Red Ribbon Award presented to EGPAF partner Life Concern Organization at IAS

Global Health Corps Fellow Samantha White (center) poses with Life Concerns staff and their 2014 Red Ribbon Award

Samantha White

On July 21, the 2014 Red Ribbon Award winners were announced at the International AIDS conference in Melbourne (AIDS 2014). The Red Ribbon Award is the world’s most prestigious award presented to community-based organizations (CBO) in the response to the AIDS epidemic. It is presented to only 10 outstanding organizations each year.  We are proud to announce that Life Concern Organization (LICO), an Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF)-supported CBO in Malawi, was among those selected for this outstanding honor.  Global Health Corps (GHC) Fellow Samantha White with EGPAF-Malawi, who has been working closely with the LICO team, discusses what the award means for the organization below.

It was a Tuesday afternoon when I heard my phone ring at my desk. I received a call from Peter Gondwe, the executive director of Life Concern Organization (LICO), a community-based organization in Rumphi, Malawi, that I’ve been working with over the past year.

Peter was excited to share that LICO was selected as one of only 10 organizations worldwide to win the prestigious Red Ribbon Award given once every two years by UNAIDS to community-based organizations that have shown outstanding community leadership and action on AIDS. Two LICO staff members would be traveling to the International AIDS Society Conference in Australia to receive the $10,000 award to expand their capacities and continue to serve their community. Peter said that he wanted me to be the first to know about this great, but confidential, news!

Over the past three years, with support from ViiV Healthcare’s Positive Action for Children Fund, EGPAF has helped strengthen the organizational capacities of six CBOs in Malawi in specific domains, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) knowledge and services, strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation, communications, and project management. In my role as a Global Health Corps fellow this year with EGPAF, I’ve managed this project. Through participating in supportive supervision visits to Rumphi and trainings in Lilongwe, I’ve witnessed LICO’s progressive growth and development as an organization. With EGPAF’s mentorship, the internal functioning of their organization fortified, providing a sound structure to grow and develop their programs.

As a result, they’ve implemented community-based PMTCT initiatives, such as male support groups that bring men together to learn more about the pregnancy and childbearing process and encourage them to be more involved. The rates of male involvement in antenatal care in the areas where LICO works are now much higher than in surrounding areas, which means that more men are getting tested for HIV and more women are feeling supported throughout the PMTCT process. In fact, LICO has even aided some of the men to witness the birth of their children – an exceptionally rare practice in Malawi.    

Today, as Peter walked across the stage and accepted his Red Ribbon Award on behalf of LICO, I could finally release all of the pride and excitement I’d contained for months. The dedication and passion of Peter and his team are unequivocal and success will surely continue to follow them along their journey. I know that EGPAF is thrilled to support LICO and the work they have done in working towards a generation free from AIDS in Malawi. And I know that EGPAF is proud of the partnership we’ve cultivated: the kind of partnership that goes beyond trainings and contracts – the kind of partner that wants you to be the first to know.

Samantha White is a GHC Fellow working for EGPAF in Malawi.