CFK Day on World AIDS Day: A Community Event Full of Reflection January 30, 2014  by      

One of CFK’s soccer teams huddles together before their match.

Scheduling Carolina for Kibera’s final community-wide celebration of the year on World AIDS Day may seem like an odd choice.  How could anyone feel celebratory on such a significant, serious day?

Every year on multiple occasions, “CFK Day” brings together community members—volunteers and non-volunteers alike—to learn, socialize, reflect, and have fun.  Youth get the chance to connect in ways they hadn’t before, perhaps discovering talents or interests they didn’t know they possessed.  Parents can see their kids show off those talents.  Community members who are not involved with CFK have the opportunity to connect and perhaps receive life-changing care or services.  And everyone gets to put their heart and their voice behind their favorite soccer team.

Participants in the Daughters United program performed a dance routine between soccer matches.

While “CFK Days” are indeed celebrations, they are also full of remembrance and reflection.  They applaud how much progress has already been made, and anticipate the forward motion towards future health and opportunities.

But perhaps more importantly, they are community events.  They bring people together, no matter what the circumstances.

Involving youth in soccer gives them the chance to build athletic skills and to grow closer by being a part of a team.

It’s one thing to be united by a terrible tragedy—and to be sure, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS globally, and in Kibera specifically, is tragic—but it is another to be united by a terribly tragedy that is also considered to be normal.  In the U.S., HIV/AIDS is much less common (especially for heterosexual individuals) than in Kibera, where the HIV+ rate approaches 10%.  In other words, it’s rare for someone living in Kibera to not have a friend or family member who lives with HIV.

Thus, HIV/AIDS often becomes common ground for members of the Kibera community.  It is something to talk about at soccer matches, at dance performances, on the street, or over a meal, just as much as it is something to talk about at the doctor’s office.

In honor of World AIDS Day, Victrine, a counselor with CFK’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Program, gave people info about the importance of safe sex.

During the events, free HIV testing was offered for anyone interested. Getting tested regularly is vital in Kibera, where a lot of people are not sure of their HIV status.

This is not to trivialize the importance of combating the spread of HIV/AIDS.  CFK volunteers and staff continuously educate and conduct outreach to community members about safe sex practices and the importance of reducing HIV transmission.  Working towards eradicating HIV is crucial; celebrating and uniting as a community, often to talk about how to do that, is just as important.

The Daughters United (Binti Pamoja in Swahili) program gives women and girls a space to express themselves freely.

Despite rainy weather, the soccer tournament finals went smoothly, with both the boys’ and girls’ teams playing exciting matches.

CFK strives to develop leaders in several aspects of life: social, economical, and health.  Lacking a firm foundation in any one of these three areas hinders growth and prevents holistic change.

Putting CFK Day and World AIDS Day together doesn’t seem so odd after all.  Reflection often motivates change, and working towards change often motivates celebration, especially when the community has your back.  Eliminating or even reducing HIV/AIDS in Kibera (or the world) takes a community effort, one that CFK Day hopes to foster through uniting people to celebrate lots of things: family, sports, health, each other, and the work they do together.

[All photos by Suzanne Thomson.]

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