AJAN House is the coordinating hub of the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) and is based in Kangemi, a very poor suburb of Nairobi, Kenya. The core team at AJAN House, headed by the AJAN Coordinator Paterne Mombé SJ, implements the mission of AJAN to encourage Jesuits and their co-workers to respond to HIV and AIDS through facilitation and support, networking, advocacy and resource mobilisation.
In 2011, the team was enriched by the placement of Patrice Ndayisenga SJ who joined AJAN house for regency (a placement undertaken by Jesuit in between philosophy and theology studies). Meanwhile Augostine Ekeno SJ left AJAN House in mid-September for further studies in Dublin after offering sterling service as assistant Coordinator of AJAN. The other members of the AJAN House team are account Michael Ndonye, librarian Helen Ayaga, Pauline Wanjau, assistant to Fr Mombé and working on youth outreach, and Maurice Bob-Oduor.
Visits to field projects
Fr Paterne regularly visits Jesuit AIDS programmes in different African countries to offer expertise, moral and practical support, encouraging projects already under way and helping new ones get off the ground.
Bringing Jesuits and co-workers involved in AIDS ministry together also serves as a much-appreciated means of support and capacity-building. AJAN House organises thematic meetings for those involved in the same types of AIDS ministry: for example, two meetings have been held on HIV prevention among youth, which led to a customised programme for implementation in Jesuit schools, called AHAPPY, and training to use it. Meetings have also been held for those involved in parish ministry. Sometimes meetings are organised for particular Jesuit provinces or geographic regions.
For participants, the meetings serve as a welcome chance to share problems, ideas and hopes, and to gradually identify a Jesuit ‘way of working’ in AIDS ministry by reflecting on lessons learned and developing best practices based on their knowledge and experience. There is more: increasingly AJAN House is including formation components in its meetings to build the capacity of Jesuits running AIDS programmes. Capacity-building has been carried out in areas such as project management, youth prevention and mainstreaming AIDS projects into wider development programmes, and a workshop on advocacy is in the pipeline.
The way ahead of AJAN as a network is planned by the AJAN Coordinator together with Jesuits running leading AIDS programmes. In July 2011, a meeting was held in Nairobi to shape the main strategic objectives that AJAN will follow in the coming years, the fruit of which has been condensed in AJAN’s action plan for 2012 to 2015.
Communications and information-sharing
AJAN House has always invested plenty of resources in communications to keep information flowing throughout the network and also to communicate the work, experiences and reflections of Jesuits and co-workers involved in AIDS ministry, as well as those they serve. Ample space is given to the people we serve, to give them a voice to share their stories about being affected by HIV/AIDS. Practically ever since AJAN was launched in 2002, a monthly electronic newsletter called AJANews has been issued in English, French and Portuguese and, in 2007, a second e-newsletter called AJANotices was launched just for Jesuits involved in AIDS ministry, their co-workers and superiors. AJAN House also issues an annual report detailing the many initiatives taken by Jesuits to counter the challenges of the pandemic. Publications and audio-visuals are also a key component of the work of the AJAN House team. A well-stocked documentation centre is based at AJAN House and work is well under way to make its electronic resources available online.
Throughout the year, AJAN House welcomes guests from around the world. Some stay for weeks or months, normally young Jesuits who come for a period of internship or voluntary service, sharing in the life of AJAN House as a coordinating network hub and Jesuit community, and often helping out at the AIDS-related programmes of the Jesuit parish of St Joseph the Worker parish in Kangemi. Others come to use the documentation centre for their research. Many more pass through for an evening: Jesuits visiting from other African countries, international volunteers, donors and others. A committed team of support staff do their utmost to make everyone feel welcome.