University of Maryland Partnership
In June 2007, ten students from the University of Maryland (UMD) traveled to EFA’s regional headquarters in Maroua, Cameroon, to participate in a two-week service learning project with HIV+ youth. UMD students volunteered with AJEPS, one of the HIV+ youth groups supported by EFA International. During the exchange, AJEPS members and UMD students collaborated on a number of different projects, including computer training courses, financial management assistance and the design and painting of a community mural at AJEPS’ headquarters.
Along with professional development opportunities, the trip served as a cultural exchange for participants from both countries. AJEPS members gave the students an introduction to their regional language, Fulfuldé, and showed them how to make some traditional dishes, while UMD students gave AJEPS members English lessons. However, the exchange’s most significant achievement was in combating HIV-related stigma. Participants took part in sessions where they discussed how people in both Cameroon and the United States view HIV/AIDS, and the different kinds of support systems that exist in each country. On a local level, the relationships that the AJEPS members built with these American students clearly boosted the confidence of these budding Cameroonian leaders, as they are now viewed with more respect in their communities and families. Program evaluation results demonstrate that the Service Learning Project was a very meaningful experience for all involved, and EFA International is working with the University of Maryland to organize another program in 2010.