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US Representative Jim McDermott visits with young scouts and their scout leaders at Maranatha Academy in the Kawangware slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: PATH/James Irungu

US Congressman Jim McDermott visited PATH’s Scouting for Solutions project in Nairobi, Kenya, to view firsthand how US federal funding is reducing the spread of HIV among young people.

McDermott, a Washington state representative, traveled to the Maranatha Academy in Kawangware slum on August 5. There, he met with a unit of 58 scouts—34 boys and 24 girls—comprised of orphans and vulnerable children 6 to 15 years old. Many of the 300 students attending the Maranatha Academy are orphans, and a good number are HIV positive. The scouts performed poems, songs, and dance about the risks of HIV and eagerly explained to McDermott the benefits of participating in the project’s life skills program.

Scouting for Solutions is funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the US Agency for International Development. PATH implements the project in Kenya and Uganda, where HIV infection rates are high among youth. Through a partnership with national scouting programs in both countries, PATH provides young scouts with decision-making, communication, negotiation, and other life skills to prevent the spread of HIV. The project is reaching an estimated 325,000 girls and boys ages 12 to 15 years through HIV education for scouts, their families, and their communities.

McDermott said he was happy to see how PEFPAR funding is being spent in Africa. “If I didn’t come, I would not have known,” he said. His visit to Maranatha Academy coincided with the African Growth and Opportunity Act conference he was attending in Nairobi.

The congressman joined the scouts in planting several trees around the dry school campus as part of a Kenyan tradition of honoring dignitaries. The trees also represented the scouts’ gift for peace to Kenya and a contribution toward alleviating the country’s environmental crisis. As McDermott left the school, he promised the children that he would personally present a photo of the group to President Obama—much to their delight!

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Posted August 26, 2009.