EFA International Continues to Grow, Bringing the Message of Hope to D.C.

July 5th, 2010 by admin

домейнBy Whitney Isenhower (RPCV Cameroon ’06-’08)

(pictures by Amber Byrne of Live It Out Photography, LLC)

Nearly 100 Washington, D.C.-area residents gathered in the Eighteenth Street Lounge’s warmly lit Gold Room on the evening of April 29 for a fundraiser supporting Education Fights AIDS (EFA) International, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that empowers African youth infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS in Cameroon and Rwanda.

Alim Ousmanou, EFA International’s Cameroon country representative, spoke at the fundraiser—one stop on a visit marking his first time in the U.S. Invited to participate in the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program from April 3-23, Ousmanou remained in the country for two weeks after the program to visit supporters of EFA International’s work carried out in Cameroon.

Alim Ousmanou

“It was wonderful to see how young Americans are helping the community of youth living with HIV and AIDS in Cameroon,” Ousmanou said of the Washington event.

EFA International’s efforts focus on creating associations for individuals infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS in Cameroon and supporting a center for orphans and vulnerable children in Rwanda. The organization began when Ousmanou and Andrew Koleros, then a Peace Corps Volunteer in Maroua, Cameroon, identified dozens of HIV-positive youth in the city who lacked the psychosocial, educational and financial support to live positively with the virus.

Along with Koleros, returned Peace Corps Volunteers Rachel Hoy, Michael Nilon, Erin Nilon and Nicole Sheldon-Desjardins officially incorporated the organization in 2006 to continue this work. Koleros, who currently sits on EFA International’s Board of Directors, said Ousmanou’s visit deepened members’ commitment to the organization, which advocates the Peace Corps’ Third Goal.

“It’s really motivated the board and volunteers,” Koleros said of Ousmanou’s presence at EFA International events in the U.S. “It reminded us of why we all got involved in this organization in the first place.”

For EFA International’s benefactors, Ousmanou’s presence at the fundraiser made the organization’s mission more resonant, clarifying what their involvement means for the youth the nonprofit enables to live positively.

“It was nice to hear somebody from the area where it’s being helped speak,” said Michael Causey, a Washington-based lawyer who attended the fundraiser. “It’s easy for Americans to say, ‘Look at the great work I’m doing.’”

(AJEPS photo taken by Caitlyn Bradburn (PCV Cameroon ’08-present)

EFA International currently supports eight independent groups in the Extreme North province of Cameroon. Income-generating activities to advance members in their communities and peer education programs to raise awareness about HIV transmission and prevention have empowered more than 120 young men and women.

Doumtigai Guibai, member of an EFA International-sponsored association in Mokolo, Cameroon, said her participation in peer education training motivated her to speak openly about HIV.

“People come up to me to congratulate me for my courage to speak about HIV in the community,” Guibai said in EFA International’s 2009 Annual Report. “At school, students call me the ‘mama’ for teaching them about HIV.”

During his visit, Ousmanou also attended fundraising events in Massachusetts and spoke at a Harvard Divinity School panel discussion on development and HIV in Africa. He said he was extremely affected by returned volunteers’ commitment to both EFA International and Cameroon.

“I saw so many people during my time in the U.S.,” Ousmanou said. “Seeing former Cameroon Peace Corps Volunteers was the most significant to me.”

To find out more about EFA’s work, go to http://efainternational.org/

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