I recently visited the Vikalp field office in Chhotaudaipar, a rural area located three hours from the Vadodara main office. I spent the weekend getting to know the lively staff and dynamic community while learning about the different programs Vikalp facilitates.
The programs and activities at the Chhotaudaipar office focus primarily on HIV/AIDS prevention and sexual health education. The program reaches out to marginalized groups such as transgender individuals, female sex workers, and people who are HIV positive.
Although a small office it is certainly full of life, the staff is energetic and passionate about their work. The staff includes community outreach workers, counselors and a project manager. The outreach workers engage with the community referring individuals to Vikalp, while the counselors provide information on HIV/STI prevention, referrals for testing, sexual health education, and supportive counseling to those in need. The project manager is busy coordinating and teaching various educational classes and facilitating focus group discussions. Each of them radiate acceptance and it is through all of their dedication a Vikalp community group has been created in Chhotaudaipar.
This community is vibrant, diverse and full of energy. There is laughter and singing, with various people coming and going, the atmosphere is open and supportive. Both staff and individuals are free to be exactly who they are and discuss various issues without fear of judgment or discrimination. Everyone within this community cares for and supports one another. The project manager explained if an individual has an issue and the office isn’t open, or counselors aren’t available they reach out to one another for support.
Vikalp would like to expand by creating another community group at the Vadodara main office for LBTI individuals. Vikalp would follow a similar approach as they have in Chhotaudaipar. To create this community group Vikalp would identify potential leaders, outreach workers, and provide trainings on empowerment and human rights. The goal is to create a supportive, strong community group of empowered LBTI individuals coming together to assert and advocate their rights. As awareness grows, attitudes will change, and individuals who face discrimination and isolation will have a network to reach out to, a safe place to be open and a community to belong to.
The Chhotaudaipar office is a powerful example of strength through community.
I look forward to sharing profiles of some of the spirited, inspiring staff and community members from Chhotaudaipar soon!
Posted By Gisele Bolton
Posted Aug 4th, 2014