Geneva Twinned with HIV Youth Resource Centre, Ekwendeni

The Church of Scotland congregation in Geneva tells us about their Twinning.

Over the past 15 years, our congregation has built up a strong partnership with Ekwendeni in Malawi. We have supported the HIV Youth Resource Centre first by constructing the building, and then by financing the salary of the Supervisor and a night watchman at the centre.

The resource centre provides HIV testing and counselling facilities for young people which, with its integrated approach to HIV prevention, testing and counselling, has become a model for others in Malawi. The supervisors and their teams have also built up a widespread network of youth clubs in and around Ekwendeni where young people can meet socially and where information and education about HIV and AIDS prevention is available. Singing, dancing and acting out dramas are some of the most effective way of getting the message of HIV and AIDS, across to the members of the community.

We have assisted the Resource Centre outreach by helping to purchase bicycles for local travel, and contributed to sporting activities for the young people such as football and netball (the Ekwendeni girls netball team won the district final in 2015!) and we have assisted in setting up income generating activities such as chicken farms, vegetable gardens, and even a chip shop! Visits have been a very important part of the twinning and recently a mixed age group from Geneva visited Ekwendeni in October 2015, led by our then Minister, Ian Manson. The group returned to Geneva enthused and excited about taking forward the twinning relationship and using some of what they learned about engaging with the local community into our community in Geneva. We invited Shupo, the Youth Centre Supervisor, and Blessings, one of the young people who volunteer at the centre, to visit Geneva in late spring 2016.

The visit to Geneva has given Shupo and Blessings the chance to meet with the HIV Programme leaders at the World Council of Churches which gave them the opportunity to share the work of the Centre and to make new contacts and connections in relation to training and keeping up to date with the latest news and developments.

Members of our Mission Committee and members of staff from the Resource Centre are now working together, to take forward the Twinning relationship. We will have discussions around putting in place a formal Twinning Agreement and how best we can include other areas of the congregation in the Twinning, for example the youth of the Church. Over the coming few months, we will be working with Shupo to start to think about the possibility of having internet installed in the Centre and start looking into solar panels to enable the centre to be used more in the evenings.

Since 2005, there have been several exchange visits with Ekwendeni. In each case the visit by Church of Scotland Geneva members was followed soon after by a visit of two young adults from the Resource Centre. These visits have been central to strengthening our relationship and have been valuable, even in some cases life-changing experiences both to our own members and to the partners coming from Malawi.