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RAISA YEBO April 2005
Regional AIDS Initiative of Southern Africa/VSO
April 01, 2005

It has been almost a year since RAISA organized its regional conference on children and HIV & AIDS. This conference, held from 18 until 20 May 2004 in Pretoria, brought together 80 delegates from grassroots organizations, NGOs and other stakeholders. Also ten youth delegates, five from Malawi and five from Zambia, participated. This conference was a huge success and we received very positive feedback from this, particularly the way we involved the youth and enabled their involvement as peers alongside the adults was praised. The youth participants decided on the agenda of day 3 and facilitated the sessions on this day1. During day 1 and day 2 the youth participants learned skills around memory work and art and play therapy and they sensitised the adult participants on day 3 about their obtained skills.

At the end of the conference all of the participants showed true commitment in taking the learning forward. This Yebo will look at how the actual lessons learned have been used by our staff and partners in the Southern African region. We will also discuss other support RAISA is giving to its partners working with children.

Children will also be one of the main groups RAISA will focus on in the coming years. We feel it is important to build the capacity of our partners working with children as these children are increasingly infected and affected by the HIV & AIDS pandemic. In fact, eighty per cent of the world's children orphaned by HIV & AIDS reside in Sub-Saharan Africa and it is predicted that by 2010 an estimated 20 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa will have lost at least one parent to HIV & AIDS.

Governments do not have the capacity to cope, and it is unrealistic to assume that communities can just keep on 'absorbing' vulnerable children. At the same time, children have the right to access care, support and health services. Also, they have the right to education and in more general terms, they have the right to a childhood.

As you can see, there are big challenges ahead of many of us when we work on programmes related to children infected and affected by HIV & AIDS. RAISA is committed to this work and will keep on working with our partners on the issue. Because, as one of the delegates at the above mentioned conference rightly mentioned: 'When spider webs unite they can catch a lion - we need to unite to create a safety net for children'.

After the regional conference two of the youth participants visited a 10 Million Memory project workshop in Zimbabwe to build their facilitation skills further. The two representatives are both from Consul Homes, a centre in Lilongwe where orphans are trained in various vocational skills apart from the usual feeding and psychosocial support. After their trip to Zimbabwe they sensitised the staff and their fellow youths at the institution on the lessons learned.

They also sensitised the community leaders in surrounding villages and trained fellow youths and orphans on how to develop memory books, hero books and body maps. Last but not least they empowered youth groups and widow groups on how best they can look after orphans and other vulnerable children. The community leaders and the youths that were trained indicated that the trainings were very useful to them, and they encouraged the two youths to consider reaching children in other areas too. Recently RAISA Malawi held a planning meeting with the youths that were trained and with other stakeholders. In this meeting we came up with an Action Plan for Follow up activities, aiming to hold even more youth 'Training of Trainers' workshops.

For further information please contact Safari Mbewe, RAISA Country Coordinator for Malawi, at

Since the RAISA regional conference RENSIDA, the Mozambican national network of PLWHAS, has decided to adopt the use of hero and memory books. These memory books are encouraging HIV positive parents to begin preparing their families for their deaths. The hero books are a means of psychosocial support for children that currently get very little of this kind of assistance. RENSIDA is in the process of starting a project that will cover the 6 provinces where they work, and which UNICEF will fund. The aim of the project is to train the 46 activists that work in the provinces about how to write memory books. They can then start to assist particular families to write the books. RAISA will be assisting RENSIDA to find a facilitator and budget for the materials necessary to implement the project.

We have also suggested to RENSIDA to get in contact with Reencontro, a CBO that went on the RAISA sponsored UNASO tour to Uganda in 2003. It was there that Reencontro first heard about memory books. Since then they have worked with the Ministry of Justice to make memory books legally binding documents. This means that the law protects any inheritance recorded in the memory books.

The other lesson coming out of the conference that has been incorporated in the work of RAISA and its partners is the need to form partnerships. RENSIDA previously only involved their member organizations in caring for children. Now local community and government institutions, such as the district and provincial representatives of the Ministry of Women and Social Action, are also involved. The partnership between RENSIDA and these authorities means that children get free access to services such as education, health and registration a lot faster then before the cooperation was started.

