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South Africa Meets Southwest DC: Local Church Hosts Youth AIDS Social

By Candace Y. A. Montague

February 7, 2011

Westminster Presbyterian Church in Southwest DC was the scene of a international youth social on Saturday. The Bokamoso Youth Foundation from Winterveldt, South Africa spent time talking, dancing, and sharing their country's struggle with HIV through performance poetry with DC youth from the Children's Hospital TASA (Teens Against the Spread of AIDS) program.

The gathering drew more than fifty participants along with members from the church. The goal was to share ideas, create new friendships, and showcase the talents between the youth groups. The social was a precursor to the final Bokamoso performance in DC being held this Friday.

The Bokamoso Youth Center offers programs and services to South African youth with activities such as counseling and social services, youth leadership projects and the Love Life program, which trains the youth to be mentors and speak out against AIDS. Twelve youth from the Performance Arts program are selected to visit DC for a month to share their life experiences and their hopes for the future through song, dance, and poetry. Bokamoso, which means future in Tswana, provides scholarships for the students to go on to college.

Jabu Mfumba, assistant director of the performance program, says getting the word out about AIDS in South Africa is just as difficult there as it is here. "Some of the people feel that if you have AIDS, that's on you. Don't bring it over here. These young people work hard to talk with the community about the disease at the [Bokamoso] center." The youth from TASA speak of similar difficulties here in the United States, specifically DC. They also performed poetry during the Saturday gathering.

In South Africa, 1.9 million children are orphaned by AIDS. There are many efforts to prevent the spread of the disease, but stigma, trouble with access to treatment and lack of educational resources work against the efforts. Similar obstacles face the youth in DC in spite of the myriad of resources avaliable. Manne DeBiasi, board member for START at Westminster says that having a social like this provides opportunity to make connections and see things from the other person's perspective. "It's a good opportunity for the kids from Bokamoso to see that we have the same problems here even though we have so many resources available."

The social was sponsored by START at Westminster, Street Wise Foundation, Westminster Church, Positive Youth Institute, Children's National Medical Center, NAPWA and Domino's Pizza. Bokamoso will perform on Friday, February 4th at George Washington University's Marvin Center Theater. For tickets, call (202) 994-0995 or email

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D.C. HIV/AIDS Examiner

Candace Y.A. Montague

Candace Y.A. Montague

Candace Y.A. Montague has been learning about HIV since 1988 (and she has the certificates from the American Red Cross to prove it). Health is a high priority to Candace because she believes that nothing can come of your life if you're not healthy enough to enjoy it. One of her two master's degrees is in Community Health Promotion and Education. Candace was inspired to act against HIV after seeing a documentary in 2008 about African-American women and HIV. She knew that writing was the best way for her to make a difference and help inform others. Candace is a native Washingtonian and covers HIV news all around D.C. She has covered fundraisers, motorcycle rides, town hall meetings, house balls, Capitol Hill press conferences, election campaigns and protests for The DC and emPower News Magazine.

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