Three of our staff members traveled to Johannesburg last week for orientation meetings around the DREAMS* Innovation Challenge program that we’ve been awarded. The HOPE ww Zambia Team did an amazing job in securing the grant; it’s a high-profile program funded directly from the US Department of State and only 56 out of 800 applications were selected. Our program will open 10 After-School Clubs in some of the most challenging areas of Lusaka. The objective is to identify girls who have dropped out, or are at risk of dropping out, of secondary school. Girls’ education is often called the social vaccine against HIV because of the significant reduction in HIV incidence among better-educated girls and young women. Increasing girls’ access to and retention in education reduces their risk of contracting HIV.
As well as the opportunity to help 1,200 girls stay in school, the grant offers technical assistance to the awardees, helping them to build their capacity, processes and tools, to deliver their programs successfully. Our experience of working on larger programs started for myself and two colleagues on the way to the orientation – this was their first ever flight on a plane and there was some nervousness. I’ve flown many times before, so fortunately I was able to give advice about what sort of parachute to take and what to do in case of turbulence (put your head between your knees and start praying loudly). They found a way to pay me back though for my insensitivity, with a few hours of window shopping one evening in a Johannesburg shopping mall – not my cup of tea!
Our other HIV education program, with Safe Motherhood Groups and Youth Friendly groups is also gathering pace. We’ve been able to reach out to 840 Women and Youths so far, with another 18 months of meetings, peer support and training still to come.
Among all the numbers though it’s easy to lose track of the individuals. Rose, aged 10, circled in the attached photo, attends a Community School from 12 noon until 4pm. The Community School has one classroom, where a volunteer (without qualifications) teaches about 40 or more children. After school, Rose walks home again with her friends and arrives back home at about 5.30pm. There is no electricity in the house, so the family use candles for lighting after 6pm when it’s dark. Her mother has little idea from week to week, and sometime day to day, how she’s going to pay the rent, or feed the family. Rose doesn’t care though, you’ll see in the photo that she’s beaming……Note-to-self: smile more and moan less!!
* DREAMS = Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe women.