October 2021- Update from SOTENI Leadership
From SOTENI Co-Founder and Vice Chair, Victoria Wells Wulsin, MD DPH
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us as individuals and as an organization. SOTENI has been able to adapt our lessons from fighting HIV to COVID-19. Our impact is shown through the continued low rate of COVID-19 in SOTENI’s target areas.
- Adapting methodologies for providing access to potable water for persons living with HIV/AIDS to minimize possible exposure to COVID-19.
- Focusing on prevention by providing appropriate equipment. For HIV/AIDS, this meant condoms; for COVID-19, it means masks, gloves, gowns, soap, and sanitizer.
- Improving communications through greater access to smart phones and wi-fi. Virtual meetings have led to increased connections among our three rural sites, Nairobi, and the USA. In-person gatherings were replaced with on-line group discussions to continue psycho-social support and education without the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- Generosity from donors, enabling us to upgrade our infrastructure, provide equipment, and train our 40 workers in COVID-19, which they in turn share with their communities.
- Reducing the stigma of COVID-19, as we fought the stigma of HIV, with increased access to equipment, vaccines, grassroots leaders’ examples, and the science informing policy.
SOTENI leveraged our HIV infrastructure and resources to minimize the negative impact of COVID-19 during the first year of the global pandemic. As we enter the second year, we will build on our successes and expand our impact, thanks to your support.
From Hema Krishnan, Ph.D. Chair & SOTENI International Board of Trustees
SOTENI International has had another year of great success despite Covid-19’s tight grip on the world. First, our dedicated and committed staff, volunteers, and other supporters of SOTENI have helped us to stay true to our mission of preventing the effects of diseases through community based programs, and through online training programs related to infectious disease prevention, including Covid-19. SOTENI International (SI) and SOTENI Kenya (SK) are in excellent alignment and have executed several activities jointly. Board members from both SI and SK and staff from SK toured our Villages of Hope in June 2021 which will help to nurture our relationship with our beneficiaries. Technology integration in the villages will be accelerated following the grant award received from the International Foundation. Our programs are in good shape including Swazi SHEROES, a program in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) designed to combat HIV/AIDS through the economic empowerment of women. We seek your support as we continue to grow in Africa, to bring the best quality health services and support to people living with HIV/AIDS.
From Swazi SHEROES Founder and Board Chair, Steve Driehaus
FY 2020-2021 saw the launch of Swazi SHEROES, a new program of SOTENI International. Formally adopted as a program under the SOTENI banner, SHEROES strives to build the economic capacity of young women in Eswatini (Swaziland) as a way to help them make healthy choices and reduce the spread of HIV.
In September 2021, SHEROES held an online kick-off event with the screening of Liyana, raising $25,000 toward the start-up in Eswatini. This was accompanied by the establishment of an advisory board in the United States and partnership with the Imbeleko foundation in Eswatini. In 2021, SHEROES officially launched programming in Eswatini, opening a workshop in Manzini and training it’s first cohort of young women.
In addition to training the young women in the skills of sewing and craft design, SHEROES staff have been working with advisory board members and local professionals to design and delivery wrap around programming for the participants that includes psycho-social support and life skills training.
Despite COVID restrictions and political unrest, SHEROES has managed emerged as a safe haven for the young women of Eswatini and looks forward to growing rapidly in the coming year.
From Noreen Obilo, SOTENI Kenya Program Director
This year ushered hope as the Government of Kenya eased COVID-19 related restrictions which had paralyzed most organization operations. As the African proverb states “When the roots are deep there is no need to fear the wind,” despite the effects of the pandemic the purpose and resilience of the support groups prevailed and are slowly resuming project activities. This has allowed convening of monthly support group meetings which are instrumental in providing psychosocial support which in turn instill hope among members. SOTENI was also fortunate to have won the US Embassy Self-help grant, which was used to upgrade the maternity and laboratory in the SOTENI Village of Hope Mbakalo Health Clinic. We are also happy to announce that SOTENI vision of adopting technology in its field operations was realized through the a grant won from The International Foundation. The pandemic forced the organization to reevaluate new moods of engagement which strengthened relationships of SOTENI autonomous bodies via adoption of virtual engagements which reduced distances to only a phone call away.
We also suffered loss, as has everyone around the world. SOTENI lost a dear friend and a founder board member, Mr. Katheru Muthee to CODIV19. This loss was devasting for the SOTENI family and all who had an opportunity to work with him. He will be dearly missed.
Thank you again to all of you, our supporters, friends and partners. We are because you are.
- Victoria Wells Wulsin, MD DPH, Founder & Vice Chair, SOTENI International and SOTENI Kenya
- Hema Krishnan, Ph.D. Chair, SOTENI International Board of Trustees
- Jenny Brady, MPA Executive Director
- Noreen Obilo, SOTENI Kenya Program Director
- Steve Driehaus, Board Chair, Swazi SHEROES