Children and HIV and AIDS
Young people making a difference in their Community
Young people making a difference in their CommunityLiving in the dry parched area of Birchenough Bridge, south east of Zimbabwe Loice Mbudzi (18year) has witnessed how effects of HIV/AIDS have brought in more hardships on a community that is already battling to deal with droughts, poverty and deprivation. Day after day, malaise and deaths desiccate the lives of young people as they grapple with adult responsibilities. Loice has had to bear this weight as her widowed mother struggled through an illness for more than four months. “I was the only one available at home to bathe her; find food, cook for her and give her medications. It was all just too much to bear.”
It was not an easy call of duty for Loice as this was the time when she was sitting for her “O” Level examinations. She recalls how difficult it was to juggle the demands of her exams preparation and ensuring that her mother is comfortable in her illness. She today reflects on how her own experience has made her understand the strain that many of her peers go through as they attend to the ailing adults on a daily basis.
“I was the only one available at home to bathe her; find food, cook for her and give her medications. It was all just too much to bear.” says the cheerful teenager. Zimbabwe’s HIV prevalence among the adult population remains high at 15.6%. The age group 15 – 49 years continues to be the most affected and difficulties in accessing Anti Retroviral Therapy prolong the period of ill health among this active age group. The responsibility of care for the sick and for the family has in many instances been ceded to young children. The eventuality of death leaves these children in a vulnerable position both materially and psychologically. In Buhera district, where the Birchenough Bridge community lies, nearly 40 000 children have been orphaned and continue to require the support and goodwill of individuals such as Loice if they are to meet the other demands of their lives including attending school.
Today Loice is among the 180 young volunteers from Birchenough Bridge who have started a Young People We Care (YPWC) Club. In an era when high level of deaths among the adult population have depleted family support systems, YPWC has committed to spending time at the homes of their peers affected by HIV & AIDS, lessening the burden of caring for the sick and assisting during their period of mourning. Moving together with the home-based care givers who attend to the primary care of the sick, the young people attend to the general household chores, cleaning, gardening, laundering, cooking and socializing with the children.
Support from the Australian National Committee has helped stimulate the spirit of caring and support among young people aged 13 – 25 years, encouraging them to make a difference in their communities. Since 2004 more than 4 000 volunteers from across Zimbabwe have been enabled to visit the homes of people affected by HIV/AIDS to carrying out practical day-to-day chores and consoling those grieving. The YPWC have not only managed to make regular house calls but through drama; song and dance they raise awareness on HIV prevention within the communities.
“The enthusiasm of the volunteers to assist their peers through difficult situations is what drives the Young people we care programme, they understand what their peers are going through and they offer their time, care and support where it is most needed, ” says UNICEF Representative; Mr. Roeland Monasch.
As Loice prepares to set off on her next calling, she highlights that she has not only made valuable friendships with her peers through each visit, but she is always happy to see that she has made a difference in someone’s life.
“As I get to each homestead, I notice that besides the care of the sick which the home-based care givers attend to, there is always a lot I can do to make life more bearable for the young people staying in these homes.”