Why was your organization created?
The AIDS epidemic is the single biggest crisis in the history of man. Over the last decade significant progress has been made in the fight against HIV and AIDS, but children are still falling through the gaps. Our organization was created in 2004 with a vision of preventing new HIV infections, and providing health care services to HIV positive children so that they can live close to normal lives.
The program has grown organically since then. We have added a women's empowerment and a malaria prevention program so that we can make a long-term sustainable impact on the community.
Summarize your current objective. What are you seeking to accomplish and what do you need to get there?
Our mission is to turn back the tide of the global AIDS epidemic through innovative community responses that increase the responsiveness of prevention and care efforts. We strenghthen communities and empower women by providing them with the tools to take care of their chidlren living with HIV, and take better care of their families. How do we do this?
First, we train women to take care of their HIV infected children. Second, we provide food, medicines and a package of life saving health care services to the children. Third, we provide business training, small loans, and business support to first time women entrepreneurs. Finally, we provide mosquito bed nets and education on prevention of malaria to families vulnerable to malaria. The ripple effects of this comprehensive approach are huge and we are seeing a long-term sustained change in the community.
What are the leverage points that make your organization successful?
There are three elements of the program in particular that we believe have been critical to our success. First is our caregiver-training program.
Once a child is enrolled in our pediatric HIV care program, we provide the child’s primary caregiver (mother/grandmother/aunt) with training in caring for an HIV positive child. The second key element is Safe Parks, our Saturday educational games and activities program, which is free and open to all children in the community. Our trained healthcare staff plays games with the children and helps with homework, allowing them to assess the physical and mental health of the children and provide guidance to parents. Finally, our microloans program provides business training and loans to first time women entrepreneurs.
What makes your organization effective?
Our pediatric HIV care, microloans and malaria prevention programs are completely integrated so that a family is supported in several ways. This enables us to reach and impact a family in multiple ways. For example, a woman caregiver is able to take steps toward self-reliance if she getting an income from her business, her child is enrolled in our pediatric HIV care program, her family receives malaria bed nets, and the child particpates in our Safe Park program.
Our comprehensive program also provides psychosocial counseling, education on HIV prevention, training to caregivers in caring for an HIV positive child, adherence monitoring, training in adherence to medication for older children, and counseling to family members.
What are the metrics of success for your organization?
We measure success in terms of the health and well-being of the family and their ability to take care of themselves. In particular, we are proud that survival rates are around 95% for children. After a few months on our program the chidlren stabilize and improve in health as measured by an increase in weight, and an increase in CD4 counts. Loan repayment rates are in the range of 90-92% - extraordinary given the difficult circumstances of our loan recipients. As a result of our malaria prevention program, we are seeign a reduced the incidence of malaria and higher school attendance due to improved health of the children.
Overall, the women learn marketable skills, understand the importance of school, have increased knowledge about HIV care and prevention, learn to save a small amount each week, and come forward for testing for HIV due to better knowledge and reduced stigma about HIV. In addition, they have built strong social networks and many are role models and mentors for others in the community.
What aspects of your organization are not commonly known, or are commonly misinterpreted?
We do not emphasize enough that our organization is 100% volunteer based, and 100% of donations from private donors go towards programs.
Also, it is the policy of the founders that they will not increase the number of beneficiaries at the cost of compromising the quality of services provided to women and children. For example, we believe that the training provided to caregivers of the children is critical to the improved health of the chidlren, even though it drives up program costs. Similarly, the continuous support provided to women in our loans program drives up administrative costs. These costs can be misinterpreted donors as reducing efficiency of the loans program.
What are some of your organization’s major accomplishments?
One of our major achievements is the change in the attitude and behavior of the families who have been in our program for a few months. It is heartwarming to see women transform themselves from a state of poverty and helplessness to being confident and on the path toward self-reliance, looking forward to a bright future and becoming role models for others in the community.
The families in our program know how to take care of their children, understand the importance of keeping children in school, start savings bank accounts, and have a plan for the future. In fact, they become role models for others in the community and encourage them to work hard to turn their lives around and teach them what they have learnt.
What are some historical challenges or vulnerabilities that your organization has faced?
One of the challenges is our size. We are a small organization with no paid staff, and I work out of my home office to keep overheads to a minimum. This discourages large funders who would like to partner with an organization with a certain minimum infrastructure and employees.
Another challenge we face is that compared to other organizations, our program costs in terms of per child served/loan provided seem higher. This is because the impact of many services we provide can be seen only after a few years or after the funding cycle is completed.
What would your organization do with additional resources?
In the community of Matero there are around 5000 HIV positive children who can benefit from the continuous quality care that is provided by our program. With additional resources, we would like to add 1000 HIV positive children to our pediatric HIV care program, provide business loans and training to caregivers of these children, and education on prevention of malaria to families of all the 5000 children.
Also, we would like to launch a similar program in a community with a high prevalence of HIV and AIDS in rural Zambia. The community has already been identified - we are awaiting funds.
What are some gaps that your organization could fill that it currently does not?
We would like to partner and work with the top talent from leading Universities in the area to engage these experts to design effective solutions. I strongly believe that we have not exploited the full potential of the expertise and resources available to us locally. For example, we would like to partner with the University of Zambia, the Copperbelt University and other research organizations to increase our area of impact.