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Helping the vulnerable - Interview with Tamuka Foundation, Kuwadzana
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa, Kubatana.net
February 08, 2012

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Tamuka FoundationTamuka Foundation is a community organisation based in Kuwadzana.

What problems did you see that made you decide to establish Tamuka Foundation?

Tecla Manyenya: Our founders used to work for the National Aids Council (NAC) as caregivers. When NAC stopped doing coordination, people still kept coming to the founders to look for help. The founders used their own funds and resources to help people, until it became unsustainable, so they were advised to establish an organisation. We work with orphans and vulnerable children, people living with or affected by HIV and the disabled. We run income-generating projects. These are implemented so that the people we help are able to become independent and earn a living for themselves and their families. We also run some projects (gardening and animal rearing) for nutritional purposes. We also run programmes like behaviour change, which is especially good for the youth, and psychosocial support for OVCs. We run workshops, and organise music and drama. With these programmes we try to raise awareness about HIV. Listen

Toendepi Mahaso: Our main programmes deal with HIV. We have got prevention, mitigation and treatment programmes. They are related to the thematic areas that are charted in the National response to HIV/ AIDS. Tamuka is a community-based organisation, so we rely and work with the community and we work for their benefit. The community has responded very positively. They are participating in our programmes and activities.

How are you assisting young people?

Tecla Manyenya: With child-headed households, we look to see what the family situation is like. We help some children with school fees, food packs, and accommodation. There are some who don't have a home or a place to stay; those are the ones we take in. Right now we have 30 children. Some of them have bed-ridden parents; other's have been abandoned or have been given to us by Social Welfare. There are others who, when we assess the family situation, we see that they can't continue staying in that environment.

Honest Chifamba: When we work with older youth we look to see what problems are affecting them, and then we create a project that helps towards meeting their needs. Nowadays we all know that the infection rate of HIV for youth is very high. So we came up with workshops that were related to behaviour change. We also deal with unemployment in terms of creating projects that help them. We are currently running several income generating projects like candle-making, sewing, peanut butter making, knitting, gardening. Last November we started a rabbit and poultry project. We serve as a platform for them to start the project, and then they run it on their own.

What challenges have you faced in your work?

Toendepi Mahaso: We face challenges in getting funding for our programming. We have made contact with funding organisations, but the response is either no or wait a little bit. To get funding sometimes we run around on our own as the executive committee and the members. We dip into our pockets and finance the small things. Here and there we get some well wishers who'll give us funding for specific projects. We remain with this challenge, as we go along. We are used to it. But we will never abandon any of our activities to scout for funding. You know these big donors are reluctant to fund these days. Listen

What would you say have been your successes?

Honest Chifamba: Our major success is the turn out. When we started it is was very low, but now we have more than 100 youth registered with the organisation. Many of them are making a living from the projects that we initiate. Some have even managed to marry and have their own homes.

Toendepi Mahaso: These youths have organised themselves into a very interesting group. They've got a choice to make at the end of the day. They need to decide if they are open to temptations and to decide what they want their future to be. Most of them, their lives really changed as a result of these things. We have a herbal garden, the income from which has changed the lifestyle of the participants of that project. They get a few things from it here and there that help them in their personal lives, but mostly it's the income. We have a dance group that has also helped a lot of people. Within that group there are several sub-groups. There are others who have started with us and gone on to form their own groups. We have a music band that has released two albums. With male circumcision, we are leading in driving it as a prevention programme. We have nutrition programmes; these are largely focussed towards younger children. Then we offer home based care and support. We had taken in a whole family, a young woman with two younger brothers. These two boys had to take care of their older sister who was bed-ridden. We managed to intervene and take them in. We worked together with government health facilities to get her treatment. If you see her now you wouldn't believe it.

Can you give me an example of how you work?

Tecla Manyenya: Over Christmas there was a girl who fell pregnant and was then kicked out by her parents. She then went to her boyfriend's house, but her boyfriend's parents would not accept her child. They then told her to bring her child to us. I ended up going to her boyfriend's father's house with her, and we managed to negotiate with them and her parents so that she could live with her mother. There are children who have been chased away from home because of a disagreement. One child went to the police and reported their parent for abuse. The police went to the house and settled the issue. But later on the same child ran away to Mai Kwati's house, saying that they could live at home anymore. The child's mother had passed away and at home the father had remarried. I went with the child to the home and spoke with the parents to try to settle the issues that were going on there. We've also inducted the child into our behaviour change programmes.

Toendepi Mahaso: We have a lot of examples that mean and speak to different things. There's another girl who has been abused . . .

Tecla Manyenya: Her name was Grace. She was abused by her mother's brother. She reported him to the police. But since he was the one looking after her she couldn't go back home after that. We took her in. After she had her baby we also arranged for her to go back to school. Now she's an adult and she has her education. With many children we also do follow ups to see how they are living and make sure their living situation is ok.

What would you say is your biggest wish as an organisation?

Toendepi Mahaso: Our biggest wish is to have our own skills training centre. That is our biggest wish. Where the community receives life skills training. People should use that as a starting point, or platform, to build their lives. You know the prevalence of HIV/ AIDS is linked to poverty. We should never lose sight of that. Once we eradicate or reduce poverty, in line with MDGs, that is definitely going to reduce the incidence of HIV. So our biggest wish is to make that kind of impact in our community and ultimately the whole country. Listen

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