Men and women across Zimbabwe are being
ravaged by HIV/AIDS. When they die, many of them leave behind children
who have to care for themselves and their brothers and sisters without
the protection or guidance of an adult.
The results are not encouraging. Children are often exploited for their labor. Some turn to vandalism. Others drop out of school. Without outside help, their chances of thriving, or even surviving, are slim.
Thirty-eight year old Backson Muchini has devoted much of his life to helping children in need. "I've always had an interest in working with children having grown up in a family with eight children and in a community that was fairly poor," says Muchini. "Now I'm dealing with the greatest challenge of all ... children who are affected by HIV and AIDS."
Muchini is the Program Director for Zimbabwe's innovative Support to Replicable Innovative Community/Village Level Efforts for Children Affected by HIV/AIDS (STRIVE) program. STRIVE provides grants to 16 local and international organizations to support children affected by HIV/AIDS and their communities.
The organizations use the grants to fund projects in education, food security, psychosocial development and other areas. STRIVE, which began in 2001 and will run until 2004, is reaching nearly 54,000 children.
STRIVE In Action
One of the local organizations that STRIVE supports is Batsiranai. Batsiranai uses community theater - drumming, traditional dance and song - to raise community awareness about HIV/AIDS.
Batsiranai is also raising awareness of children's rights. Local children participate in these advocacy efforts by telling others about the exploitation (emotional, sexual, child labor, etc.) they have experienced as a result of not having parents to protect them. These children have either lost their parents to HIV/AIDS, or their parents are too sick to care for and protect them.
Muchini feels that the lessons learned through STRIVE are important not just for Zimbabwe, but also for all of southern Africa and for other countries battling the AIDS pandemic like India and China. His hope is that STRIVE will be reproduced in other countries around the world and that it will help thousands more children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.