Namibia: In the shebeens of Rehoboth, "Try and You Will See" (February 2006)

The Peace Corps assigned Megan Sweat as a volunteer to Rehoboth in December 2004 with the aim of trying to engender greater community involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Working within the Community Mobilization Program supported by the Emergency Plan and implemented through USAID, Megan focused on strengthening the organization and commitment of the Rehoboth Eastern Community Action Forum (RECAF), a group of community members concerned about the threat of HIV/AIDS. Since that time, Megan and RECAF have worked directly with Ditsa-I-Mu ("Try and You Will See" in the Damara language), a group of out-of-school young people who live in the most marginalized area of Rehoboth, where the majority of the young people are unemployed or employed part time. When Megan started working in Rehoboth, Ditsa-I-Mu consisted of 10 eager young people who wanted to do something about HIV/AIDS, but knew little about the disease and even less about how to reach out to their community.

With the support and encouragement of Megan and the USG-supported RECAF, membership in the Ditsa-I-Mu has grown to 25 people, most of whom meet on a daily basis to discuss HIV/AIDS and methods for community outreach. Ditsa-I-Mu started to visit informal neighborhood bars (known as shebeens) in the community, where the group members talk frankly about HIV/AIDS and the increased dangers posed by excess drinking, risky sex and other dangerous behavioral practices. The group has also received funding for drama and song awareness programs and travels to schools, church youth groups, and community events and activities singing and speaking about HIV/AIDS and behavior change. The group has become a respected force in the community and a focal point of HIV/AIDS efforts.

The partnership of the USG and these community groups has helped transform a group of young people from being potential victims of HIV/AIDS to being active, effective mobilizers who are building the capacity of their community to win this fight.

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