27th Worldwide HIV/AIDS Candlelight Memorial – FTown District

Last week I helped plan my first event. As a PCV, I’m not really supposed to be planning or leading, but more acting as co-facilitator. Whatever it was, leaders from the Catholic Relief Services, District AIDS Office, Ghetto Artists (an amazing local acting troupe that specializes in promoting messages of healthy living), and the Francistown Network of Support Groups (support for people living with HIV/AIDS) met together and planned a beautiful memorial for those who have died from complications due to AIDS. This is an annual worldwide event that usually takes place in May.

I learned a lot about how events can come together. Some planners arrived (with me) at least an hour early. Others arrived after it had already started. The even took place in the Tatitown Customary Court, or Kgotla as it’s known in smaller villages, which serves as a community center. As per usual with community events held at the Kgotla, our driver strapped a PA to the top of a truck and drove around advertising the event. Loud, festive music blared from speakers as children from the community came to help set up. Chairs were arranged in the shape of a large red ribbon, everyone received a red ribbon and a candle, and as always, a pastor opened and closed the event with a prayer. The Assistant District AIDS Coordinator gave a speech centering around the theme of the event, “Many lights for Human Rights” and spoke about how we need to stop turning our backs on vulnerable and underrepresented populations like the homosexual community, people living with HIV/AIDS, commercial sex workers, youth, orphans, and drug users. A passionate woman named Grace gave a testimony about the stigma she faces living with HIV, mentioning at one point (or so it was translated to me) that when people in her office found out about her status they would not use the restroom after her until it was cleaned at the end of the day. They would instead rather wait until they got home.

Ghetto Artists put on a musical performance illustrating the effects of multiple concurrent partnerships (a very common practice in Botswana that significantly contributes to the HIV spread), and they did a really beautiful job of pantomiming sensitive topics in a way that could be appreciated in a family setting.

Though the event took place on a Saturday, and usually I would have wanted to stay home and enjoy my time off, I was so glad to be there! Close to 100 people attended, and many of them were community leaders and members that I will work closely with. To see everyone come together for such an occasion and interacting with them on this level was really beneficial. I left thinking about how much my job rocks, and how happy I am to be working with the people I do.

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