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Role Model: Reverend Charles Kwaku-Odoi

Reverend Charles

Reverend Charles Kwaku-Odoi is the lead pastor of Command Prayer Centre in Manchester. He is actively involved in initiatives to engage with people of different faiths and has been instrumental in tackling poverty in his community. Recently Command Prayer Centre started a partnership with Manchester Central Foodbank to help provide food parcels to people who are struggling to afford groceries. He has also worked with Terrence Higgins Trust to engage local faith leaders around HIV awareness and is a qualified Romance Academy leader educating young people about sex and relationships. Marcy Madzikanda finds out more.

Mambo: Please tell me a bit about yourself

Reverend Charles: I come from Ghana and now live in Manchester. Among many other things, I am part of the leadership team of Command Prayer Centre Ministries International with branches in Manchester, Geneva and Accra. I lead the Manchester team and assist the Right Reverend Dr Edmund Akyea-Mensah to oversee the global mission.

Mambo: What drives you?

Reverend Charles: My heartbeat and passion is people, people, people! I believe in practical Christian living following the example of Jesus Christ, who more often than not proactively went to people – He met people on their turf.

Mambo: You are very active in your community, please tell us about some of your projects

Reverend Charles: The church has set up a food bank working in partnership with two churches in close proximity as well as the Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy (MUSCC). The food bank is open to local residents who can either self refer or be referred by their Local Authority or a local organisation. We help people who are in debt or experiencing benefit delays as well as refugees and asylum seekers. Our church is also a centre where people can report hate crime incidents – we then pass that information on to the police.

Mambo: Tell us about the Romance Academy

Reverend Charles: This is a 14-week programme which helps young people to navigate complex issues about sex and relationships. It also helps parents to understand and support their children and enables a framework of healthy relationships for young people.

Many years I was judgemental about people who were living with HIV, but the scales fell off my eyes and I realised that the grace of God is not discriminatory. Therefore how dare I judge people?

Reverend Charles Kwaku-Odoi

 

Mambo: How did you get involved in HIV work?

Reverend Charles: Once I was lost in ignorance and bound by myths. Thank God I have been set free by the truth! Many years ago back in Africa I was judgemental about people who were living with HIV, but now I am incredibly grateful to God for all the medical advancement and the increased life expectancy they have. The scales fell off my eyes and I realised that the grace of God is not discriminatory, therefore how dare I judge people? Now I would rather share the immense love of Christ with them. I now use my passion for networking, building bridges and sharing what I am doing with other faith leaders. Účetnictví I also work closely with HIV Prevention England (HPE) – a partnership of HIV organisations led by Terence Higgins Trust around faith engagement. I find it incredibly fulfilling connecting the dots and avoiding reinventing the wheel.

Mambo: What made you change your views towards HIV?

Reverend Charles: I remember very well receiving a telephone call from Terrence Higgins Trust inviting me to do some HIV training in Manchester. I had previously had conversations with George House Trust, a Manchester-based HIV organisation, and decided to go along. I attended the training session and having realised how ignorant I was, I repented and started to engage in this work. That was the turning point.

Mambo: What does your HIV work involve?

Reverend Charles: In the past year I have brought together a number of Christian faith leaders looking at the issue of HIV and how faith leaders engage with the subject. It has been a worthwhile project seeing my fellow colleagues getting the message, moving away from ignorance and being equipped for practical action.

It is also encouraging that sexual health professionals have some understanding of the sensitivity of HIV in faith communities and are working in collaboration to develop appropriate interventions and messages that faith leaders can comfortably share in places of worship.

Mambo: What would be your message to other faith leaders?

Reverend Charles: I want to encourage my fellow faith leaders (especially those serving African communities) to engage with the subject of HIV, update their knowledge and be better equipped to support people living with HIV. There is immense value in engaging with people where they are in a non-judgemental manner.

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Marcy Madzikanda has a wealth of HIV prevention experience particularly around the role faith leaders play in sexual health and developing their competence to discuss these issues within their congregation. She designs and delivers training for African staff and volunteers working in HIV prevention. Marcy has excellent relationships with faith leaders and is a member of a working group on HIV policy and the Church.

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