Rozaria Memorial Trust
28 July 2011
When we started on HIV prevention and care programmes in 2007, we had a more general outreach to families affected by HIV. We reached out to everyone and established a strong presence in ward 8 and 17 in Murewa District in Zimbabwe. This is a district with a population of 23,000 and a 23% HIV prevalence rate, against a national average of 13%.
The more we engaged with families, the more it became clear that we needed to have a special and deeper focus on children living with HIV. In every family where a parent of reproductive age group was HIV positive, we likely had a child living with HIV. Most of the children had single parents, living with foster care-givers and some simply in desperate situations. Access to treatment became an immediate call for us, and associated with importance of investing in education for these children, in a supportive and enabling learning environment. This was to compliment on-going prevention programmes.
We secured a permanent spot on the Global Giving online fundraising platform, thus enabling us to raise almost $10K from over 155 individuals within a period of 8 months. This short narrative gives the stories of some of the children who have been and are part of the programme. We value the partnership with AJWS, SAFAIDS, and AVERT who have enabled us to build skills for supporting and working with children living with HIV. The real life stories below give a glimpse of our work, its complexities and yet remains a narrative of hope.
She is a 6 year old girl, who lives in Masango village, with her mother, Rosemary Mudarikwa. Rosemary is a single mother, living with HIV herself and survives through cross-border trade. When travelled to Mozambique or South Africa for weeks, Rosemary left her young daughter with neighbours. The little girl S, did not seem to grow for her age and was frail. Rosemary was afraid and could not bring her child for testing. The Community Support Group discussed the issue with her, and informed her that if the child is not tested, some of the neighbours may no longer be comfortable remaining with the child when she is away.
With the community support, Rosemary, in her mid thirties, walked the 7 kilometers to Murewa Centre to meet with Rozaria Memorial Trust for advice and support. Colleta Zinyama, RMT Programme Officer accompanied S. and her mother to Murewa Hospital, where the little girl was tested. She tested positive to HIV. It was hard for Rosemary. Colleta and the health workers had to spend some time with Rosemary, counseling her; while little S. was simply not fully understanding what all the fuss was about. S. was placed on medicine, and the hospital did further tests for her CD4 Count.
S. will now be enrolled for grade 0, pre-school at Mazeyanike school, with support from RMT. This is one of the schools which RMT had been going through sensitization programmes with teachers, administration and community. Both S and her mother will continue to receive counseling, moral and psycho-social support from the Masango support group.
What is clear is that the Ministry of Health must have the necessary medicines for HIV; skilled and committed health workers if both S and her mother are to live positively and with hope. The Ministry of Education must step up its support to children and teachers as we continue to enroll children of S’s age group, therefore this is long term capacity that should exists. Ultimately issues of poverty and its impact of women and especially single mothers like Rosemary, must be addressed as such mothers all desire to directly provide for their families and for themselves.
About four (4) months ago we shared about Nyasha Matogo, a mother of 2 children whose children had to rotate begging in order to support their mother, from Jakopo Village in Ward 8 Murewa. RMT did its best to provide an emergency response with food, and immediate access to treatment as well as enrolling the children in school. Nyasha’s family was finally came for her, and she was taken to Uzumba, an adjacent district to Murewa. We held hope for Nysha and her two children
Pedzisayi Fero, a Community Mobiliser with RMT for Jakopo village called with sad news. "A message came from Uzumba, that Nyasha Matogo died a month ago", was a simple message. There was no news about the children. RMT is trying to trek down the children and do a referral to Uzumba Orphan Care Trust, since RMT programmes are only in Murewa. We do not know what the situation of the children.
Again, Nyasha’s story reminds us of the deep vulnerabilities of women who are married, widowed, abandoned and live on the margins of society. The death of a mother has such huge impact on children. The community and social protection mechanisms must be strengthened to ensure that Nyasha’s children are able to go to school, and to access treatment and other medical services. They need love and a supporting environment.
Mbuya (Grandmother) Chitate
Well, we still have the many sheroes/heroines in our communities like Mbuya Chitate. Her stepdaughter died 3 weeks after giving birth to little Tatenda. Tatenda was born with HIV and when her mother died, Mbuya Chitate just took her in. She approached RMT for support, “if nothing else but food for this rusvava/infant; and a visit to the clinic”. That was over a year ago. RMT has been providing food supplements to Tatenda since, and she has grown to be a health baby, complying to treatment and healthy as any other baby. Mbuya Chitate is now working with RMT and the health workers in preparing Tatenda for migration to a new diet.
