My friend, Helene and I arrived in Harare in September 2018, working on an international project concerning reduction of the prevalence of HIV among adolescents in Zimbabwe. We want to get a broad perspective on the issues of HIV, and how it affect the society and the children and adolescents living in it. One of our main objectives of the project is to get an insight into, what is done to educate the youth of Zimbabwe about sexual reproductive health and rights and HIV. At a workshop, we met two Danish girls, who had been in contact with Wesley from Tiritose, who helped them create contacts to different organisations, and that was exactly what we needed.
Without the help from Wesley we would never have heard about House Of Smiles in Harare or about Mike Kalongonda, who facilitates peer-to-peer sexual education for children and adolescents. We gained a lot from our visits at Mabelreign School together with Mike. However it is our great cooperation with House Of Smiles that I want to share here. Helene and I are a part of the IMUNZI project, which is a project put together by three partner organisations, where two of them are located in Harare and Victoria Falls, while our organisation is founded in Denmark.
In the project group we did not quit know what to expect from our visit to House of Smiles, which is a center in Harare for street children ran by three employees and several volunteers. Wesley took us to the center, where we had a meeting with the staff and some of the volunteers of the center. That was the beginning of a great bond.
Current we have been to House of Smiles four times, and each time has been a new and explicit experience where we learn something new every time. We have seen the sessions about HIV and sexual reproductive health and rights, we have heard the music played by the children who attended music class, and we have felt the warm and happy atmosphere that the staff create for the children, who are in need for somebody to take care for them and listen to their feelings and thoughts. If we had not been in contact to House of Smiles our project would have a huge gap without knowledge about the interactive methods, that the staff use for their education.
It has been really interesting to hear the staff’s perspective on the issues of HIV in Zimbabwe, and to see how children who have very few resources are affected by the virus and it’s psyche/social and physical side effects.
It is very inspiring to see how big an influence the center has on the life of the children, and how the staff is sincerely interested in each individual child, and do their best to find solutions to get the child away from the streets for good.
Our relationship with the center resulted in Harold, Darlington and Paul attending our project workshop about advocacy and networking, where different organisations working with children, people with disabilities and HIV participated. The workshop facilitated contact between the different organisations, hoping to create a platform for a new partnership that can improve the circumstances for the different focus groups but also to share ideas for new project to strengthen the accountability of future projects and initiatives. We have all gained something from this teamwork, and we are certain that it is a corporation that does not stop, even when we travel back to another continent.
Maja Friis Jensen & Helen Josephine Duun Tolstrup
International Medical Cooperation Committee