This is our final week here in Mzimba! We’ve been working hard with our partners and continuing with our advocacy and outreach marketing. Over the past two weeks we’ve been speaking to many target audiences, teenagers, married couples and elders.

On the 23rd of May we did another HIV prevention talk at Malo Secondary School, a private school for girls. The headteacher of the school was a woman named Cynthia. A very welcoming and nurturing lady, she told us that she has high hopes for all of her students once they leave school. "I don’t want to see them out on the streets selling tomatoes," she remarked.

We were told about the taught 'life skills' lessons the girls receive three times a week, which cover topics such as HIV prevention. We then delivered the HIV prevention talk to roughly 80 enthusiastic teenage girls. They asked for our e-mail addresses and facebook details at the end of the session, so we definitely feel like mentors to these young ladies!

This month we also gave three talks on mutual faithfulness in the context of HIV prevention. Two of the talks were to young people and another was to a group of 10 married couples. I really enjoyed my section of the presentation. It was an activity similar to the UK television show Mr & Mrs. One couple would  come up to the front and I would ask each of them the same question. Without conferring with each other they would write their answer down on a piece of paper and reveal it. The couples were a little shy and apprehensive at first but in the end they really enjoyed it. Overall the presentations were very successful, people were able to be honest and open with each other and I felt like we broke through a lot of cultural barriers.

The team have also been working closely with the elders at the Manerela+ healthy living support group. This group focuses on business and income generation ideas as well as healthy living. Recently the group have been discussing nutrition with the elders. We visited this group in our final week and they fed back everything they had been learning from us. One woman demonstrated some of the new exercises she is now doing. Another member spoke about work ethic and new approaches to business. Other members have changed their eating habits and are eating a much healthier and more varied diet. The group thanked us and we finished off with a dance!

The children’s school we started in the village known as “The mission” is coming along very nicely! They have chosen one of the names I suggested, “Children of the sun”. They explained that they selected this particular name from the list because “their children have been removed from the darkness and they can now see the light of the sun” thanks to the team's hard work. I feel so proud to have been apart of this community, they have made so much progress in only a few short weeks. They thanked us all for helping them set up the school, they even thanked us in song and included all of our names: “thank you Gemma, thank you Beth, thank you Tashann, thank you Sam”. They also gave us some wonderful gifts (all of them handmade) to take home with us!

This week has been very difficult saying goodbye to all of the people and children we have been working with! We will definitely maintain contact with all of the people and partner organisations we have worked with over the last 10 weeks.

By Progressio ICS volunteer Tashann Barnett. Photo: girls playing in Mzimba (photo © Cecilia Rose/Progressio)