Kande’s story is based on real events shared by a Nigerian pastor. After its publication by Shellbook Publishing Systems in 2004, Kathie Watters and Margaret Hill received permission to adapt the story, commission new illustrations and write a facilitator’s manual.
Watters and Hill both serve with SIL, Wycliffe’s main partner field organization. They travel frequently throughout Africa to help promote the use of translated Scriptures in various language groups. Even before Shellbook published the Kande story, the pair had received numerous requests from African pastors for simple materials about HIV and AIDS.
“They needed materials that would be culturally appropriate, easy to translate, and scientifically and medically accurate,” says Watters, a senior Scripture engagement consultant for SIL’s Africa Area. “And they wanted information that would include principles from the Bible.”
Watters shared the pastors’ urgency to help prevent the spread of HIV. Back in the 1980s, she had watched as a dear Cameroonian friend grew ill and eventually died from what was likely AIDS.
“The stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS was so great that she was never tested or treated. After that, I learned about more and more people . . . who were infected and dying.”
A survey of existing materials on AIDS eventually led Watters and Hill to Shellbook and the Kande story. However, at that time Shellbook was not equipped to write a teaching manual for the story, nor were they able to do much field testing of the materials.
The two SIL women took on the job, with help from many of their colleagues in Africa.
“We had our first pilot training course in Cameroon in 2005 with five languages,” says Watters. Since then, the little booklet has had significant impact in the majority of the 178 language groups where it has been translated, most of them in Africa. It is often the first AIDS-education resource available in local languages where Bible translation and literacy efforts are underway.
“I’m really amazed how quickly these materials have spread,” Watters says. “It has been almost all by word-of-mouth and by freely sharing the electronic ‘shells’ for the book so that others can translate and make their own versions.”
The story, fictitious but based on real-life examples, revolves around Kande, a 12-year-old African girl whose father and mother die of AIDS. She and her five siblings are left as orphans and must fend for themselves. Simply told and illustrated, readers of all ages are able to follow the storyline as Kande and her siblings encounter many problems and dangers trying to survive.
People in their community, especially believers from the local church, help them in their time of need.
Readers also learn that following God’s Word can help them avoid getting AIDS themselves or spreading it to others. They are taught how to love and care for those affected by the disease, working for justice for widows and orphans.
The story needs to reach many more people. UNAIDS reports that 430,000 to 560,000 people in DRC alone may be living with HIV; roughly half are women, ages 15 and over.
Beyond Africa, the Kande story has also been translated for language groups in India, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Most of these languages have translations of the facilitator’s manual as well. It includes medical facts about HIV and AIDS, as well as Bible studies on issues of sexuality, Jesus’ treatment of marginalized people and other topics.
The booklet is frequently used in SIL’s literacy programs and is becoming a standard resource for promoting the use of translated Scriptures. As people read and discuss Kande’s Story, they learn how to apply the Scriptures to their everyday lives. For 2012, language groups in India, Togo, Sudan, Cameroon and Ivory Coast are slated to hold Kande translation workshops, and a staffer from Wycliffe Germany is helping to equip trainers throughout francophone Africa.
“It’s the African men and women we have trained who are actually implementing this program,” says Watters. “Freddy Muzungu has grown the program in DRC—and there are others like him throughout Africa.”