resources are needed for the materials," she says.
Musical plea on behalf of sufferers
The Bible Society of Gabon's Good Samaritan programme coordinator, Armelle Markui, a well-known singer in her own country, has produced a song highlighting the plight of HIV/AIDS sufferers.
Listen to Armelle's song to hear her passionate plea on behalf of the sufferers of this terrible disease.
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This article is from The Word at Work – Autumn 2011.
"I'm an orphan. I had heard about God, but I lived my life without him. Everything changed when I got frostbite and had to have my legs amputated. I'm very grateful that someone put this book into my hands because now I can find out more about God."