COBAP (Community Based AIDS Programme) is a local response to HIV in one of the slum areas in Kampala. It has carried out a number of activities, mainly to improve health and so to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS in the community.
When it began in the early 1990s, COBAP struggled to mobilise the community. The community members stayed away from anything to do with COBAP, mainly because of the high levels of stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Later, however, sick people started coming forward. They received treatment for infections, counselling and regular visits. These activities grew to include support for micro-credit and vocational skills training.
With time, the community response grew rapidly to the extent that COBAP was overwhelmed. The community was very appreciative of the work done. Now they wanted COBAP to help them do even more! Young people in particular requested help. COBAP carried out an assessment in order to understand their needs clearly, but it was already overstretched. It had a few resources that it could commit to this work but was not sure they would continue for very long. However, because the need was so great, they went ahead and got involved.
It became increasingly clear to COBAP that in order to help target young people more meaningfully, they would need to partner with an organisation or people with experience in working with young people. Who could they work with? In what ways could they work together? Were they just looking for funding or for technical skills? How could the young people participate fully in the discussions? What about COBAP’s values – would another organisation share them?
These and other questions should be raised whenever groups are considering networking. It is very important to find good answers before beginning.
Finally, COBAP found a partner in ACET, with whom they shared aims, goals and values. This partner had more experience in working with young people. COBAP gained many benefits from this partnership. It was better able to achieve its objectives and to increase its impact with people in need, both in the short term and the medium term. The relationship opened COBAP’s eyes to considering other approaches and possible partnerships.