By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
MORE than 50 Bahamian adolescents infected and affected by HIV/AIDS depend heavily on a special programme by the AIDS Foundation that provides them with a nurturing environment, a hot meal, peer support, counselling and even job preparation skills.
The young people benefit greatly from the outreach programme which is costing the Bahamas AIDS Foundation up to $100,000 a year to operate. To support the initiative and keep it going in the future, the AIDS Founation will present a unique fundraiser next month.
The Bahamas AIDS Foundation recently announced the return of its glamorous charity fashion show and cocktail reception known as the Red Dress Soir�e, taking place on September 20 in the ballroom of the British Colonial Hilton.
The event pairs 14 selected ladies with 14 Bahamian designers to create a red dress or ensemble that is then showcased by the ladies on the evening of the event.
The women being honoured on the night are at the top of their careers and have impacted our society in positive ways and displayed a spirit of humanitarianism.
The Red Dress Soir�e is also an opportunity to highlight the creativity of Bahamian designers.
The AIDS Foundation, along with photographer Scharad Lightbourne, will also create a 2015 calendar featuring the fabulous ladies in red along with their talented designers.
This year’s ladies who will be taking to the runway for a good cause are Lady Joan Foulkes, Dr Nicolette Bethel, Alexandra Maillis-Lynch, Inga Bowleg, Patricia Walters, Amanda Lindroth, Dr Tracey Halkitis, Karen Carey, Eldece Clarke, Lisa McCartney, Candia Dames, Antoinette Russell, Patrice Ellis and Marisa Mason-Smith.
The designers are Brynda Knowles, Jeff St John, Fenna Mae Lopez, Sabrina Francis, Judy Deleveaux, Theodore Ellyett, Phylicia Ellis, David Rolle, Apryl Burrows, Indira Moss, Kathy Pinder, Patrice Lockhart, Javotte Bethel and Rachel Garcia.
Lady Barnett, president of the AIDS Foundation, said the programme needs as much support as it can get because young Bahamians who have no where else to turn benefit a great deal from it.
“It is a very expensive programme to operate. We are trying to see how much funds we can raise to keep the programme up and running. A lot of our teenagers are school leavers, and the other big thing we are pushing is giving them job training and job skills. When we first started the programme some of the kids were 13, 14, 15, 16 years old, but that was five years ago. Now they are 18, 19, 20 years old and they are out of school and in need of work,” she said.
Lady Barnett said the programme is currently transitioning to offer more job training and job preparation skills.
“On average, the programme costs $2,000 a person every year, and we have about 80 kids registered in the programme. They do not all come to the after-school programme, but our social worker still works with them. There are about 50 kids that come and on any given day there are about 20 to 25. At the end of the day the programme costs about $90,000 to $100,000 to run. The cost includes tutors who come and work with the adolescents. We pay the tutors a stipend so that they are motivated to keep coming back. We have a social worker and a case aid. Because of the extent of the social problems that we have seen, we saw the need to hire a social worker and find someone to work with her to help her. We also hired a cook, and all those positions are part-time, but at the end of the day it all still adds up,” she said.
The AIDS Foundation said it is very grateful for the support and assistance from the following: Commonwealth Fabrics, British Colonial Hilton, LAV Lighting Audio & Visual, Bahama Fantasies and Sky Bahamas.
Fundraising at the upcoming Red Dress Soir�e will be done through the donation/entrance fee of $100 and a silent auction with great prizes.
Tickets are available from Carlyne Smith-McKenzie, executive director of the AIDS Foundation, 14 Delancy Street; call 325-9326/7 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.