In mid-September, we – Joe Herrmann, Luke Whittaker and Mark Nunn – will travel to Sierra Leone to visit a number of the partner organisations that do HIV work in that country alongside Christian Aid (CA). We will be there to assist in a pretty unusual project.
A mobile recording studio will be set up in Bo, Sierra Leone, with the goal of helping local musicians and HIV peer educators to produce an album of locally written anti-HIV songs. Alongside the recording, Luke, a computer animation expert (www.lukewhittaker.co.uk) will be teaching local young people techniques that will allow them to create music videos to accompany the songs. Using their new materials, trained Sierra Leonean peer educators will then be able to spread public health messages to the region's youth, teaching them about HIV and how to protect themselves, and helping to remove the dangerous stigma that surrounds it. Once the CD is completed, through a sister project in the country's capital, Freetown, the music will be broadcast on national radio and the videos aired on SLTV, a national TV channel. In this way, HIV messages will be spread as widely as possible throughout the country in a form that young people will – it is hoped – listen to.
Music is a good way of delivering important information: many young people in Sierra Leone missed out years of formal education because of the recent civil war, and can't read or write. Adult literacy is only 29.6%; amongst the youth, it's 38.2%.
We do not have the budget to purchase all of the equipment necessary to do the best job we can, and are unwilling to ask Christian Aid for further contributions, as CA are already paying for flights and accommodation (not to mention Mark’s salary – he’s a CA employee who has kindly been allowed to take the necessary month-and-a-half out of his working schedule to do this).
Although we will use as much of our own gear as necessary, funds are still needed to purchase further equipment and materials. It is impossible therefore to say precisely how much we aim to raise – the more money that we raise, the better (and tougher) the equipment it will be possible to buy, and the easier and more productive the project ought to become. With £5000, a reasonably good quality, rugged mobile studio could be assembled from scratch; but even £500 would ease some of the budgetary pressure. We’re resourceful, and we’re confident that we can do a good job with whatever we’re able to raise; but more money would certainly increase the chances of a higher-quality product at the end of it. That’s where you come in.
In the interests of transparency it must be pointed out that we have not yet decided what will happen to all of the gear after the work is done. Some will certainly be left in Bo; but if successful, there is a chance that this project could be replicated in other settings – Ethiopia has already been mentioned as a potential project – and some equipment may be retained.
For more information on the project, and on Sierra Leone and HIV, see this website:
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Mark, Luke and Joe
HIV prevention in post-war Sierra Leone
Fundraising for Christian Aid
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