Sierra Leone

A few years ago a Network to coordinate the Churches response to HIV and AIDS was formed and named NECHRAS (the Network of Christians Response to HIV and AIDS in Sierra Leone). The founding mothers of this all important Organisation,  saw the Church as a very strong force which will to a very large extent be an effective pillar in responding to HIV and AIDS in Sierra Leone. The Network went into slumber in 2004 due to some challenges, but came back to life when a partnership was started with PACANet in 2006. After this, a situational analysis was commissioned and carried. NECHRAS was registered with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs.
NETWORK DEVELOPMENT STAGES.These activities or steps which were done with support from PACANet were important in fostering networking relationships amongst churches and Christian HIV and AIDS interventions in the country. The Situational Analysis Study started on the 11th September 2007, when NECHRAS in collaboration with PACANet had a formal launching of its situational analysis research at the Scripture Union hall.  This study was undertaken in order to assess the response of the Church to the HIV and AIDS crisis in Sierra Leone against a rising prevalence rate. It was during this activity that the Church came to be seen as a very strong force in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Through this study, the profile of the church in Sierra Leone was  seen as a body expected to breathe in moral rectitude into the minds of people. The study  also sought to  to know the various interventions or strategies the church was using to pass on HIV and AIDS information to the people as this was one of the greatest challenges faced by NECHRAS;  lack of knowledge about the type of interventions needed by the Church in Sierra Leone.
After the report on the Situation Analysis Research was received, NECHRAS in collaboration with PACANet, had a Call to Action Conference in December 2007 at the Hill Valley Hotel, Signal Hill. This Conference attracted many Stake Holders and decision makers including Pastors, Youths, members of NECHRAS, church leaders. The main aim of the conference was to give a first hand information and intimate members and Stake Holder about the result of the Situational Analysis and discuss the way forward to begin the fight against HIV and AIDS.     (at activity level, mention some results, these could be immediate results at organizational level. E.g did it foster any unity among members, what actions were taken as a result of call to action conference) Bishops/Senior Church Leaders Conference: This was a conference that was organized by PACANet and NECHRAS at the Hotel Cabenda from the 2nd unto the 4th June 2008.  It was organized to address the following issues.
*    To identify and discuss the aspects of church teachings and practices affected by the onset of the HIV and AIDS. *    To foster commitment for the development of joint collaboration to facilitate a coordinated Christian response to HIV and AIDS in Sierra Leone.

* To develop a joint statement reflecting observations commitments and resolutions of senior church leadership in addressing the issues of HIV and AIDS in Sierra Leone.

At the close of the conference, Church Leaders came up with an agreed resolution of fighting against HIV and AIDS, (please quote from the resolution to show what was decided) by organizing sensitization campaigns both within and out of the Church. And this to a very large extent was endorsed by all.

Human Resource Training:

PACANet in collaboration with NECHRAS conducted a six weeks HIV and AIDS Human Resource training.  It was held in two phases. Phase 1 was in April and phase II in June 2008.
The main goal of the training was to cultivate within the church a competent Human Resource base which will motivate a movement that will challenge the Church in prioritizing HIV and AIDS as well as urge those who have been involved in HIV and AIDS activities to scale up and improve their efficiency in the quality of service delivery to mitigate the impact of the HIV and AIDS in Sierra Leone.
The objectives of the training were to: *    Equip Trainees to realistically and effectively communicate issues of HIV and AIDS in providing hope to infected and affected individuals, families and communities.*    Empower Trainees to challenge and motivate the Church to heighten the priority placed on HIV and AIDS response in the Church ministry agenda. Stigma and Discrimination Training: A workshop addressing stigma and discrimination was held attracting over sixty (60) participants in and out of Freetown, The main aim of the Training was to help senior church leaders and congregations on how to handle HIV and AIDS related stigma and discrimination in the churches and their immediate Communities.
Change Agents Training:
With over 60 participants, this was a training aimed at
* Mobilize and equip church leaders to enhance passion and commitment for HIV and AIDS response.

* Enable church leaders identify areas that really needed change in the HIV and AIDS response.

*Engage relevant authorities to promote solution to the challenges.

The Program expected participants to be able to

* Motivate the passions and commitment of church leaders to become active change agents in their communities.

* Explain the concept and process of the change strategies that facilitate in addressing HIV and AIDS.

* completely engage in teachings of HIV and AIDS.
CONSENSUS BUILDING CONFERENCE
NECHRAS conducted a two-day Consensus Building Conference, attracting over 65 participants from various churches and Para church organizations. There were 22 different churches present and 25 different Para church organizations.
The aim of the Conference was to discuss the relevance of the Network in Sierra Leone. A Board was elected and it was also agreed that the Superior governing body should be named the General Assembly.
OBJECTIVES FOR NECHRAS DEVELOPMENT NECHRAS exists to mobilize and equip the Church and Christian Organizations to bring positive spiritual and physical transformation in the lives of the poor (people living with HIV and AIDS) through:-

*       Training and Teaching

*       Awareness Raising

*       Counseling

*       Care and Support

*       Advocacy

The Present NECHRAS has been embarking on a host of sensitization programs. These are sometimes normally done by radio discussion programs, guidance and counseling, church sensitization programs, and they have also tried to see to what extent NECHRAS could involve the whole subject matter of HIV and AIDS into the syllabuses of theological colleges in Sierra Leone. NECHRAS has also tried to unite churches together to work diligently over the issues of HIV and AIDS.
HIV and AIDS Jingles done by NECHRAS are also being played in different radio stations within Sierra Leone. Phoning programs on HIV and AIDS sensitization are also being aired out and this has also created a platform where we could talk to and sensitize members of the public. Members of the public pose questions to panelists who have always been supplying them with adequate and appropriate response in HIV and AIDS phone-in-programs. Information bulletins are also printed every other two months and are distributed to the different churches in Sierra Leone. In these bulletins, the churches response to HIV and AIDS has been addressed. The Stigma and Discrimination bulletins are being distributed to members of the public and with this the effects of stigma and discrimination is being brought o their knowledge. It also through these NECHRAS numerous sensitization programs that members of the public are encouraged to go and do the test for HIV and AIDS as this to a very large extent would help minimize HIV and AIDS.
Members of NECHRAS have organized retreats and other church activities and on many of these foras the issues of HIV and AIDS were addressed.