Celebrating Life …..Sharing the Burden!

Schoolmates: Celebrating Life …..Sharing the Burden! – By Den Alvarez

“ Kailangan naming mag sama-sama. Maging masaya!”. (We need to be together! Be happy!)…and that’s how schoolmates was born!

Schoolmates is an interest group within a support group for People Living with HIV in the Philippines. It was initiated by colleagues who met each other in an empowerment training. The sheer need to connect to one another, prompted for original members to think of using the social media to be connected. All of them connected to the Pinoy Plus Association, Inc. of the Philippines.

“Gusto lang naming tulungan ang mga newly diagnosed PLHIV na makabangon” (We wanted to help newly diagnosed Person Living with HIV to cope after the diagnosis). We go malling, go for coffee and group discussions on the challenges we go through as PLHIV, we share each other’s’ pain and lift our spirits.

Members enjoy and celebrate life despite the HIV status.“Wala kaming written rules and regulations, ang alam namin…ang nagiging member ay dapat na invite ng isang kasama sa grupo at tinanggap ng administrator ng page.(We don’t have any written rules and regulations for membership.Although it is important that invitation is done by any member and the request be approved by the administrators.)

The Schoolmates is a close and invitational group using the social media. It has now 47 members and 46 are PLHIV and the 2 non-PLHIV were invited because they provide psycho emotional support to most of the members. One is a counselor and case manager to most of the member and the other one is a significant other to one of them as well as a friend.

The social media is used by the members to praise and motivate each other. Bullying is discouraged. However, when a certain post is not acceptable to most of them, the administrator/s call the attention of the person who posted it and request removal or they would flood the group’s wall with quotations and other discussion points so it will no longer be seen.

“Dito din naming nakikita kung sino sa amin ang tahimik sa matagal na panahon. Yung tao na nakikita yung post pero hindi nag comment kahit minsan,….signal yon na may pinagdadaanan yung taong yun! “ (Here we can really monitor who among the members have been quiet for a long while. He/she saw the post but does not comment or post anything…. We get worried because that person might be going through a difficult time).

They are active members of the support group: Pinoy Plus Association, Inc (PPA) but they have to find a way to support one another even not inside PPA’s office and schoolmate is the answer. Schoolmates is the group’s.

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