“CHAT is one of the leading sexual health awareness and HIV/AIDS Charitable Organisations in the UK.”
The need for this organisation was recognised in 1991 and officially formed and registered as a charity in 1993. It was recognised in 1991 due to one community member who became very sick and could not obtain medical assistance because of various reasons. One of the reasons was she did not have legal rights of stay in the UK status she was afraid to go for medical support for fear of deportation to Zimbabwe, her country of origin. However, at one night when the sickness became worse, she knocked on her neighbour’s door for help. We would call this neighbour “John” and the client “Mary”.
After detailed discussions, it was revealed that Mary did not have a GP. John arranged for and persuaded Mary to accept a referral to a GP. Early next morning, John could not go to work but drove Mary to his GP. Mary was referred to Hammersmith hospital immediately where she was diagnosed with AIDS related diseases including chronic TB. She was admitted to an isolation ward.
Not long after, her situation became worst and she died living a 4 year old girl. John managed to contact the family of Mary in Zimbabwe and flew both the corpse and the little child to Zimbabwe through his personal expenses. Following this event, the GP started to refer African HIV positive patients on his register to John for general culturally sensitive community support until unfortunately, cases of this nature continued to increase, and the financial implications became unbearable for John. This prompted him to call on other community members such as one of the African church leaders for support. Hence the need for the development of an organisation of this nature.
From then on, contribution of funds was established as we normally do back in African to support such situations till the GP who dealt with Mary advised us to approach Brent Social Services for advice and to assist us with resources. Our 1st application to AIDS Support Grant was turned down by Brent Social Services in 1995, but this did not deter us from supporting our community as HIV/AIDS cases were on the increase.job.
In 1998, our work and 2nd funding application was recognised and supported with a small grant of £2000.00 by the then Brent & Harrow Health Authority on one condition that we would use the money granted for preventative initiatives only at a World AIDS Day event
The condition of the grant was to organise two World Day Events in both Brent & Harrow. Both events were not well attended but we used this experience to develop our future programmes till today. The number of people in attendance during both events were 16 and 9 for Brent & Harrow respectively. It was very disappointing but we had to carry on because of community demand.
In 1999, we received £24,000.00 main grant from Brent & Harrow Health Authority to pursue our peer education programme. Although we had the vision to deliver a well planned programme, the challenge was great due to the high stigma that was attached to HIV/AIDS in the African community. We considered it a big challenge because bearing from our first World AIDS Day experiences, we were not sure that we were going to meet our target number of 15 African community members. It turned out to be true. The number of people who came to our first peer education training was 6. We later revised our recruitment strategy and got 13 people to go through the programme by the end of the year.
Currently, the level of participation in our programmes is high with long waiting list mainly with people from within the community. We consider this a success story to tell which could not have been possible without good revised strategy and planning.
Community Health Action Trust (CHAT) is now a global/African humanitarian non-profit organisation dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering in communities through health care training, relief and development programmes. It is a voluntary, non-political, non-sectarian organisation.