Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Creating awareness and changing lives

The Wake Up Pune initiative was started in 2006 by a few HIV/AIDS charities throughout the city to promote the issue of HIV/AIDS in the English speaking section of the society. Deep Griha Society already has an HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment programme called DISHA which works amongst the Marathi and Hindi speaking sections of the society and Wake Up Pune was a way that they could make sure that every section of society would be targeted. However over time, Wake Up Pune has now become solely run from Deep Griha Society. With the help of overseas and local volunteers, Wake Up Pune runs awareness events all over the city in shopping malls, restaurants, bars, on the street and in Corporate settings.

The first big event that I was involved in was when we took over a shopping mall, Gold Adlabs, in Kalyani Nagar, Pune for a whole day. We joined forces with Deep Griha Society’s DISHA programme and created awareness through disruptive theatre, fun games, knowledge surveys and just being a general presence in the mall talking to the public.

Disruptive Theatre.

DISHA team's Disruptive Theatre.

Face paint.

Volunteers Anurag, Becca, Valentine and Susannah.

Creating awareness.

The second event that I attended was a Melava + Matrimonial event held in Abul Kalam Hall in Koregaon Park on Sunday 7th August 2011. It was hosted by DISHA, Wake Up Pune and another NGO called Santulan which arranges vocational rehabilitation for people caught in the grips of alcohol and drug addiction. It was the second year that the event was held and the aim of it was to bring people living with HIV together to find a life partner, a community, love and happiness; all of which can be hard to find sometimes.

Abul Kalam Hall

The event was advertised through the media and through national HIV/AIDS charities and over 150 candidates attended with a similar amount of their family members for support. Some candidates even came from places as far away as Gujurat, Andra Pradesh and Karnataka.

It was an all day event my role was to look after a small group of women throughout the event. The day started with a welcome speech in the main hall upstairs for everyone and then the candidates and family members were separated for the whole of the morning programme. The family members were shown awareness videos, Q&A with doctors and psychologists, positive speakers and with a couple who had married and were expecting a baby as a result of the event last year. The candidates were split into groups of men and women and were taken downstairs to a large hall where each group of women rotated around the groups of men every 20 minutes and played games such as ‘Question Bingo’ and ‘Who Am I?’ in order to get to know each other. Just before lunch, the candidates were able to freely mingle and talk to each other.

Lunch was catered by Santulan’s newly trained caterers who were all ex-addicts who have recently finished a 15 detox programme. It was really delicious.

Wake Up Pune Volunteers serving lunch.

Ruju and Joe happily serving lunch.

Anuja serving lunch from the massive bowl!

After lunch, the candidates were able to mingle once again, this time with their family members. Our job as volunteers was to help facilitate any meetings with each other that the candidate’s wanted and just making sure that they were all looked after.

By the end of the day, there were announcements that about four couples had agreed to marry and others had agreed to discuss marriage further. In all there were about 14 or 15 couples that had made connections with regards to life partners and many more made new connections with other people living with HIV.

It was a fantastic day and it was really special to be involved in such an important day in the lives of so many people.

All the DISHA team and Wake Up Pune Volunteers.

Thanks to Kassie Dantzler and Susannah Hodge for some of these photos.

If you want more information on any of the organisations mentioned above, please visit the following sites:

No comments: