Friday, September 16, 2005

AIDS Competence in Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Last week a small team of the Constellation consisting of Alison, Jerry and me hit the sky to follow an invitation by the World Health Organization (WHO) to Papua New Guinea. Our agenda was to build a relationship with the WHO and other partners, to identify members to constitute a core facilitation team, to share ideas and immediately start working.

However, things turned out quite differently. Today I realize that we left for PNG taking the understanding of our AIDS Competence approach for granted. I now see that this was a mistake because what we are promoting is quite different. Our approach requires a mind shift. It requires shifting the focus of attention from technical programs and interventions to the competence of communities, individuals and organizations.

In PNG the WHO expected us to intervene in communities with a new and innovative approach. But the Constellation is not about intervention, it is about appreciating, fostering and connecting existing strengths and competencies in order to spread local responses and make them stronger. I admit that I underestimated how much it takes to communicate this vision clearly. Yet, we eventually got there through intensive discussions, two community visits, testing the AIDS Competence Process on ourselves and last but not least the strong support and understanding of Dr Yves Renault who is WHO representative in PNG.

While writing this text back in my office in Chiang Mai, Thailand I realize how much I have learned in PNG. I have seen how beautiful it is to witness communities realizing that they are already responding to HIV in their own particular way, with their own particular strengths and without using technical terms or technical knowledge. At the same time I have learned how hard it is to get communities to shift from the “want-to-have/give-us mentality” towards a “where are our strengths/what can we do attitude”. I also understand why the strengths of the AIDS Competence approach are not obvious to “aid” organizations and that the process has to be experienced in order to be understood. Finally, I have learned how fine and fragile the line is between a) supporting, fostering and strengthening communities in their own local response and b) intervening to quickly with technical programs because we believe we have understood a community's needs. While the former can increase a community’s pride, ownership, action and its will to take on responsibility the latter may disempower a community and may result in a dependency relationship between the intervening organization and the community.

I have the feeling we left PNG with the seeds planted for a successful AIDS Competence Process. Our core team for the PNG process now includes Regina from UNICEF and Fabian from WHO in addition to the Constellation team. Both, Fabian and Regina, are enthusiastic and are helping to expand the team to build a powerful foundation to foster local responses in PNG. It was simply beautiful to hear what Regina told me after our visit to the Hanuabada community: “Today I learned to listen”.

Many thanks for sharing what you learned.
There is another way, and the issue is how to live that other way at home, at work and in situations when we influence others.
Part of the answer at least comes from "community immersion", feeling the connection with communities and their strenghts.
Thank you, ALEX,Jerry and Allison.
The concept of competence has to be understood by the main partners, for PNG it's the Department Of Health, UNICEF and WHO, this is an important part of the mission. When we start having an idea for initiating such an approach we have to identify the fund for it and it's difficult to argue on an approach only, a budget need to be calculated around investment and invest on idea is not really easy. We are trying to do it .
I am thinking to have some kind of self-assesmemt within the WPRO (WHO) team in order to find a mutual strengthening sytem, if Qantas reach to do it, we should be able to try it.
Yves Renault
For what I have seen, this site is not bad at all
- 9
spaghetti alla carbonara
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