From Idaho to Uganda by Firelight, a Facebook Story

A few months ago, we received a call from an Idaho power company about our Ugandan grantee partner, St. Francis Health Care Services. Idaho Power wanted to make a donation to the small organization, but had some questions. a smiling boy holding a young boy in a fieldIt turns out that Adam, who recently returned to the States, had nominated his story about living in Uganda to Idaho Power’s Powering Lives campaign. He was volunteering with St. Francis at the time to create an online public health forum. His forum accepts anonymous health questions for professional advice. Stigma about HIV can discourage people from seeking health advice and services so forums like this can help overcome barriers, making information more widely available. Adam’s story received 3,000 votes on Facebook, making it a runner up for the big prize of a TV spot and still eligible for a smaller award. “Adam’s story was really powerful and a great cause so we wanted to make a donation to St. Francis Health Care Services, ” Krista West from Idaho Power told us. You can read Adam’s story on Facebook.

When it came to sending the funds, a few glitches surfaced. Faustine Ngarambe, the executive director at St. Francis, then suggested that Firelight might be able to help. That led to the call we received. It was easier for Idaho Power to give a domestic donation that reached St. Francis Health Care Services in Jinja by donating to Firelight. This way, Idaho Power could avoid setting up the systems needed to meet legal requirements of international grants because Firelight already has them place. It also increased their confidence in the donation, knowing we’d been supporting St. Francis since 2001.

For us at Firelight, it’s an endorsement of our approach when grantee partners like Faustine know we’re here to help. It reminds us that our mutually trusted partnership model is working.

St. Francis operates a mentoring initiative called the Shadow Idol program. It brings young people together to talk about how they can protecttwo girls smiling with arms around eachother themselves from HIV and other health risks. The participants, and often it’s the girls, later become facilitators of reproductive talks and peer-to-peer discussions in their community and in schools. Saturday meetings gather children together to talk about issues like nutritional support. Here, the young people host prominent guest speakers from the community and the discussions are attended in large numbers. Staff have noticed that it boosts morale and offers important advice.

They’ve also introduced voluntary HIV testing and counseling at these discussions. And with the help of guardians, HIV positive children have been given life saving antiretroviral (ARV) treatments. “Such children wouldn’t have had the chance to get early treatment had it not been for this new initiative of voluntary counseling and testing under the mentorship program.” St. Francis informed us. They also offer home-based care for children who have lost their parents and are sick themselves. Last year, they treated 737 children, adding an additional day for visits to reach even more children.

The donation received by Idaho Power comes after a recent community fundraising drive to help construct a maternity ward. The maternity ward will help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS from mothers to their children through ARV treatment and education. Community members helped to build the structure and donated cement, bricks, and timber. It’s almost complete, with only plastering and furnishing left.

Firelight has supported St. Francis Health Care Services since 2001 to help foster families earn sustainable income, and to provide food, medical, and counseling support for children and their families.