Wednesday, October 19, 2005

AFAP :One Thing Just Led To Another

At first I thought that the letters AFAP stood for Africa, Asia and the Pacific because the do good works in all three of those geographical areas. But after a bit of reading I learned that the acronym is for the Australian Foundation for the Peoples of Asia and the Pacific. But even that had grown out of an organization with an even more specific geographic focus.

According to its web site, the AFAP is an independent member of the Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International (FSPI). The FSPI is a network whose affiliates have been working in the Pacific since 1965. The FSPI is the oldest, largest, and most experienced secular NGO network in the Pacific.

Established as a non-profit, non-religious organization in Australia in 1968, the AFAP began work in Asia with program initiatives in Viet Nam. By 1996 AFAP became the first Australian NGO to have its permanent representative office registered by the Vietnamese Government. Today AFAP is an innovative overseas aid organization making a positive difference to the lives of people not only in Asia but throughout Africa and the Pacific as well.

As a membership organization, AFAP also aims to raise public awareness in Australia of the current situation in the countries of the Pacific, Asia and Africa. Towards this goal it provides volunteer opportunities for Australians who wish to offer their services in support of our overseas development programs. These volunteers provide technical expertise, assistance with project implementation and with fundraising and membership.

As with many other Wonderful organizations helping people around the world, that were brought into being one or two people, the AFAP was the inspiration of one woman -Elizabeth "Betty" Bryant-Silverstein and her husband, Maurice "Red" Silverstein.

In the early sixties, Betty (who was a prominent Australian actress) and Red (who became President of Metro-Goldwyn-Myer International, a division of MGM) developed a friendship with Stanley Hosie, an Australian Marist priest.

Hosie, who had done an extensive field study of its Pacific Islands missions in Melanesia and Polynesia in early 1963. This friendship, and Hosie's study led to the creation of the The Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific (FSP). So, lets just stop for a moment to make sure we have this straight. Betty and Red found the FSP, which later goes international and becomes FSPI. And in 1968 AFAP is initiated as an affiliate of FSPI. If you still need some help with this, you'll have to unravel by reading AFAP's history .

AFAP's currently has several programs that cover six major areas.

1. South-East Asia: Dengue fever control, rural development and environmental restoration.

2. Africa: Rural development, environmental restoration, water supply and HIV/AIDS.

3. Solomon Islands: Rebuilding civil society and refugee repatriation.

4. South Pacific: Disaster preparedness, storm tracking and warning and disaster recovery, environmental recovery.

5. The MSS program to provide medical support to rural communities throughout South Asia and the Pacific.

6. The TimorAid East Timor rebuilding program.

The organization also partners with a large number of smaller programs internationally in order to extend the reach of their benefits.

In Africa, AFAP has programs in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In Kenya AFAP partners with Concern Universal (CU), an NGO that has been active in Africa for over 20 years, to operate the Maa Community based HIV/AIDS Response Program. This program is funded by AusAID and primarily targets the people of the Maasai nomadic community who are difficult to reach by traditional HIV/AIDS awareness strategies. Because of this difficulty they are often left out of national awareness programs. The joint AFAP/CU program engages in awareness raising of HIV/AIDS issues in schools and has also been working with Maasai traditional birth attendants to protect them from infection and to reduce mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS. Maa Community based HIV/AIDS Response Program

In Malawi AFAP's again partners with CU on two AusAID funded initiatives.

The first of these is the Chimaliro Water and Sanitation Project. This project provides much needed safe water and sanitation facilities in Malawi. This project provides new boreholes, and thousands of pit latrines and also includes a hygiene education awareness campaign and practical training component to maintain the facilities.

A second project in Malawi is the Kamenyagwaza Livelihood Improvement Project in the Dedza district of Malawi. This is a food security project aimed at assisting approximately 20,000 vulnerable people to better meet their own food security by lessening ongoing impacts of the food crises by providing access to seed for planting and small livestock for food and income generation. By meeting these needs the project helps the beneficiaries survive the state of emergency that was declared in Malawi since early 2002 due to the food shortages affecting most parts of the country.

Mozambique is the third country where AFAP operates a program in partnership with CU. This is a program to Strengthening Community based organisations through Adult Literacy

As part of the Southern Africa Integrated Development Program, AFAP supports a literacy project in the Zambesia province of Mozambique. The program is needed to offset the effects of recently ended the long-running civil war that demolished the education system leaving women's literacy rates at 25% and less than half of high school population in school.

The end of the has brought political stability and growth in school enrolment, but there are not enough trained teachers in this, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Literacy circles have been established and they develop learning materials that utilise the existing knowledge of participants as a starting point using no pre-printed materials. HIV/AIDS prevention and care information is made available through the literacy circle network as well.

In Zambia AFAP provides assistance to the Chikuni Parish Home Based Care Program, which proveds HIV/AIDS treatment and awareness training. The Chikuni Mission Hospital has 93 beds and serves a population of approximately 25,000 people in order to alleviate the burden on the under-resourced local health facility and reduce the distress of the patients. The treatment facility is complemented by a community awareness campaign, which makes use of a variety of communication mediums such as radio announcements, workshops and community meetings to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in general. This project is funded by both AusAID and from donations from the Australian public.

In Zimbabwe AFAP partners withs the Community Technology Development Trust to conduct the Forest Garden Zimbabwe Program. Plagued by constant droughts, floods, pestilence and disease Zimbabwean and Southern African farmers are hard pressed to produce the crops necessary to feed their nations. The Forest Garden Program works to restore degraded uplands, improve watershed management, enhance local bio-diversity, reduce local pressure on old growth forests and improve living standards of the population. This is done by providing farmers' with immediate food or income and gradually enhance their long-term food security. It also intends to help incorporate indigenous and local agro-forestry techniques into the current practices.

There are currently three major Forest Garden Centres in three separate provinces. They provide a variety of nurseries, greenhouses and related training resources. Villagers now come to these centers to receive the training and resources necessary to establish their own Forest Gardens in their individual community areas.

Well, the clock on the wall says that I gotta go. But you know you can always find out more about the great organizations at their web sites. And you can find AFAP here. Take a look at the history of this organization and see how ONE THING JUST LEADS TO ANOTHER.

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