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"There will be a five-day training for HIV/AIDS facilitators on November 15 to 19. Would you like to attend this? It's organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) at the Grand Continental Hotel, Penang. After the training, you need to be committed to follow-up." In early November, at Penang FPA's office, Cik Nur Azyyati, Assistant Project Officer and Ms Jaya, Project Officer were kept really occupied. They were in charge of getting the confirmations from volunteers and organizing a practical session on 16 November known as "Community Conversations Practice".

The training course attracted participants from FPAs of Perlis, Melaka, Terengganu as well as eight persons from Penang FPA. Other participants came from the Klang Valley, Kedah and Johor, recruited through Yayasan Strategic Sosial.

The buzz sentence for the course "Are we together?" reflected the seriousness of the training. Trainers Christine Low and Engie Ng had previously attended a ten-day training of trainers in Kuala Lumpur in July 2003. There the UNDP master trainer Thebisa Chaava got the trainers-in-training to grasp that old ways of community dialogue are very applicable to a systematic facilitation programme at the grassroots level.

Thebisa impressed on us all the meaning of "embedded in the fabric of society" by pointing out how each member of our family could be vulnerable and what they would face with disclosure.

Some trainers had a refresher in September when they trained their colleagues in Kuching. Christine and Engie were joined by another 7 trainers. Together, we took the challenge of conducting this echo CCT, organized by the CCT Coordinator, Mr. Brian Lariche, for UNDP.

After the July training of trainers, as per our action plan, Christine and I had practised Community Conversations aka Bicara Komuniti method at a school talk and at Pusat Serenti. It is ideal when you have the same group of about 25 people participating each time. We have been to the Pusat Serenti every month since August 2003 for two groups of participants.

The transformation has been amazing after the first activity; "Strategic Listening" broke the ice. I do not know whether the HIV positive inmates will practice safer sex when they are released, but they now see how HIV infection could enlarge to whole communities. They have gone through the "Time Line" and "Community Wall" with us. In retelling their stories in "Story Telling" at the last session, the inmates enacted how they would tell their wives, fathers and brothers about their infection with encouragement from those few who had already done so.

After the November training, Penang FPA's Ms Yeap Meng Chee and Ms Ivy Ho will conduct a six month Community Conversations Practice.

There may be more UNDP CCT training in 2004. Interested volunteers and HIV educators may contact the FPAs which participated to know more about this useful training. You are also welcome to e-mail to us at fpapg@streamyx.com if you are interested to participate in the Penang Community Conversations Practice.

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