However, Mbuya Chitate wants her little baby to get a birth-certificate, and its complicated. She has to first get the death certificate for the mother, and she is not sure whether she is allowed to register this child, since she is a step-grandmother. RMT has advised her to take it one step at a time, and seek advise. It should be possible for Tatenda to get birth certificate, though it may be complicated.
Rozaria Memorial Trust believes that it’s important to have direct impact in lives of the individuals, the lives of children, care-givers, parents and communities. In an integrated community approach, affirmation of the rights and dignity for all is crucial. In partnerships we can have great impact, cross-referrals and a strong social protection network. Ultimately government has to play its policy role and in delivering quality education, health, livelihoods and food security programmes in communities. Present in 32 villages, RMT reaches over 5,000 people in Murewa, in Zimbabwe.
 Founder and Chairperson, Rozaria Memorial Trust.
The Community Dialogue that Rozaria Memorial Trust held at Mazeyanike School, in Murewa, Zimbabwe, last week stressed the importance of addressing stigma and discrimination to support positive living in communities. The meeting attended by 56 people comprising of 7 village heads, representatives of churches (Methodist, Family of God, ZAOGA), Caregivers (trained by RMT & ZWAAPV), parents and guardians of Children Living with HIV (CLHIV), School heads and secretariat of support groups.
The Dialogue mainly centered on role played by community as a support system to People Living with HIV (PLHIV). Each and everyone in the circle of care gave ideas of how they could contribute towards care to the infected. The main issues faced by PLHIV in communities were:
Schools committed themselves to referring children they find having health relate problems to nearest hospitals and clinics. Churches also said that they will work hand in hand with other partners to improve the lives of PLHIV. The village heads stressed the importance of household food security indicating that they will support the RMT in expanding its maize production project which targets families affected by HIV.
Rozaria Memorial Trust runs HIV prevention, care and support programmes in 31 villages in Murewa, Zimbabwe reaching to more than 300 people living with HIV of whom 1/3 are children. RMT is working in partnership with the District AIDS Coordinating Committee (DACC), SAFAIDS, and AJWS.
Little Nyazema village in Murewa, Zimbabwe lies hidden between the rivers Nyadire and Munyukwi. It is surrounded by the vibrant and known villages namely Marumisa, Gwishiri, Magaya and a resettlement areas called “village 10″. It is in the middle of no-where when it comes to infrastructure.
The road that runs across the village is a feeder/secondary road between Murewa and Macheke. Only one bus passes through, and its referred to as a daily service. If you miss it, or it comes full you just have to wait for the following day. The other option is to walk more than 20 kilometres to Harare -Nyamapanda highway.
The children in this village have very long distances to walk to Magaya school. When Nyadire river if full they miss class. No reliable transport. Its really hard for women and girls of this village. As Maggie Mupanguri aptly “the bridge paKareza doesnt take much rain for it to overflow and close access to either side. Unfortunately the river has been seriously affected by siltation, because of ploughing on the river bands”.
There is no health care centre which is nearby. The options are grim. Walk more than 30 kilometres to Chitate health centre, there is no direct road. Walk the almost 20 kilometers to Chitowa health centre sincere there is no direct bus service. Only option for those unable to walk is to get a scotchcart!
As we campaign for access to treatment and education for rural communities, Nyazem village reminds us of the reality. These are the daily struggles for women as they provide care and support to their families, and care for people living with HIV. As the governments, donors, UN and others gather in New York in September for 10 year review of the MDG Goals, we encourage them to be practical. Remember the women and girls in Nyazema village. Support organisations like Rozaria Memorial Trust who are reaching out to such communities.
The 8th of May we celebrate, observe and mark Mothers’ Day. A special day to remember our shero’s, heroines in our lives. I hope many will spare a moment for that special woman in our lives, a mother.
Rozaria Memorial Trust was founded to carry the legacy of the late Mbuya Rozaria Marumisa-Dizha(1923 – 2006). Born in Murewa, Mashonaland East, Zimbabwe, she had to drop out of school to be married at an early age. A 3rd grade graduate, a widow for 28 years and a community social entrepreneur, she valued education.
Through selling produce from her little garden by Nyadire river, she paid for school fees, and put food on the table. In her old age, she cared and buried her children, who died of AIDS. She was a voice to reckon with in village meetings, protecting the interest of the poor, marginalised and vulnerable. Till her death she believed in quality community and social based care for the mentally ill, as she cared for her own two children.
Mbuya Rozaria would sleep well after midnight, and be the first to wake up the morning. In the rainy season, it drizzled down on her as she pulled the weeds from the maize field. Like many other village women, she walked long distances to celebrate new life or to console the bereaved. A solid voice within the church, she died an elder always present with youth in their gatherings.
