Emanuel’s mother died of AIDS a long time ago and his father resorted to drinking heavily. We found Emanuel sheltering at a neighbour’s house. The rain was pouring through holes in the roof and there were mosquitoes flying all over the place because there was so much standing water inside. He was finding it difficult to study; even harder to find the money for food and the basics he needed to attend school.
Emanuel is just one of the children the Tanzania Women Research Foundation (TAWREF) has helped to support. TAWREF is a new partner organisation of African Initiatives and my name is Dafrosa Kokulingilila Itemba, TAWREF’s executive director.
At TAWREF we conduct research and implement projects to address social, cultural, economic, health and environmental challenges facing women and children. We have particular expertise in orphan care and our research informs communities, development organisations and policymakers on the most effective interventions for the protection of vulnerable children.
Increasing the voices and choices of young women living with HIV through micro-finance activities is another important part of our work, as is the engagement of community champions to promote the importance of good nutrition and healthcare and spread awareness of how to reduce the risks of contracting HIV.
The provision of houses for homeless children, many of whom have been orphaned by AIDS, is another focus as it addresses one of the basic rights for children – shelter. We have built 65 family houses since 2012 and these are very important for children’s health as the environment is safe and can prevent communicable diseases like malaria and TB. Our houses also restore children’s dignity and give them hope for the future.
Happily, we were able to give Emanuel a decent house where he can do his homework and have friends to visit. Amazingly, he has passed his exams with flying colours and is looking forward to joining high school later this month (July).
Another AIDS orphan TAWREF has supported is Gervasi. Gervasi lost both his parents to AIDS and was a beneficiary of our cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) project which is looking to address the mental health needs of orphans with unresolved grief. The project is called ‘Pamoja Tunaweza’ or ‘Together We Can’.
Gervasi felt he couldn’t share his feelings of grief with his grandmother or extended family and began behaving badly. He fell out with his school friends too and his education suffered. As Gervasi says, the grief counselling was transformative: “At the beginning, before I got the CBT therapy, I always had sad memories of my dead parents and no family member showed up to help me. This CBT project has helped me to be braver and to think in a different way, particularly to think positively about the death of my parents who passed away some years back. By using relaxation skills such as counting backwards I have stopped isolating myself from my fellow children and my other family members.”
Since his CBT counselling, Gervasi is now performing well at school. He passed his Standard 7 national exams so has now progressed to secondary school. He told me: “After getting this therapy I have now understood that there are other people such as my aunt and grandmother who love and care for me and I know that losing parents is not the end of my having a future. Although I am lame, I hope to make it in life.”
TAWREF is delighted to be a new partner of African Initiatives. Both our organisations are committed to contributing towards an AIDS-free generation. Orphans easily lose direction, lack choices – and voices – and can become irresponsible when it comes to healthcare. TAWREF and African Initiatives will strive to rescue the health demands of these vulnerable children by informing them about HIV prevention and by linking them with HIV testing, family planning, TB screening and community health services so they can access healthcare with ease.
We would be grateful if supporters can make a donation to African Initiatives so we can fund a vital new project. There are many AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children to reach. Thank you.