Project: Mt. Pleasant Orphans All Projects

At our first visit with Kathy C, a teacher at Harare International School (HIS), Diana and Kim had the pleasure of meeting Simba, an HIV positive man who at the time was doing fairly well thanks to a government drug program that allowed him to get ARVs (Anti-retroviral drugs). He spoke a bit about the drug program and about how difficult it was to get in, but how once you were added to the program, it was usually fairly easy to get the drugs. However, he added, he might get one particular prescription, and then the next visit, if that wasn't available, he'd be given something else in its place.

picSimba had first visited HIS to deliver a talk to the students about living with AIDS. He told how after being diagnosed as HIV+ he joined a support group for HIV+ survivors. Most of the members had children and they came to realize that the children of the dying parents were the ones really in need. Simba's "organization" evolved for which Kathy had raised some funds for food and supplies. The day we met Simba, he had meticulously written out the names, addresses, and other vital information for 30+ orphaned children in his neighborhood of Mt. Pleasant, a neighborhood of Harare. These children were the ones Simba was particularly concerned about. Five of the children were HIV+. Many of the children were not able to go to school because they were not able to pay the required school fees. Some lived with relatives, some lived in child-headed households.

On this particular day, he was in the process of organizing a food distribution event for the orphans that would happen the following week. He had received what was to him a sizable donation of about $60 U.S. which enabled him to purchase a significant amount of mealie meal (cornmeal - staple of the Zimbabwean diet), and assorted other food items, including a nutritional supplement.

With the support of HopeFirst Foundation, Kathy and Simba have spent many hours going to the schools of these children, begging the headmasters to readmit students and to reduce fees, and paying what is settled upon. On the books, there is governmental support for school fees for the orphaned children, but that is often not provided outright. In paying for the school fees for these children, HopeFirst assumes some obligation to continue support when possible. Schooling provides so much for a child, especially the orphaned child. The school day does not just include academics, but a place to socialize with other children, to learn cultural values, to learn life skills like how to keep water and food safe, to learn health skills like how AIDS is contracted, to have exposure to nurturing adults, to maybe get some food or medicine, to play.

HopeFirst's involvement with the Mt Pleasant orphans is to continue providing school fees for the orphans, particularly those that are child-headed-households.


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