From when I started working at my site, I was told abou the HIVAIDS pandemic and how reactions in a rural place might be....Here in TZ many people in rural areas are stigmatized for being sick...noone talks about it, if someone dies from it, obviously it was malaria, not AIDS(even if there is no malaria in the area). 3-4months of living in the village brought many people to my house, openly discussing their lives, the trials they have gone through... each one with a more horrifying story than the next... from then until now, I have gone from my first four 'friends' to close to 150 friends, spreading out from as far as 3 hour walks away. I was overwhelmed with 30 people all coming to my house, asking how I could possibly assist them...I had no clue! I am just a volunteer! I can offer hugs and a listening ear, but not much more than that! I took a proactive stance, and went to talk to the NGO's nearby which I had heard were doing a lot of work with the HIVAIDS community. I specifically worked along side one of them, referring all my friends to their NGO to get assistance-anything ranging from temporary food releif for those that were starving, those that were freezing in the cold nights of the southern highlands winters, those that needed milk powder for the infants that lost their mothers.....and most importnatly, helping ALL the people in the ward I live in receive transport to the CTC, the closest being 50 KM away. Transport vehicles were found, and provided for by the Catholic Mission nearby-we didn't have to rent the car, but just pay for the fuel. It was taking 20 people every week in a car designed for 15(and by American standards you would be miserable.....)and after a few months, starting going two times a week. There were just SO many people wanting to go and get treated! They started bonding with eachother, talking about the problems they were facing, giving eachother advice...it was a truly beautiful thing to see. Going from a hush-hush topic to something that is openly discussed.....and I was privledged enough to have my villagers share their experiences with me! We cried together, laughed together....dreamt together about a CTC opening in our village togheter.....and now, that dream looks like it will come true! The NGO that I had been working for, received a very generous donation from the US and was able to start plans to build a CTC,as half of the funds to build the whole CTC is now accounted for! Right now, Doctors from the town 50+KM away come twice a month to have a "CTC" day... checking old patients, testing new ones, enrolling others.... There are already near to 200 people registered at Mdabulo, and more being tested every day. This is a phenomenal breakthrough, and somthing that I am extremely grateful for. Lives are being saved, improved and assisted by just having this one service offered twice a month. I can not congratulate the NGO and all of those that donated, enough. You guys are doing something tremendous and inspiring....and all of my friends that I have met over the way had these amazing smiles on their faces as they were sitting in the waiting area in their own village....being able to go home the SAME DAY as their treatments as opposed to sleeping in a guest house or outside or not eating b/c they didnt' have money to spare. Their lives are changing- those that have it hardest and suffer the most in this world are having something done for them, something made easier and I am eternally grateful for all those that have contributed. This is my big shout out and THANK YOU for everyone that cared! I am going to attatch some pics (we are waiting for the funds for the other half of the CTC, and then this can be a full-time service to 1000s of people) and show you the beauty of the people that have shared their stories, lives, potatoes and laughter with me. This is the real reason I love my community so much. It is the everyday people that rock the village and my world.