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Making A Difference

The following are stories from World Vision and Children International. The articles appear on the respective charity's web site.

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1.) Children International:

By Erin Fitzgerald

Four children of different backgrounds stand in a line clasping hands and smiling. In this carefree scene filled with lush green grass and blooming flowers, these children don't have to worry about equal opportunities in life. Their futures are shining brightly, and their dreams are well within their grasp.

But this perfect society is only an illusion. A dream that 16-year-old Wilda Vasquez Ibanez, a sponsored youth, portrays in her mural titled "Right to Equality."

The reality is much harsher for children in impoverished countries. Here in Guatemala, where Wilda lives, some families can't even afford to buy nutritional food, let alone help their children pursue an education. Their children's futures are dim, shadowed by a lack of knowledge and a society where the poor often can't break free of poverty.

Wilda completed her "Right to Equality" painting as part of a contest organized by social organizations. Painting has helped her overcome her shyness, and she hopes to attend college. In the meantime, she wants people to learn from and understand one another through her paintings.

"Age, color, gender and race are not important," Wilda said. "We are all human and should receive the same opportunities."

Visual messages serve as an important tool of communication in Latin America, where reading isn't stressed as much as it is in the United States, said Vickie Coromac, Children International's regional director for Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

"Some of the adolescents in our program in Latin America found that a good way to reach others was using visual art," Coromac said. "You retain an image better. It stays in your brain."

While impoverished families may still struggle to find work and send their children to school, sponsorship - and paintings like Wilda's - give them a reason to dream.

Wellington Gonzalez and Astrid Salazar of United International's Guatemala City project office contributed this report to Children International's web site.

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2.) World Vision Ie: (Part of World Vision International.)

HIV-AIDS Youth Programme in Tanzania

World Vision and the European Union (EU) recently signed a contract to fund an integrated programme to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS among 2.6 million youth in Tanzania. WV Ireland, WV Netherlands and WV Germany and are co-sponsoring this project, contributing a total of 270,000 Euros. The European Union supports this new initiative with 2.5 million Euros ($ 2.9 million USD).

WV Tanzania will implement this programme jointly with Chama cha Uzazi na Malezi Bora Tanzania (UMATI), the Centre for Education in Health Development(CEDHA), and the Institute of Public Health (IPH).

More than two million people have been infected with HIV in Tanzania since the first case was reported in 1983, and over 810,000 children below 15 years of age have lost one parent or both due to HIV/AIDS. An alarming trend indicates two thirds of new cases of HIV infections occurring among youths.

The programme will mobilise youths between the ages of 10-24, with a special focus on vulnerable girls, orphans, school-going children, and out of school youth. Community-based youth centres will provide youth-friendly information regarding reproductive health and HIV/AIDS, voluntary counselling and testing, access to reproductive health services, and treatment of STIs. More than 2000 orphaned girls will receive vocational training.

Programme activities target changing the sexual behaviour of youth through Behaviour Change Communication Information (BCCI). Training on HIV/AIDS will be provided to influential community persons like schoolteachers, religious leaders, traditional birth attendants, traditional healers, and village health workers, as well as youth peer educators.

Working through existing health structures, the programme will train 100 health service providers in quality Sexual and Reproductive Health Services (SRHS), including counselling services, to youth.

In order to improve the capacity of community-based structures, including faith-based organisations to respond to the needs of orphaned and vulnerable youth resulting from HIV/AIDS, the partners will mobilise and sensitise the community on the needs and legal rights of youth and orphans as well as on prevention and mitigation of HIV/AIDS.

The EU funded programme will be located in 225 villages in eight regions of the country (Arusha, Manyara, Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Singida, Dodoma and Kagera), benefiting over three million people.

Since 1990, WV Tanzania has been working in collaboration with the Tanzanian government, other NGOs and institutions to reduce HIV transmission and the impact of HIV/AIDS through integrated community-based primary health care, education and counselling, social care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

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