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HIV/AIDS, reforestation and fresh water top IVD themes in DR Congo
05 December 2002

Kinshasa: Some 80 college students gathered at the University of Kinshasa in the capital city on International Volunteer Day (IVD) to take part in an awareness raising conference on HIV/AIDS. Hosted by two United Nations Volunteer (UNV) medical doctors and a former Congolese UN Volunteer who worked with a World Health Organization (WHO) project on HIV/AIDS, the conference sensitized the students on the virus and provided an open forum for the students to discuss the impact of HIV/AIDS.

In Kisangani, a city located in the northern part of the country, 31 local volunteers with Foundation Femme Plus, a non-governmental organization specialized in addressing and supporting the psychological needs of HIV-positive people, held an information session with 15 target groups on HIV/AIDS. Discussion topics centred on what is HIV/AIDS, how is it spread, how is it prevented, ways HIV-positive people can lead a happy and healthy life and the role of volunteers in combating the disease. Condoms were distributed at the event, and the participants heard from a HIV-positive person who shared his story of living with the virus. The event was broadcast on radio for two consecutive days and received 30 minutes of airplay on television.

Back in Kinshasa, IVD marked the official inauguration of a reconstructed fresh water well. Initiated by UN Volunteers during the International Year of Volunteers (IYV) in 2001, the well now provides clean and safe drinking water.

A number of students at the CISCO Academy at the University also participated in a free training session on using the Internet as a valuable learning and research tool. The session was led by a national UN Volunteer information and communication technology specialist with the help of six student volunteers.

Other IVD activities outside of the capital included tree planting by 50 Scouts and two UN Volunteers in Lubumbashi, donating of food to the poor and tree planting by the Scouts, three UN Volunteers working with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the Red Cross in Kananga, construction of a water source for internally displaced persons and distribution of food and blankets to an orphanage by three UN Volunteers and members of an NGO in Mbuji Mayi, and in Kisenge, two UN Volunteers and many volunteers from a number of NGOs reconstructed a bridge, planted fruit trees and promoted volunteerism through various activities such as theatre and traditional dances.

The official ceremony to celebrate IVD was attended by representatives of the Government including the President of the Transitional Parliament and representatives from the Vice-Ministry of International Cooperation and the National Secretariat for Volunteerism. Speeches were read by the Minister of Social Affairs, the United Nations Development Programme Deputy Resident Representative for the country, the President of the IYV Committee and the Governor of Kinshasa.

Themes for IVD included the promotion of volunteerism, addressing HIV/AIDS, the importance of reforestation, protecting fresh water and donating to charities.

Many UN Volunteers, representatives from other UN agencies and members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) help organized the day and were also active participants during the official ceremony.