Spring 2011 News from SAYFSM
The agency educates the community about HIV prevention and risk reduction, presenting at community events, in small group settings at ESL classes, churches, youth gatherings, and to groups of newly resettled refugees.
SAYFSM continues to facilitate a culturally appropriate support group for African immigrants and refugees living with HIV. The group meets every other Saturday, and, once a year, participants and their family members attend a weekend retreat. SAYFSM provides transportation to the meetings, child care, and food. An average of 18 to 20 individuals attended each meeting throughout 2010. They came from 11 African countries and Trinidad. Participants included Christians, Muslims, and followers of traditional beliefs.
SAYFSM provides an array of services to meet the many needs of individuals living with HIV, including assistance with basic needs, such as housing, furniture, household items, food, clothing, employment; referrals to clinics, mental health providers, legal services, ESL classes; translation and interpreting; and transportation to appointments and SAYFSM activities. One full-time staff member provides care advocacy for those individuals needing one-time or short-term help. In 2010, care advocacy was delivered to 118 individuals: 31 men, 48 women, 12 teens, and 27 children.
Two part-time staff provide SAYFSM’s culturally appropriate medical case management, meeting the needs of African individuals living with HIV/AIDS who need longer-term, intensive support. In 2010, 33 individuals received medical case management through SAYFSM. An additional 12 individuals received case management services elsewhere, but preferred to come to SAYFSM case managers for some of their needs.
This program is primarily for African-born women living with HIV/AIDS, but is open to all African women, regardless of HIV status, in order to protect the confidentiality of participants’ HIV status. Participants attend sewing classes and receive health education about HIV/AIDS and other topics. In May 2010, an advanced-level class was offered for the first time. This class allows women who have completed the first class to continue developing their sewing skills while enhancing their identification as self-determined women. Eight women graduated from this course in October with impressive, professional-level sewing skills.
Ijole, the Oromo word for “children,” is for children who are infected with or affected by HIV. To protect their privacy related to HIV status and because the need for this program reaches to all low-income African immigrant families, the program is now also open to all African community children living in poverty. The children range in age from 5 years–17 years. During the summer of 2010, 24 children and 12 teens participated in the program events.
This service is being provided in the SAYFSM office by a licensed psychologist. The program is overwhelming popular and the doctor’s services are in high demand. This is a breakthrough because of the incredible stigma associated with needing such services in the African-born community. Up until now, health workers have faced a huge challenge getting their African-born clients into any form of mental health clinic for counseling. Our program gets around this stigma by offering clients an opportunity to simply discuss issues and problems. These services are not advertised as mental health counseling. Clients are on a waiting list for counseling services and SAYFSM is looking for ways to expand this service.
Our Outreach Coordinator, hired in January 2010, has been effective in reaching out to the African immigrants and refugees who have relocated to the Willmar and Worthington areas. This project was primarily funded through the Minnesota Department of Health. Due to lack of funds, MDH has since discontinued its funding of our project. We continue to work with the community and are pursuing alternative sources of revenue for this project. Our emphasis is on helping the communities to own the program. SAYFSM will focus on increasing their capacity.
During the last half of the year, outreach was centered in the Twin Cities area. Outreach and HIV prevention education focused on youth ages 13 to 21 and those over 55. Sessions were held in people’s homes. It was determined that additional education sessions targeting at-risk youth are needed.
In November, SAYFSM participated in the health fair held at the Hubb Center in St. Paul. There will be more educational opportunities at the Center on April 28, 2011.
- Starting in April, SAYFSM is kicking off a new project of the Women’s Self-Sufficiency Program. Those women with sewing skills will be offered the opportunity to learn to quilt. They will learn to make everything from full-size quilts to purses, bags, and other household items. Once the women are confident in their new skills, they will become the teachers of the new students entering the program.
- A quilting instructor has been hired for this project. She will be assisted by volunteers, so that the women may come into the SAYFSM sewing center and work on their projects throughout the week. Volunteers are being solicited from our church partners and the community.
- It is the goal of this project, that the women will gain new skills, determine the direction of the project, and give back to the program by teaching new enrollees to the program.