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My Brother and Sister's Keeper-The CEL Family Support Group

Lome-Togo: 4th July, 2018 – 5th July 2018: They know each other by their names. They know where each member lives. They perfectly understand each other’s challenges-self-denial, rejection and hopelessness. These they understood too well. Then came a helping hand; the formation of Centre of Hope Loyola ‘Support Group.’ This time, hope was in the air. The laughter is now evident. The warmth is felt and so is a sense of belonging. A family they are! It’s not just a group but a family!
 
Every second Wednesday of the month, members of the support group would meet without fail. The group will start with a word of prayer. Spiritual nourishment plays a key role in their lives. They encourage each other to gain strength to face challenges as they journey on with life.
 
Each month, members have a theme of discussion. Usually, members brainstorm and unanimously, come up with a theme of discussion. Guided by experienced counselors, members would share their experiences including their difficulties, fears and successes. They know that there is no right or wrong answer. Each member is therefore free to give their opinion. Sharing amongst members of the group has led to development of talents of animation. Others now easily control their emotions. Since they are familiar with each other’s burden, they become pillars of strength for one another. It’s a moment of reunion for them.  A sense of belonging and that no one is left alone.
 
The skilled counselor facilitating their discussions will ensure that members consume factual information. The counselor will seek to calm their fears. Members would then sing a song that encourages them. A winning spirit motivates them to overcome their daily challenges.  A concluding prayer will end a session on members’ discussion about a topic. This exercise leaves members feeling rejuvenated and very hopeful.
 
Members will then share a meal. But just before a meal is shared, one or two designated members would announce the chosen menu. They will explain the importance and the choice of the ingredients used on the menu for their health. They will be sensitized on cooking preparation and ways to observe hygiene while making that kind of menu in their respective homes. They are also encouraged to eat healthy balanced diet.
 
They will then wash their hands with soap and gather around a table to share a meal. A free and relaxed atmosphere would be felt. During this moment, one would hear jokes from members as they enjoy their meal. Often members would exchange ideas, laugh and at times, even find a topic of discussion which will be planned for sharing in their next monthly meetings.
 
Each month, members would come up with themes on issues that add value to their lives and those surrounding them. For instance, in the month of June 2018, members discussed ‘importance of making known their HIV Status.’
 
CEL Support Group remains a flagship activity of the Department of Management for beneficiaries on the active queue.
On a separate other event, at the Archdiocese of Lome, in rural communities where access to healthcare remains a great challenge, the Centre of Hope Loyola continues to provide health services especially services relating to HIV and AIDS. For instance, at the Center Health Bakhita Holy of the Canossian Sisters, Centre of Hope Loyola mobilized Togolese volunteer doctors who played a critical role in their HIV and AIDS awareness campaigns and screening of HIV and Hepatitis under the initiative of the Organization of Charity for Integral Development (OCDI).  During the awareness campaign, 59 people were screened for HIV and 39 others were tested for Antigen of Hepatitis B of Surface (HBsAg).