As a Trust, we request you in your hearts and in your lives to celebrate the ordinary heroines, the sheros in your lives. We are committed to bring value to the innovation of ordinary women in our communities, as they promote life with dignity, education and health.
We give special attention to children living with HIV. We invite you to join hands with us. You support, gifts and encouragement gives hope and life opportunities to many. You can make a difference through a special recurring gift with GlobalGiving. We value all the support to children, through the Trust.
The social media revolution has been a plus in creating opportunities and leveraging the voices and visibility of women and children in rural communities, such as Murewa in Zimbabwe. Rozaria Memorial Trust has embraced these possibilities with zeal and gusto despite the many barriers and constraints that face such community organisations and networks.
The pictures, varied photos and videos that we have shared on flickr have given a tangible feel of the reality of our work. It has brought laughter and nostalgia to many friends, support groups and community members; bringing joy and excitement as members of a wider community. We have of-course faced the usual challenges, no real technical capacity; a poor single and old video camera that serves multiple functions; low internet bandwidth and access to electricity that limit what we can upload. We have recycled some of the pictures and still feel good that at least, we can give life and visibility to our work.
When we started on facebook, we were hesitant, unsure and yet driven by the need to bring out the voice and the visibility of the real experiences that we experience in our communities. We wanted and still want to engage, interact, share perspectives and challenge the norms. We still feel the digital divide can be narrowed if communities are empowered. Today we celebrate over 1,600 friends and hundreds of followers on our fan page. In the last two years that we have built this platform and used this network, our members and volunteers in the Trust have grown confident in public communication. We have used the platform to support our fundraising efforts, and many have responded with donations, gifts, advise and volunteering opportunities. It was therefore a great moment when one of our young board members, Kudzanai Mugaragumbo sat in the same room with Chris Hughes, the co-founder of facebook, both young advocates for issues of HIV and AIDS. We invite you all to friend us, be our fans, support our cause and know that you are linking with the spirit of our village.
The potential for on-line giving and fundraising has been one of the biggest opportunities and resources that social media has brought to community organisations like Rozaria Memorial Trust. The many barriers that we face for e-banking in economies like Zimbabwe, we have leveraged and benefited from platforms such as those provided by Global Giving for us to access a wider community of individuals passionate about our cause and our mission. We have been able to tell our stories of reaching out and providing access to treatment and education for children living with HIV in rural Murewa to a much wider audience. We have been able to receive training, connect with like-minded groups and have greater impact. Within 5 months of our global fundraiser for $10K in support of children living with HIV, we have been able to receive over $7k from 100 special gifts and donations. The outreach of combined emails, twitter and facebook as been a powerful tools for us. We hope this Easter, you will all use this power of social media to give, and enable us reach our $10K and have more HIV positive children with access to ART in the coming months.
Mobile telephony and its connectedness to various media has been at the heart of our efforts. With all the limitations of internet access in Murewa, and in the country generally, we have relied on the phone for relaying content from the community to the volunteer with internet access. We have used the phones to take some of the photos, and just text in an urgent message. Many of our friends and volunteers who make posts and contributions use mobile phones. The mobile telephony lies at the heart of e-health revolution in Africa is a welcome development. I shared this view at the first meeting and launch of the UN Commission on Information and Accountability on Women and Children’s Health.
Despite these possibilities, we have remained acutely aware of the many barriers that we experience to maximise these opportunities, such as:
a) lack of consistent and quality access to energy sources such as electricity or its alternatives. Rozaria Memorial Trust has no generator, so when the power is out, we can only resort to mobile phones, which also have limitations of its own, as such a community organisation can not afford high end i-phones.
b) cost of internet access and limited options on the market. There are very limited products on the market for internet access, including wireless services, especially in remote communities like Murewa. The NetOne and EcoNet services, do not offer wide range of options for community groups with shoe-strong budgets and yet whose potential can be leveraged by power of social media.
c) skills, trained and dedicated staff. This is also an area of investment for such organisation that is we are unable to offer quality resourcing. The meagre resources go to direct support to children living with HIV, the poor families and other such life-saving and supportive services. Communications and social media actions are mostly handled by volunteers and this at times compromises the consistency and quality.
The opportunity and benefits outweigh the barriers, as we harness the power of the diaspora, the possibilities of multi-media and the power of human voices, stories and experiences of our communities. This Easter, may you seek to reach out to Rozaria Memorial Trust through our multiple social media. And yes; listen to us on youtube, read some of our scripts on scribd and oh well, we are growing our linkedin profile!
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