GECHAAN (Gembu Centre for HIV/AIDS Advocacy Nigeria), is a non-government organization (NGO) established in 2004 by Art and Doroth Helwig , to address the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS in the remote rural villages in Taraba State, Nigeria. The initial pressing need was making villagers aware of the disease and how it is transmitted from one person to another. After hundreds of presentations in churches, schools, government offices, market squares and a host of other venues, the extremely high prevalence rate of HIV infections began to decline in the immediate area.
To cope with the huge number of orphaned children roaming around the villages a foster care program was established to care for them. The number of orphaned children was staggering and what made things more critical was the fact that the children were not attending school. The ministry provided a safe place to live with caring foster parents, enrollment in school, proper nutrition, medical care and psychosocial support. For two years there were 2,550 orphans in the program and the children flourished. The overall goal of the program was to focus on helping people understand the moral and spiritual component of this pandemic.
The Lifeline Services Centre is the clinic/hospital established for the testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS patients. The doctors also focused on controlling the opportunistic diseases that take advantage of a weakened immune system. Soon the maximum number of patients allowed by the donor was reached. The aggressive mobile HIV counseling and testing strategy was seen as one of the most effective HIV/AIDS prevention methods so the patient quota was increased to 2,000 which was met quickly. The counseling and testing initiative continues but patients are referred to other medical facilities.
They are branching out into seven additional counties with the current program and hope to establish a church planting ministry through the use of TEE (Theological Education by Extension) to teach and preach in the newly established church plants.
THE NEED: TO PROVIDE HOUSING AND AN OFFICE IN ABUJA, NIGERIA.
Through a grant from USAID, GECHAAN has been able to multiply contributions from churches and individuals to facilitate rapid growth beyond their expectations. Funding for the wide spread prevention messages and activities, aggressive HIV/AIDS counseling and testing campaigns, care and management of 15,000 orphaned children, patient care of 2,000 people on antiviral drugs, and thousands of people helped through the Life Line Centre (medical clinic) has been provided through two grants from USAID.
It has become increasingly more dangerous to travel back and forth from Gembu to Abuja on somewhat hazardous roads. The time needed to go back and forth consumes 4 days of time and energy. Helwigs have been making that trip every 4 to 6 weeks over the past eight years. However, in the last two years travel risks have elevated to more frequent robberies because of more political, and religious unrest in the country.
Most Non-government organizations (NGO’s) receiving funding through USAID have an office in Abuja. They do this because USAID and other funding agencies do not have time or fear traveling to distant remote offices for monitoring and evaluation purposes which makes the funding procedures and process so difficult it can result in limiting or denying funding to these NGO’s.
Meetings at USAID are called very quickly without adequate time for us to attend. Making the journey in just one day is risky for a number of reasons so we hesitate to attend under such circumstances. It is not in our best interest to be absent at such meetings. With a representative in Abuja, the meetings would not be missed since the information could be relayed and we could continue doing the work on the field without interruption.
Our present grant will conclude in July, 2013. We need to urgently work on preparing a proposal for another grant so the work will continue to expand to new levels. This requires more time in both Abuja and in the United States to generate a convincing proposal that will enable continued progress and development of the work.