Discrimination on the Decline, AIDS Worker Says
During the early decades of the HIV pandemic, “it was very difficult for people to discuss their status,” said Esther Lupafya, a community health nurse who coordinates the AIDS program at Ekwendeni Hospital in northern Malawi. This made encouraging testing and providing care a challenge, but over the years Lupafya has seen a transformation: “Stigma and discrimination do not exist in our area anymore,” she said.
Lupafya spoke to staff at national offices in November, following a meeting of the Presbyterian World Service and Development committee.
Ekwendeni Hospital is run by the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian’s Livingstonia Synod. Its AIDS program, which began in 1989, is supported by PWS&D. It aims to prevent the spread of HIV and support people whose lives have been affected by the virus.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, gradually weakens the immune system of an infected person. If left untreated, HIV will develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS.
Since HIV and AIDS were first reported over 30 years ago, the epidemic has had a particularly damaging effect on the social and economic fabric of Malawi. HIV infection rates rose, leading to hundreds of thousands AIDS-related deaths. No one wanted to discuss the disease in a society where those infected faced severe stigma and discrimination, Lupafya said.
Today, the HIV infection rate in Ekwendeni’s catchement area is eight per cent—compared to 12 per cent across Malawi. Last year only two of 92 babies whose mothers were HIV-positive became infected at birth. Lupafya said these successes have led the government of Malawi to use Ekwendeni’s AIDS program as a model for similar programs in the country.
“All of these achievements come from what people contribute,” said Lupafya, referring to the daily efforts of staff and community volunteers, as well as the financial gifts of Canadians.
Lupafya spoke in Ontario churches and at the University of Western Ontario during her visit.
She said she would tell people back home that Canadians are very rich. “You have all your basic needs, more than your basic needs. Here everywhere there is food. In Malawi we are forced to eat nsima [a staple food made of maize flour] and rice because we have limited resources.”—Emily Vandermeer
December 1 is World AIDS Day. To find out more about PWS&D’s partnership in Malawi, visit presbyterian.ca/pwsd
New Program Brings Hope in Scarborough, Ont.
A partnership between St. Stephen’s, Scarborough, Ont., and Toronto City Mission has created an afterschool program in an area known for gang violence.
The idea for a joint project emerged at a funeral. Rev. Alexander Wilson of St. Stephen’s was preaching; after the service, Maureen Pryce, development officer with TCM, told him she “appreciated hearing a gospel message.” The two struck up a conversation about possibilities for a partnership. “We didn’t go and find each other,” Wilson said. Their chance meeting became, instead, “a positive side to death.”
St. Stephen’s is located in the Kingston-Galloway neighbourhood, a densely populated area of high-rise apartments, subsidized housing and culturally diverse residents. It’s also a neighbourhood associated with the notorious Galloway Boys gang, whose members police believe are responsible for several shootings in the past 12 months.
Among the victims was 24-year-old D’Mitre Barnaby, who was killed in a parking lot behind an apartment building last December. The Jamaican immigrant used to live in the same building as Rev. Wilson.
“[Barnaby] was shot because he was mistakenly thought to be a gang member,” said Wilson.
“We need to start early with the kids, and make a difference in their lives. It needs to be more than the social; they need the spiritual connection. We’re bringing the gospel to the kids as well.”
On Oct. 23, the groups formally launched their new partnership with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The afterschool program began with 25 children aged five to 12. Most of them live in the building next to the church, and come from a range of backgrounds including Sri Lankan, Haitian and countries in the Caribbean. The program offers homework help and worship services, and is run by a staff person from TCM and a handful of volunteers from St. Stephen’s.
In partnership with Daily Bread and Second Harvest, the church also runs a weekly food bank and a monthly clothing bank.
Toronto City Mission is an ecumenical organization that works to create programs and alleviate poverty. It was founded in 1879. ¦ —Connie Wardle
Presbyterians and Allies Honoured
Seven people associated with the Presbyterian Church have received awards for their contributions to civil society.
In Kenora, Ont., Colin Wasacase received the 2012 Ontario Senior Achievement Award in October. He’s one of 20 seniors of distinction chosen by Lieutenant Governor David Onley.
Wasacase, 75, is a Cree elder originally from Broadview, Sask. He moved to Kenora in the late 1950s.
“I wanted to teach. I wanted to work in the residential school system. It was an opportunity to make changes; it wasn’t easy, though,” said Wasacase, who attended a Presbyterian residential school in Birtle, Man., as a child.
