After just three years, Radical Grace, the South East Asian branch of HOPE for AIDS has become a locally led project. Prasert “Pii Daeng” Dechaboon, a long-time member of the project team, has officially accepted the role of Director while his wife, “Ann” Jutatip Dechaboon has taken over as Project Manager. New Zealander Kenneth Fleck, the project’s founder, will shift his attention to developing other regional branches of HOPE for AIDS.
“I believe the handover…goes a long way towards sustainability and local ownership,” says Marcus Baeder the international coordinator of HOPE for AIDS. This is increasingly crucial as "funding for HIV and AIDS at the international level is decreasing or remaining stagnant".
The Radical Grace project was founded in 2011 in response to the need for a better-informed and less prejudiced response to HIV from the Christian Church and the community at large in Thailand. Daeng and Ann joined the project early on as veterans of the effort to both prevent HIV and counteract the prejudice and fear that normally follow it.
There are almost half a million people living with HIV in Thailand, and, according to the Bangkok Post, the number is growing by more than 9,000 a year. In this challenging context Daeng and his team are developing a plan to, as he says, "think big and yet be specific and go deep”. They will focus on prevention education – particularly for youths in detention centers and university dorms – and providing holistic care for minorities, ex-prisoners, drug users, young people and Christians affected by HIV.
“[The project] isn’t going to change much - except for decision-making” Daeng says about becoming the director. “Kenneth will become an adviser.”
But Kenneth sees the change as vital for the project’s community relationships. “Since leadership has been handed over, doors that I had no key to before have been opened.”
To find out more about HOPE for AIDS and Project Radical Grace visit www.hopeforaids.org