New collaboration strengthens AIDS fight
Marion Bunch, founder of Rotarians for Fighting AIDS looks on as Albert Siemens, FHI chair and CEO, signs a memorandum of understanding in Montréal, Québec, Canada, in June, which commits the two organizations to explore potential collaborative initiatives. Photo courtesy of Rotarians for Fighting AIDS
A Rotarian Action Group committed to fighting AIDS is joining forces with a global health organization that has used scientific methodology to prevent disease and improve the lives of women and children living in poverty.
Rotarians for Fighting AIDS and Family Health International (FHI) signed a memorandum of understanding during the RI Convention in Montréal, Québec, Canada, in June, committing to seek out collaborative initiatives to help those affected by HIV/AIDS, primarily in Africa. They will draw on their complementary capabilities, resource networks, and respective areas of expertise to provide care and nutrition, and teach health education and life skills to orphans, vulnerable children, and their families.
"I'm excited about the partnership with FHI because we both have the ability to create a stronger, sustainable solution using the efforts of Rotarian leadership at a country level and international level," says Marion Bunch, head of the action group and a member of the Rotary Club of Dunwoody, Georgia, USA. "FHI's technical expertise and leading-edge programs will help strengthen the global response to the 'whole' needs of children and families."
FHI was founded in 1971 as the International Fertility Research Program by a small group of researchers at the University of North Carolina, with funding from USAID. Since then, the organization has changed its name and broadened its mission, emphasizing the use of science, measurement, and evaluation to develop standards for advancing maternal health and AIDS prevention.
The FHI team of 2,500 physicians, scientists, and technical experts in health, development, and management has worked with 1,400 partners to make measurable progress against disease, poverty, and inequity in 125 countries.
Rotarians for Fighting AIDS was founded in 2003 by Bunch, who lost her son Jerry to AIDS in 1994. The group aims to mobilize Rotarians to work on HIV/AIDS education and prevention projects, with a particular focus on developing and implementing community support efforts for orphans and at-risk children.
"I really appreciate FHI’s holistic approach to providing a 'canopy of care,'" Bunch says. "This provides comprehensive support for the child and his or her family."
She adds that FHI’s approach is broader than the strategies the action group has employed. Its methodology will enhance efforts to prevent HIV infection in newborns and older children.
"The collaboration between our two organizations is a natural fit," says Albert Siemens, FHI chair and CEO. "We share a vision of improving lives and a special commitment to providing a brighter future for children whose lives have been devastated by HIV/AIDS."
Bunch's relationship with FHI began five years ago, when board member and Rotarian Peyton Woodson called to congratulate her on the action group’s new partnerships with HOPE Worldwide and the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation. "We saw eye to eye on a lot of things and decided to stay in touch," she says.
Bunch says the collaboration with FHI will give Rotarians for Fighting AIDS increased access to government funding and the ability to carry out more initiatives. "I learned the high level of respect they receive from governments and other industry leaders,” she says. “FHI's breadth of staff and programs is exciting."
Siemens says Rotarians offer ground support, a global donor base, communication infrastructure, and the ability to form strong partnerships.
"Coupled with FHI's unmatched technical expertise, science-based solutions, and worldwide platform of people, we'll offer the potential for highly effective initiatives that will make lasting improvements in children's lives," Siemens says.
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