A group of former street children turned filmmakers from the Dagoretti slum in Nairobi have produced a television news feature highlighting the daily struggles of people living with HIV in poor settings and the leadership initiatives taken by members of those communities in dealing with the challenges of the epidemic.
Through the AMREF's Dagoretti Child in Need Project, the team of former school dropouts who operate under the banner of Different Perspectives has produced a five-minute television news feature highlighting the fight against HIV in informal settlements. Members of the crew, who have all grown up in Dagoretti, intend to use the film to educate their peers on "making a difference in the communities in the fight against HIV and AIDS".
Set to be released on World AIDS Day (December 1), the short film features George Olali, a community health worker who takes care of people living with HIV and TB in the Kibera slum. The soft-spoken George acts as a counsellor, friend and home-care provider and ensures that those on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) take their medication as they are supposed to. He encourages those affected or infected by the virus, helping to ease stigma and prejudice in families and the community.
The feature gives viewers a unique chance to explore a big problem in a small part of the world through the youngsters' lenses.
AMREF Project Manager John Muiruri says: "The film seeks to show how people and organisations living and working with disadvantaged communities are rising to the challenge of HIV. It will also be a useful tool to educate young people on how to make a difference in their communities in the fight against the virus." While George is a shining example of leadership and achievement against great odds, the filmmakers too have their own stories of triumph to tell - stories of victory over neglect and want as street children, having to fend for themselves from the trash cans and begging, a dalliance with drugs, as well as petty crime. Joining AMREF's Dagoretti Child in Need Project and learning useful skills helped to turn their lives around and start them on the road to great story telling and filmmaking.
World AIDS Day 2008 offers an opportunity to challenge the global community to keep its promises and renew its commitment to tackling the enormous challenges of HIV. Experience has demonstrated that significant advances in the response to HIV and AIDS have been achieved where there is strong and committed leadership. Leaders are not necessarily politicians or bureaucrats but even individuals like George who are making a difference in the lives of others through their personal example and dedication.