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A Guatemalan Teacher Fights Back

Oneida Rodas and Children

This November, PCI-Media Impact hosted its sixth International Workshop on Entertainment Education and Social Marketing in Lima, Peru. Over the past six years, we have brought together more than 300 people from throughout the Americas at these trainings. This year 32 more people representing 30 organizations from 7 countries attended. During the training, Media Impact introduced each group of community activists and broadcasters to new ways of engaging communities with intriguing stories and life-saving information. Participants also learned to use broadcast media to change their home communities for the better.

On the first morning of the workshop, a young woman with a big, bright smile entered the room. This woman was Oneida Rodas. Although Oneida looked like a typical Guatemalan teacher and mother with her neat sweater and wire-rimmed spectacles, very soon everyone learned she in fact is a distinguished personality with an important story to tell. Oneida is the leader of Communicares, one of Guatemala’s leading organizations fighting to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS ravaging her country.

Oneida did not start out her life taking on old traditions to mobilize society. In fact, she began her career as an elementary school teacher. Over the years, Oneida nurtured her students and made sure that they were well equipped for the future. One day about 10 years ago, Oneida’s serene school teacher life was shocked. That day, she learned one of her former students was dying from AIDS and he had nowhere to go for help. From that day on, Oneida knew she had to do something.

After starting Communicares, Oneida has been reaching out to youth throughout Guatemala City to inform them about the dangers of unprotected sex and HIV infection. Oneida was pleased with the work she was doing but she knew she could do more to educate youth about HIV and AIDS and ensure that the next generations of Guatemalans do not suffer from this disease. She reached out to Media Impact and was invited to become a My Community participant.

Oneida first participated in the 2008 My Community training in Bogota, Columbia. That group comprised 40 individuals from 20 organizations and broadcasters from seven countries. Even though they came from different backgrounds and were tackling different issues, all of them, like Oneida, wanted to use communications to inform their audiences about the need to improve their health and the environment and to show them things everyday people could do to make a real difference. Over the past year, the groups that attended the 2008 training have gone on to design and launch 8 media campaigns, like the one Oneida launched in her own community. This effort mobilized 17 million people to change their individual behavior and improve their communities.

Oneida’s efforts have been so successful; the Guatemalan Ministry of Health offered to take her communication campaign on a national tour. Now national in scope, Oneida’s dream of protecting the next generation from HIV and AIDS and making a better life for those living with the disease is becoming a reality. Moreover, the youth working with Oneida have improved their grades at school and are now looking at going to college and pursuing careers to improve the health of Guatemala.

Media Impact is now selecting the 2010 My Community group, which is very difficult as there are eleven groups that have just as much potential to produce the remarkable achievements like Comunicares. With Oneida’s success, she was one of the first to be accepted and has offered to host the 2010 workshop in Guatemala. When she learned about her continuing with My Community, Oneida said, “I am so excited to continue the work started with Media Impact. Through My Community, I, a regular woman, have created a hunger for youth to increase their self-esteem and protect themselves from HIV. As we continue our work, we will strive to have 0 new HIV cases in Guatemala and what a great day that will be.”

AIDS Awareness workshop
AIDS Awareness workshop

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