Every day 14,000 Africans become infected with HIV/AIDS. In an effort to counter the spread of this unrelenting enemy on the continent, international Christian broadcaster Trans World Radio (TWR) and Kerus Global Education have partnered to produce character-based radio programming geared toward helping African teenagers make responsible lifestyle choices. TWR and Kerus agree the best way to combat this disease is to not only care for the sick and provide a message of hope for those who are struggling, but also to prevent the spread of the virus altogether.
“The Church has launched many excellent programs but they’re not far-reaching,” Dr. Marcia Ball, co-founder/CEO of Kerus, said. “Kerus and Trans World Radio want to complement what’s already going on in the field and fill some of the gaps where programs are doing well.”
Kerus’ It Takes Courage! curriculum was selected as the centerpiece of the project. In partnership with Kerus, TWR is producing drama-centered radio programs based on educational materials Kerus has created. It is anticipated the first programs will air as a companion to a major HIV/AIDS prevention project Samaritan’s Purse is undertaking in four African nations. Kerus will also train pastors for further outreach to teens.
“Kerus has tremendous credentials when it comes to the educational aspects of HIV/AIDS and has done training in forty-one countries,” said Tom Watkins, who facilitates the new HIV/AIDS ministry for TWR. “What we’re hoping to do with the Samaritan’s Purse project is to air these programs at the same time they’re doing on-the-ground curriculum training.” With Samaritan’s Purse’s project working for up to five years in each country, TWR and Kerus hope to air the radio programs for at least two of those years.
TWR anticipates that the new Kerus radio program series will play a major role not only in Africa but in other parts of the world as the ministry continues its commitment to dramatically expand its HIV/AIDS broadcasts over the next six years.
“We’ve been focusing a lot on care of people with AIDS, on evangelizing them, on giving them hope for the future,” Watkins said. “But now we’re going to be working on prevention, which means essentially trying a program that [is geared towards] 10- to 15-year-olds, because that’s the reality in Africa.”
About two-thirds of the scripts have been written and TWR hopes to have the rest completed within the next couple months. More funding for this project is needed to resource the development of the programs. Watkins emphasizes that many ministries and partnerships are looking to do something on the HIV/AIDS prevention side, “and that’s where we feel these programs will play a very key, unique and pivotal role in encouraging and empowering youth to adopt.”
Dr. Ball and Dr. Jennie Cerullo of Kerus have begun on-the-ground work in Mozambique. Watkins reports the response to the first week of training in Mozambique was very positive. “We feel this is further evidence that these concepts which we will put to radio are having the desired impact,” he added. Ball and Cerullo are now back in Mozambique training additional workers who will carry the messages forward.
The effort will also focus on Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. There will be a second partnership in South Africa. Depending on funding, the partners will produce programs for parents and pastors and establish radio listener groups. They also hope to expand the efforts into other nations. A pilot program that TWR recorded in Caribbean English style can be heard at www.cgnradio.com.
“The important thing to remember is that HIV/AIDS is not just an African problem,” emphasized Watkins. Ball added, “The Church at large is mobilizing to respond to this epidemic like never before. Pray that we would have wisdom in creating partnerships and launching effective projects.”
For more information, visit Kerus Global Education, http://www.kerusglobal.org/, or Trans World Radio, http://www.twr.org/.