“The Good Samaritan Program works miracles, and my family and I are the first to benefit!”.These are the words of Béatrice Gangouap, Coordinator of the United Bible Societies’
HIV/AIDS prevention program, the Good Samaritan Program (GSP). Far from it just being a job, Béatrice says that the program has become part of her and that she can’t stop talking about it – not just at work but in her personal life, too.
“It has done wonders for my kids’ education (there is a module especially for children) and for my marriage (the program deals with love, sex and marriage),” she explains. “It has also enabled me to give sound advice about HIV to the people around me.”
Béatrice, who has worked with the GSP since 2004, shares some recent examples of how the program, which is based on biblical values, is helping to change people’s lives in 20 African countries.
Annah Martine, a young woman in Côte d’Ivoire who participated in GSP training for couples, wrote the following in a letter to Béatrice:
“Before the training I used to make decisions on my own. I took the HIV test without speaking to my husband about it and without asking him to take the test, too. Then, last May, my husband and I went on the GSP couples’ training course. It changed everything for us!
“Now we make decisions together: HIV tests, our children’s education, the family budget and so on. We’re communicating so well. Thank you, Bible Society!”
Annah Martine’s story is typical of so many couples who participate in the GSP. HIV creates terrible family tensions, whether the couple have taken the HIV test and know their status, or whether they’re afraid to take the test and are living in fear of HIV. The training helps couples to talk openly about everything, even HIV/AIDS.
“Thanks to the GSP, families are being reconciled,” comments Béatrice. “Also, HIV-positive people who had lost hope are getting a taste for life again as they once again feel part of society.”
The stigmatisation of people with HIV is one of the main issues that the GSP addresses. At first, people with HIV go on the same training as other program participants. But afterwards they receive special attention to ensure that their spiritual, psychological and medical well being is taken care of.
“We usually help them to form HIV support associations, which meet regularly,” notes Béatrice.
These associations have become an important source of support for HIV-positive people and their families. Many of these groups also help educate their communities about HIV/AIDS and the need to help those with the virus.
“We often find that HIV-positive people are able to speak more compellingly about HIV/AIDS than well-trained specialists,” says Béatrice.
It is mostly women who ask for GSP training in their church, suburb or village. It was a group of widows in Accra, Ghana, who approached the Bible Society there about GSP training. Their desire was to make young girls in their churches and neighbourhoods aware of the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
In Cameroon, Bororo men proposed that their wives participate in GSP training. In Bororo culture, men and women are not permitted to sit in the same room. Their wives then share what they’ve learned with their husbands, and ask the trainers any questions that their husbands had. In this way, the whole community is trained – in two stages!
One of the aspects of the GSP that most moves Béatrice is its work in schools and orphanages. More and more educational institutions in in Africa – Christian and secular – are choosing to include the GSP in their curricula. The training is either delivered by GSP volunteers, or by teachers who have received GSP training.
And the future? Béatrice is excited about a whole new area of development: GSP training especially tailored for people with visual disabilities and for the Deaf. By the end of the year, pilot projects will be running in a School for the Blind in Burundi and among deaf people in Côte d’Ivoire.
“We cannot stop doing what we’re doing,” concludes Béatrice. “It is absolutely crucial that we reach everyone, whether they can read or not. Making this program available in as many languages as possible remains one of our priorities.”