Source: The Herald
Give a child an education and a foundation has been laid. There are hundreds of orphans who are yet to receive education. In Hatcliffe Extension, 11 secondary school-going orphans under the care of Vision HIV/Aids are missing school because their fees have not yet been paid.

Vision HIV/Aids was formed in 2005 by youths from the area who saw their friends live in abject poverty.

They too were directly affected by HIV/Aids as there were many orphans in their midst. The youths came together to assist fellow orphans and vulnerable children.

They later spread to marginalised areas in Harare to cover Hopley, Whitecliff, Caledonia and Epworth.

Despite the challenges all is not gloom and doom as the organisation has managed to bring a smile on the faces of some of the minor children.

Being able to pay school fees is not enough as the children also need food, social support and mentorship.

Vision HIV/Aids advocacy and communications manager Mr Charles Nyoni said it is their dream that no child goes to bed on an empty stomach and that they have decent shelter and a good education.

"We would like to see that no child living under difficult circumstances goes to bed hungry," said Mr Nyoni.

He said that despite having 11 children still out of school, they have managed to give 20 others school uniforms. They have also paid US$30 fees for each child as well as supplied them with stationery.

"Fifty-two children also received food supplements since education on an empty stomach does not make sense," said Mr Nyoni.

He said most of the children are from child-headed families.

"The children who benefited in this distribution are extremely vulnerable. They cannot afford two decent meals a day. Some are HIV positive and are on treatment. The food supplements we distributed included fruits to help with vitamin C, bakery products from Groombridge Spar and some supplements from Fruit and Veg Shop in Borrowdale," explained Mr Nyoni.
"The success of this distribution programme was due to our stakeholders working tirelessly with Vision HIV/Aids," he added.

Mr Nyoni said that it was important that positive living be given moral support as this was found to be lacking in some instances.

"Two different counselling sessions were held comprising four mothers and 15 children," he said.

"The theme of the session was "Accepting and Moving On," he said.

Mr Nyoni emphasised that life still goes on even if one is found to be HIV positive. He pointed out that when people decide to have children it's their obligation to look after them irrespective of their status.

"At first the discussion was met with a lot of resistance until one mother, Mai Sarudzai (not real name), acknowledged the importance of what I was saying. She pointed out that she was into selling for the good of her family and her well-being.

"The woman understood that staying occupied diverted her mind from thinking about her health and that's why she has been improving," he said.

"The meeting was successful as it saw a change of attitude towards health after hearing the testimony of their associate," he said.

Mr Nyoni said with children they engaged in an open forum as this made the kids warm up and open up to discussion. The orphans are concerned of what will become of them, if their provider was to die or leave.

"An open discussion approach was used where children raised different issues ranging from their health (why do I continue to be sick?), school issues (who will pay our fees if you quit?)

"And social issues, however, these were discussed openly and answered appropriately. We are looking forward to having more of these sessions to equip our children in the race of life," he said.

"The group conducts outreach programmes every Friday where vulnerable children are identified and their history taken. A "needs analysis" is conducted soon after they are identified. More of these outreach programmes are to be carried out in the next month.
The organisation has no vehicle to use for outreach programmes and it compromises the distance they cover.

Not everyone likes to work for no remuneration so they have a shortage of human resources but make do with the volunteers.

The organisation plans to establish income-generating projects for child headed households.

Vision HIV/Aids thanks the CV People, Spar Co-operate Retail, Toyota Zimbabwe, the Hindu Community of Zimbabwe, V-Tech and many other well-wishers for the donations they received in cash and kind.

"Food supplements and clothing (from the Hindu community) saw a great change and improved the recipients' health. This boosted confidence emanating from the counselling sessions we had previously held with our children," said Mr Nyoni.

Mr Nyoni is pleased to note that assisted children rarely miss school as they fit in the school curricular.

"Today the pupils given uniforms and stationery are going to school on a regular basis and are counted among pupils who have a complete school attire," he said.

Mr Nyoni added that they are not resting on their laurels as they still have secondary school-going children still not attending school.

"This achievement has forced us to look for ways to help other children lagging behind. We feel challenged when we come across children not attending school but fail to help," he said. He said when this happens he puts himself in the disadvantaged child's shoes.

This brings to mind the responsibility that communities were reminded of by Edelman.

"The future that we hold in trust for our children is shaped by the fairness we show to other people's children." Marian Wright Edelman.

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