Family Matters: Programs for HIV-Positive Families
There are more than 1,500 children and youth living with HIV in Canada. Yet, in many parts of the country, finding supports for them is still very challenging. Though a lack of funds limits what many AIDS service organizations (ASOs) can provide, three programs offer excellent services for HIV-positive families in our three most populated provinces -- Camp Positive Family in Quebec, The Teresa Group in Ontario and Camp Moomba in British Columbia.
Camp Positive Family
Nestled among the lush slopes of the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec, Camp Positive has been a summertime sanctuary for hundreds of HIV-positive adults from around the province for nearly 20 years. This year, a new camp specifically for HIV-positive women and their families -- aptly called Camp Positive Family -- will be held in the last two weeks of July, the most popular summer vacation period in Quebec.
André Huot, director of Camp Positive, has seen the population of people looking for HIV support diversifying and so he decided to create Camp Positive Family. The summer 2011 launch of Camp Positive Family is already shaping up to be a success. To ensure that the camp addresses the needs of those who attend, Huot has collaborated with staff and members from three local agencies: Stella, an agency that works with women in the sex trade; the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal; and GAP-VIES, an organization with close ties to the Haitian and African communities of Quebec. These organizations offer HIV-positive women and their families support, information and community. Camp Positive Family is expected to be a well-planned and welcoming extension of their efforts.
Activities at the first annual Camp Positive Family will include workshops on HIV meds and adherence, yoga for the whole family and discussions about disclosure. Campfires and family-oriented theme evenings as well as culturally appropriate menus encourage community building and time for women to connect with each other. Children and youth will have opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, make new friends and benefit from the facilities at Camp Kinkora, where the camps are run.
For more information, get in touch with André Huot at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Teresa Group
When asking around for resources for families with HIV in Ontario, the first words you'll likely hear are "The Teresa Group" -- and for good reason. The Teresa Group is one of the few Canadian organizations that focus specifically on the needs of families affected by HIV. Started in 1990 with just five families, the Toronto-based ASO currently serves nearly 400 families and more than 700 children. Its dedicated staff has become the go-to resource for practical assistance and emotional support for families living with HIV.
The organization works alongside a team of other community agencies and the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children to ensure that its programming meets the needs of its clients. For example, many families that use The Teresa Group's programs are not just living with HIV but also struggling with poverty. So the agency has created a practical assistance program that offers an impressive range of supports: It provides welcome-home baby supplies, free formula, diapers, a children's clothing bank, assistance with public transit fares, packed lunches for school and tutoring for students in grades 2 to 12.
In addition to offering practical help, The Teresa Group holds support groups that address the emotional needs of children and youth affected by the HIV of a family member. These groups provide young people with a safe space to discuss the unique challenges they face. Facilitated and supported discussions have broached such topics as stigma and disclosure. And activities with themes such as bereavement, personal growth, self-care and relationships have been well received by participants. Children explore their ideas, feelings and experiences using storytelling, role-play, art, music, games and other creative forms of expression. The success of this organization is rooted in its sensitive and holistic approach to working with children and families.
Find The Teresa Group online at www.teresagroup.ca
For many children, whether they themselves live with HIV or they are affected by its presence in their family, life with the virus can be isolating. Finding peers who understand what they are going through can be difficult. In British Columbia, children impacted by HIV have a place to go where they can let go: Camp Moomba. Since 1997, the overnight camp has provided a safe space for children and youth age 6 to 17, where they can find support and friendship and connect with other children who share similar experiences.
Moomba is an Australian Aboriginal word that means "join together to have fun" -- and the camp certainly aims to ensure that everyone involved is enjoying themselves. Activities include kayaking, swimming, fishing, music, rock climbing, arts and crafts, archery and hiking. Older campers partake in two-night camping adventures.
Operated in partnership with the Vancouver YMCA and the Western Canadian Pediatric AIDS Society, Camp Moomba is located about one hour outside of Vancouver, on the shores of the Indian Arm River, surrounded by beautiful forests and mountains. Because many of the families whose children attend Camp Moomba cannot afford to pay for camp, all of the transportation and camp costs are covered.
Once a specialized summer camp for fewer than 20 children, Camp Moomba is now open year-round and hosted more than 100 kids in 2008. Friendships made in the summer can stay strong during winter ski camps, Christmas activities and leadership development programs. Young adults who attended camp as children often return to become counsellors.
For more information, visit www.campmoomba.com
Although your local ASO may not have specific programming for families, it may be happy to provide support, information and referrals. Check out www.aso411.ca or call CATIE at 1.800.263.1638 to find an organization close to you.
This article was provided by Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. It is a part of the publication The Positive Side. Visit CATIE's Web site to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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