The Provincial Directorate of Women and Social Action from the Sofala Province now wants to improve the functioning of its community councils, particularly in psychosocial support for children. They are hoping to organize an exchange visit to Malawi to visit Karonga District Hospital as this hospital has a lot of experience with community based childcare focusing mainly on psychosocial child development.

For more information, please contact Etelvina Mahanjane, RAISA Country Coordinator for Mozambique, at

As part of the 3rd national Orphans and Vulnerable Children Conference in Namibia, organised by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Child Welfare, VSO-RAISA sponsored Jonathan Morgan (Clinical Psychologist, Associate Consultant REPSSI and one of the facilitators at the 2004 regional conference) along with 2 youth facilitators from South Africa to lead 50 Namibian youth in Hero Book Training.

The participating youth delegates were aged between 14 and 18 years and were all supported through the organisations present at the conference. None of them had done any previous Hero Book work. During the workshop, which took place on 9 and 10 February, youth were given the opportunity to make their own Hero Books. Following this time was spent preparing the youth to share their experiences with the other conference delegates, if they wished to do so.

At the end of the workshop the youth had a lot of things to take forward: They produced their own Hero Book, learned skills to teach other youth to make these books, and they were also having the opportunity to share this learning with the other delegates of the conference. Feedback from the conference indicated that this programme was well received by all, particularly the youth. They felt they were not only involved in the programme, but also listened too. VSO-RAISA will stay in contact with the youth in the future to see if they have been able to disseminate their learning to others.

We have also been working with a group of 6 shelters that provide care and support for children affected by HIV & AIDS in the township of Katutura. Through our support the group has been able to form a network that meets monthly. At these meetings participants are able to share ideas and learning, plan activities together and discuss issues that are relevant to their work.

For further information please contact Lisa Davidson, RAISA Country Coordinator for Namibia, at

South Africa
As in many countries in the region, in South Africa a lot of children are affected by AIDS. The country has more than 660.000 orphans at the moment and the prediction for 2010 is that 1,7 million children will have lost at least one parent due to AIDS by 2010 (UNICEF). VSO South Africa works with a variety of partners working with children, and several of these participated in the RAISA 2004 RAISA regional conference on Orphans and Vulnerable Children. Examples of partners implementing this learning are given below:

As a result of the regional conference the Centre for Positive Care (CPC) organised sessions on Art and Play Therapy in partnership with three primary schools, involving both the children and the teachers at these schools. CPC also facilitated a training on Hero Books for one primary school and for a Children's Resource/Care Centre. Last, CPC trained 26 of its own staff on Memory work in order for their staff to use the learned skills when working with their patients and volunteers. According to CPC the art therapy and memory work training has helped its own staff to communicate better with the children and to understand the 'other side' of the children's stories. The training given in the schools proved to have sensitised the teachers more about the issues faced by children affected by AIDS. Also the children themselves indicated they benefited from the art therapy and hero book trainings. They were able to share their life experiences with others and realised their peers had similar problems. They also got a clearer picture of their exact problems, which has made it easier from them to deal with the issues. Lastly, sharing their stories with others boosted their sense of belonging to the community.

The Durban Children Society (DCS) has also trained their staff on Hero Books and Memory work. They also organised a Father's Day, in partnership with Unilever. This day was organised to promote men's care and the protection of children. DCS got inspired to organise this day as a result of seeing the Fatherhood Project Exhibition during the RAISA conference. This photo exhibition, organised by the South African Human Science Research Council, presents images of fatherhood seen through the lenses of professional photographers, students and children. Alongside these images are the words of children talking about fathers, and men talking about the way they see themselves. The exhibition aims to recognise, encourage and support men's care and protection of children.2

Liesl Hewitt from RSBSC, who was the Art and Play therapy facilitator at the RAISA conference, has been receiving emails from participants after the conference for advice/input on aspects of children's programmes. Liesl also received feedback from one of the participating children who said to be using some of the techniques with friends back home.

Other examples of VSO South Africa partners working with children are Ikageng Itereleng and HIVSA, both based in the Soweto township outside of Johannesburg. Ikageng mainly focuses on child headed households and supports those households with basic needs, such as food, clothes, school uniforms, school fees etc. HIVSA is an organization that focuses on psychosocial support and organizes children camps teaching children basic life skills, develop leadership and communication skills and most important increasing the child's self-confidence and self esteem.

