MANY THANKS TO EVERYONE THAT SUPPORTED THIS CAMPAIGN!
Hi, I’m Esther Chang and I’m fundraising for my volunteer opportunity as an HIVAIDS Camp Counselor and Mentor for girls at Camp Angelina in rural Uganda. This opportunity is inspired by my own personal experience the last 9 years volunteering as an HIVAIDS Camp Counselor and Mentor to teens living with the virus in Northern California at Camp Sunburst. Signing up to be a volunteer camp counselor in 2005 was one of the best decisions of my life and definitely the most rewarding activity I continue to do. After doing this work for so many years and having such success with the community in the States, I knew I wanted to continue this work abroad and share what I’ve learned with other communities in need.
As a camp counselor I provide information on prevention and medication, esteem building, coping, stress reduction, transmission, disclosure, general reproductive health and overall wellness. Two years ago I started leading yoga at Camp Sunburst. It inspired me to get my certification in teaching kids yoga and mindfulness. Come December, I will continue to lead yoga and mindfulness to all campers at Camp Angelina. I am dedicated to this cause and community, specifically youth. More recently, I produced the build of the first free skateboard park in India with HolyStoked, a local NGO, a skateboard play with local New York skaters and actors, and supported Tribal Link’s United Nations Training for Indigenous Leaders from around the world.
Through these experiences, I have been asked to travel to Uganda in order to volunteer for Camp Angelina, a sister camp to Camp Sunburst. Culturally and contextually, the experience will afford me with the opportunity to gain an understanding of HIV needs from the perspective of both locals and an international NGO, while simultaneously providing the opportunity to assist a community in need of prevention and advocacy.
What Is This Camp About?
Camp Angelina consists of one week of community outreach and one week of empowerment camp for over 80 girls aged 12-17 years who have been infected with or affected by HIVAIDS. Outreach involves actively going into the community to work directly with locals and activities range from health facility strengthening via workshops and trainings, home visits for OVCs (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) and PLWHA (People Living With HIVAIDS), and engaging community members in open dialogue concerning the problems facing the community, as well as the assets and strengths to be drawn upon in improving the community.
The camp will then emphasize healthy coping mechanisms, raise health literacy and health consciousness, provide life skills development, and draw on community organization techniques to empower women to openly discuss and conceive of solutions to community issues. Campers will also be given a rare opportunity to live free of responsibility and stigma for a week to engage in workshops, sports, yoga, and arts & crafts.
Outreach: December 16 - December 22
Camp Angelina: December 30 – January 3
Duties & Responsibilities Of Volunteers (What I Will Be Doing)
I will have the opportunity to visit homes in the villages. Here we will conduct needs assessments, basic health screenings and check ups, and psychosocial exercises to promote healthy coping. We may also deliver donated food, medication, and cooking supplies.
Facility Visits & Assessments
I will be visiting local healthcare facilities and provide guidance and training within limited resources. Potential activities include testing and counseling training, HIV sensitivity training, pharmaceutical organization, storage and sorting, and basic storage and sanitation practices. The goal is to enhance quality by improving confidentiality, information delivery, autonomy, privacy, and staff treatment.
The following is a list of needs identified by the facilities themselves to get an idea of the types of issues I will potentially be working on:
- Lack of dispensers at ART (antiretroviral therapy) clinic (thus need volunteers to train local volunteers and students in dispensing and refilling drugs)
- Medical records management and file retrieval
- Need for more skills in management of HIV clients & medication
- Assist with dosing, including addressing issues of pill burden
- Support ART clinic team and HIV clients on nutrition education
- Need for skills in handling HIV status disclosure and stigma management, including issues of partner notification
- Training local clinic staff, community based-care volunteers and home care givers for HIV patients in palliative care
- Family caregivers support/sensitization
- Mentoring expert clients, and psychosocial support for affected families and infected individuals
Throughout the camp, I will be expected to be both a role model and a leader for activities. These can range from sports to empowerment activities to facilitating discussions. I will personally lead a daily yoga and mindfulness class for all campers.
One of the greatest effects of the AIDS pandemic is its impact on the psychological and mental health of children who have nursed and lost their parents under traumatic circumstances. The impact of parental death on children is complex and affects the child’s mental health and social energy, and might further result in stunted development of emotional intelligence and life skills. Many of the children Camp Angelina has worked with show psychosomatic disturbances, depression, very low self-esteem, disturbed social behaviour, hopelessness, low levels of life skills, etc. We have observed that with relatively unsophisticated, direct and culturally appropriate psychosocial and economic support interventions for children affected by AIDS, very encouraging results to improve the resilience and coping capacity of children can be achieved.
Camp Angelina is solving these problems by empowering and advocating for the health and well being of OVC’s through community health education and economic development programs, by preventing the spread of HIVAIDS among young people and the general population using evidence- informed programming, improving the quality of life for people living with HIVAIDS through providing HIVAIDS counseling, care and referral treatment and providing psycho-social support to PLWHIV.
What I Need
My goal is $5,000 and any and all donations are tax deductible. As this is an unfunded position, these funds will be used to offset the costs of travel, transportation, housing, food, and other miscellaneous expenses for 3 weeks. I’m asking for donations from $10 and up. All donations are going to make this opportunity possible and any additional funds will go directly to Camp Angelina. We need funds for gas during outreach among other things and then all expenses for over 80 girls for an entire week of camp. It costs roughly $75 per child for the week of Camp Angelina.
NGO’s across the world rely on volunteers and I am here today to ask you to donate to this cause, to this organization, and to my continued support to teens living with HIV. And even if you can’t donate, if you can, please forward this along to someone you know who may be interested in supporting this cause. Your support is what’s going to make this possible.
Thank you for everything!
HIVAIDS Volunteer Camp Counselor & Mentor