Since then he has become a well-known member in the Kenora community, where he served as a city councillor and chair of the police services board. He continues to serve as board chair for the Kenora Fellowship Centre (also known as Anamiewigummig, which means “house of prayer” in Ojibwe). The drop-in centre and shelter is a mission of Canadian Ministries.
When asked what the award means to him, Wasacase joked, “It means I’m getting old.”
“It’s very humbling,” he added. “My gratification is seeing people healed. A lot of wonderful things happen because people are willing to make changes and create pride in the community.”
In October, Carol Goar, columnist for the Toronto Star and former board member for the Presbyterian Record, received the inaugural Ashok Chandwani Media Award.
Presented to Goar by the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the award honours leading journalists who bring human rights issues to the public’s consciousness.
“I am honoured—and a little overwhelmed,” Goar told guests in Toronto. “I can’t thank the Urban Alliance for Race Relations and Ashok’s family enough for recognizing my efforts to show the human faces between society’s stereotypes, biases and uninformed judgments.”
The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal was awarded to a number of Presbyterians, including Rev. Harvey Self, moderator of the 2009 General Assembly and minister at Tweedsmuir, Orangeville, Ont. Other honourees include three members of Central, Hamilton: Rev. Dr. Clyde Irvine, Dr. David Koyzis and Heather Johnston.
Johnston was specifically honoured for being a champion of ecumenism and a longtime advocate for the rights of women within the church. She was previously awarded the Order of Ontario.
Don Fenn, whose advertising company represents the Record, also received a Jubilee Medal. Fenn is the president of Caregiver Omnimedia and publisher of the Family Caregiver Newsmagazine. ¦ —Seth Veenstra
Canada Youth Becomes Biennial Event
Starting in 2014, the church’s national youth conference will take place every two years instead of every three years, the Life and Mission Agency announced in October.
“Everybody was quite excited about the idea,” said Rev. Helen Smith, convener of the LMA committee and minister at Centennial, Calgary. “Canada Youth is something we’re doing very right. We’ve got this going and it’s going well. We should keep it up or step it up.”
Since 2000, the Canada Youth conference has been held triennially at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ont. It features programming for teenagers, young people interested in mission and adults involved in youth ministry.
“The church perpetually identifies youth, the mission of the church, and leadership development/equipping as essential values,” the LMA said in its announcement.
In October, Canadian Ministries offered each synod a matching grant of $1,000 to help with fundraising for CY.
About 500 people attended Canada Youth 2012. ¦ —CW
Church Mourns Professor and Former Moderator
Rev. Dr. Calvin Pater, former chair of church history at Knox College, Toronto, and Rev. Dr. Arthur Currie, moderator of the 1981 General Assembly, both passed away on Oct. 15.
“It is easy to believe that a man with the name of Calvin Augustine Pater was born to be a church historian,” said the obituary posted on Knox College’s website. The Dutch native immigrated to the United States with his family in 1956. He received his Master of Theology and doctorate degrees at Harvard University and became a teaching fellow there. He also worked with congregations in the U.S., including West End Presbyterian in New York, where he helped develop a program for teenagers from the city’s black and Puerto Rican ghettos.
He became chair of church history at Knox in 1978 and served there until he retired in 2005. Pater died at the age of 73.
Arthur Currie, 93, came from a line of Presbyterian ministers and continued in the family tradition. A graduate of Knox College, he served congregations in Rosetown, Sask., Toronto and Ottawa during 41 years of ministry. He was elected Moderator of the 107th General Assembly. Five years later, he retired, but continued to serve as interim moderator in several congregations.
“Deeply committed to … ministry, Arthur’s genuine love for others touched the lives of many people,” reads his obituary. “His quiet strength, kindness and infinite patience were an inspiration to those who were honoured to know him.” ¦ —CW
Keeley Releases CD
Blogger and music director Evangeline Keeley released a CD of Advent and Christmas music at a concert on Nov. 18.
“Each piece was carefully chosen to balance lesser known carols with those that are more familiar, and the meditative ones with up-tempo arrangements,” said Keeley, who blogs on the Presbyterian Record website and directs music at St. Andrew’s, Winnipeg. “There is so much more to the music of the season than the ‘top 10′ we hear over and over. I wanted to create a CD that would include some carols we rarely hear.”
Carols of Hope and Joy contains 16 tracks of piano music. For more information, visit evangelinekeeley.com