For more information, please contact Carine Munting, RAISA Country Coordinator for South Africa, at

VSO-RAISA Zambia supported a workshop in December 2004, which was organised by our partners City of Hope. The workshop focused on Hero books and brought together more than twenty young people from organizations providing institutional care and support for children living in difficult circumstances. All these organizations are based around Lusaka. City of Hope also provided its own venue for the workshop; a centre for girls in crisis and a community school under the auspices of the Zambia Community Schools Secretariat (ZCSS).

The ten members of the national training team, which consists of five participants that attended the regional conference and five of their peers, worked in pairs in the four sessions where they took the 20 other youths through the training process. The training included an introduction to the hero book document and also in the actual process in which the participants are invited to be the authors, illustrators, main characters and editors of the books that are designed to give them power over specific challenges in their lives. The process was one in which these groups of young people led each other through a series of drawing exercises and autobiographical story telling. The young trainers focused on highlighting challenges that affect other young people and have their roots in public health issues.

At the end of the training session all the participants had a hand bound storybook of their own making, that proclaimed and reinforced their hero survival-resilient qualities and that also drew attention to the deeper social issues around children living in difficult circumstances. Another outcome was that the young people found time and space in which to work together and contain the telling, retelling and reconstructing of their life stories. Also, the participants of this workshop found the opportunity to deal not only with their past difficulties but also their present challenges and they planned together as a team on how to overcome these problems. A last outcome was that by the end of the session all participants were able to take back their knowledge and skills needed to make the hero books to their schools. The youth can use these books as tools to support their efforts to integrated memory work in the respective community schools.

For more information, please contact Augustine Chella, RAISA Country Coordinator for Zambia, at

HIV & AIDS have led to an orphan crisis in Zimbabwe with the brunt of care falling on the weak extended family. The number of children in Zimbabwe who have lost one or both parents to HIV and AIDS is estimated to exceed 980 000. The Government of Zimbabwe in collaboration with UNICEF and other stakeholders have started to respond to this crisis by drafting the National Plan of Action for Orphans and other Vulnerable Children. Through partnerships with various organisations focusing on the needs of orphans and other children RAISA Zimbabwe is responding to the crisis.

Various RAISA partners attended the 2004 Regional Conference and implemented key learning in Zimbabwe. It was at this conference that these NGOs identified a common need to implement memory projects within the communities they serve. With support from RAISA through a Small Grant they held two-day memory book training workshops for orphans and other vulnerable children and their families. These memory book projects helped complement the psychosocial support for the families and form additional coping strategies for the children and their families. They prepare the orphans to cope with the grief and trauma associated with the loss of parents, and help make it easier for them to store memories they desire and track their origins (totems, values and culture) using the memory books. As a communication tool the memory books help break the silence between parents and children.

Most of our partners involved in orphan care are doing enormous work and are making a difference in the lives of children. Next to psychosocial support, their work evolves also around general orphan care such as payment of school fees, provision of stationery and clothing. Our partners also work on HIV prevention among children by teaching them about reproductive health issues and peer education. They also have programs on the prevention of child sexual abuse which is rampant among children in Zimbabwe. As the orphan crisis in Zimbabwe is growing there is a need to step up efforts and make a difference in the lives of the children.

For more information, please contact Wedzerai Chyioka, RAISA Country Coordinator for Zimbabwe, at

Resources on Children and HIV & AIDS

  • Report on the 2004 RAISA regional conference on Orphans and Vulnerable Children. See or request a hardcopy from the RAISA coordinator in your country.
  • Orphans and Vulnerable Children Support Toolkit at
  • ‘Children on the Brink 2004’ (UNICEF, USAID, UNAIDS) presents the latest statistics on historical, current and projected numbers of children under 18 who have been orphaned by AIDS and other causes. This publication can be downloaded from
  • Save the Children has produced various reports on children and HIV & AIDS. You can download these reports from their website

1. For more information about the conference, please download the conference report from or request a copy from the RAISA country coordinator in your country.
2. See or contact Carine Munting for more information about the Fatherhood Project.

Visit the VSO Zimbabwe fact sheet

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