In a study done in 2014, HIV and AIDS came up as the most threatening thing to families in Zimbabwe.
1.4 million people in Zimbabwe are infected with these life threatening diseases. 170,000 (four per cent of the total population) are children, many of whom are born with the disease or contract it when they are forced into early marriages or sex trafficking.
Viva has been working to put an end to this. Partnering with several other Christian charities we have been training local people how to recognise symptoms, how to stop the disease spreading and how to avoid it. They have also been able to comfort and support many families that have been affected by the disease.
There are thought to be at least 70,000 new infections each year and 65,000 Aids related deaths. This leaves behind many ill or orphaned children with none to care for them in a tough impoverished area where healthcare is limited and government support is scarce.
Viva’s programme is called Let Your Light Shine and has been working in two areas within Harare: Rugare and Mbare. These are very densely packed and impoverished areas of Zimbabwe. The programme aims to teach care workers how to help and support children and families affected or infected by the disease. It is also to be self-sustaining and long term as care workers are tasked with teaching more to join the team.
Those who started the course were given four main aims to complete. Firstly, to train more caregivers and thus make it self-sustaining. Then to seek out those children infected, or affected by the disease (orphans), to teach children life skills and God’s love and to try and advocate for more extreme measures to be taken by the government on behalf the children.
The course has 11 stages to it and is taught primarily with short videos using methods which have been tried and tested with other people. Each stage is important in the teaching of the care workers and helps prepare them for the future.
They are taught facts and information about HIV and AIDS and how to take care of children up to 12 years old. Furthermore, they also work towards removing the shame attached with the disease as well as being helpful, caring, supportive and sharing the good news and the hope that it brings to those infected.
This programme has been a great success. Twenty volunteers embarked on the course and all graduated. They then went on to train a further 63 members vastly increasing the capabilities of the team.
Trained individuals are capable of making much more of an impact as they know the symptoms of the disease and so can tell people whether they have it. Furthermore, they can then offer help and support for individuals and families during this difficult time.
Over 500 families have been reached by workers simply walking from door to door and asking parents whether they would like to organise an appointment so that the whole family can be taught how to prevent catching or spreading the disease.
This equates to at least 1,500 children who are also taught life skills by the social workers.
This helps make them better members of society and push them away from unproductive or even illegal activities. They are also taught about the love of God and the hope that he brings.
This is needed more than ever in places where hope seems so far away and by people who seem to have been forgotten and even marginalised by the world. The programme places important emphasis in trying to break the stigma and shame attached with the disease.
This is important for the wellbeing of the family and personal esteem of the individual as they are not being defined by their disease.