Transforming Lives Through Health and Empowerment
* By Melissa Hinnen
Ratna had lost almost everything and was near death when she arrived at the Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP) in Jamkhed, India. Her husband and young child had both died of AIDS. After living with the virus herself for many years without treatment, Ratna was also dying. She lived with her husband's family until they could no longer care for her and they abandoned her. Because of the services at CRHP in Jamkhed, Ratna's life was transformed and she is now in good health and working in the community.
The MAM Rehabilitation Centre at CRHP was founded to help women who are left vulnerable either because of illness or stigma, to become healthy and independent members of their communities. In addition to comprehensive medical attention, women who were abused, abandoned or ill are offered psychological counseling, job skills training and personal development workshops.
The residential program is on a farm, allowing the women access to hands-on agricultural training. Learning about animal husbandry, farming and preserving fruits and vegetables gives them income generating skills so they can support themselves after they leave the centre. The comprehensive program works with the women to help them be not only healthy, but also confident when they reintegrate into their communities.
Through the HIV/AIDS program, a Global AIDS Fund project at CRHP, Ratna received anti-retroviral therapy and rehabilitation. She is now leading a healthy, productive life. After participating in a training program, she was selected as the program's farm manager. The training has empowered her to be a leader in her community and she enjoys being able to offer support to the CRHP community.
The CRHP HIV/AIDS outreach extends into Jamkhed, a busy market town with a population of more than 40,000. The program provides HIV/AIDS education, treatment and rehabilitation, particularly to women, who are HIV positive or at risk of becoming HIV positive. For example, women in Jamkhed who are sex workers are intentionally approached and provided with preventive and curative care because of their high risk. They are offered awareness building and personal empowerment workshops. CRHP is training a village health worker who will work directly with people in the community, building trust and providing comprehensive care.
The Comprehensive Rural Health Project, Jamkhed, has been working among the rural poor and marginalized for more than 38 years. By partnering with village communities and expanding upon local knowledge and resources the project aims to effectively meet the immediate and long term needs of these groups, especially women. With values of compassion, justice, respect and trust, CRHP works to empower people, families and communities, regardless of caste, race or religion, through integrated efforts in health and development.
How You Can Help
The worldwide statistics surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic are still staggering. About 33 million people worldwide are HIV/AIDS infected, 2.7 million become newly infected each year and 25 million people have died of HIV/AIDS since 1981. As the battle against HIV/AIDS continues into another year, United Methodists are encouraged to press forward and stop the spread of this deadly disease by creating awareness.
Observing World AIDS Day on or near Dec. 1 is one way you can help. Join millions of others in the fight against HIV/AIDS and take the lead in your community-share important HIV/AIDS information. Every step United Methodists take gives one more person the hope to live positively with HIV/AIDS.
* Melissa Hinnen is the staff writer for UMCOR communications