Taking care of children living with HIV, or those who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS, can wear a guardian down. Clinic visits never seem to end. There is never enough food to fill everyone’s bellies. And money on hand never seems to cover all the transportation and medical costs.
But when you have other community members supporting you, the burdens lighten.
While it is not always easy taking care of children whose lives have been forever changed by HIV, members of the Good Hope Support Group — a group of four mothers — in Mutare, Zimbabwe help each other overcome challenges.
The group was formed in 2007 with the support of the Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme, a Catholic-based organisation. At the beginning of the year, the group got support from Mercy Corps under the Coordinated Networks and Village Initiatives for Children’s Empowerment programme and have so far received grants worth US$2,300 to help orphaned and vulnerable children in Sakubva to have access to food, clothing and medication.
Under this programme, Mercy Corps is working with community-based organisations. We've also set up a fund called Mukomberanwa (which means "addressing poverty through collective efforts") that pools resources from various donors and then channels these resources to orphans and vulnerable children through various community-based organizations like the Good Hope Support Group.
The women in this group, who have also been trained as secondary caregivers, meet weekly to talk about the challenges they are facing in their community and share solutions. The women also received training on proposal and report writing, as well as on topics such as good nutrition and the importance of taking HIV medication as directed by hospitals or clinics. They are getting this information out to HIV/AIDS-affected households across the area.
During their weekly meetings, the women also get an opportunity to hear from the orphans and vulnerable children they serve, listening to some of the challenges that they are facing at home and in the community. Some of the typical problems facing the orphans are those to do with school fees, shortage of food and drug treatments for those who are living with HIV.
Twelve year-old Farai Makoto and 15-year old Ranga Makoto are two of the orphans that are being taken care of by the Good Hope Support Group. They both said they are really appreciative of the work that the group and Mercy Corps are doing.
“We once lived a normal life like any other child and all members of our family loved us, but our parent’s death resulted in everyone turning against us,” said Farai. “We stayed with our grandmother for a month after our mother’s funeral in 2008. Then our uncle said it was unfair to let his mother raise another man’s children instead of his. Therefore, we were ordered to go and live in our father’s house in Sakubva.
“We lived alone with no food for over a month. God finally answered our prayers by sending a care-worker from Good Hope to our rescue. She helped us to acquire the support from Mercy Corps. We started to receive food regularly and recently got some clothing from Mercy Corps under the Nike Programme.
“Good Hope has truly changed our lives, we will always be grateful for what members of Good Hope have done for us.”
Good Hope has received three grants this year to buy blankets, clothing and food for the 70 orphans and vulnerable children under their care. The group has applied for another grant to buy school shoes for the orphans as the rainy season fast approaches.
However, the group and the children under their care still face a number of problems: for example, Good Hope has 12 children who are HIV-positive, but they still find it difficult to find access to antiretroviral drugs that help keep HIV in check. Sometimes, despite all the good work they're doing, the future can seem gloomy — but the women of Good Hope are optimistic that things will work out. How? They say they only have hope.
By coming together, these mothers and guardians are helping orphans and vulnerable children live with HIV, while breaking down barriers across their community.