Teclah, from Zimbabwe, is currently working as a HIV and AIDS Programme Development Adviser, alongside the Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (ZACRO).

What is your work background?

Before joining Progressio, I was working as a Training Manager for an organisation called Themba HIV and AIDS Interactive Theatre, in Braamfonte, South Africa. The organisation uses innovative interactive theatre techniques, which are a blend of Brazilian artist Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre and applied theatre techniques, to explore issues around domestic violence, sexual reproduction, health and wellness, HIV and AIDS: prevention and treatment, cultural and sexual diversity and human rights, among other areas. The organisation at that time was doing a lot of work in South African prisons in educating inmates on HIV and AIDS, prevention, care and treatment literacy.

What inspired you to become a Development Worker with Progressio?

A number of reasons inspired me to join the Progressio team in Zimbabwe. I was working in a foreign land and working with target groups which some people would rather not work with. Progressio offered me an opportunity to go back home and work within a familiar environment and at the same time doing that which I love to do; working with the poorest of the poor, the weak and the forgotten in society, such as inmates.

Progressio also offered me the opportunity to work in an environment where my experience with working in prisons and vulnerable communities can be tapped into and shared within the prison service in Zimbabwe, thereby working towards improving the welfare of the inmates in Zimbabwean Prisons. It provided me with an opportunity to work in an environment where my contributions can be seen, measured and can impact directly on the lives of people in a profound way. 

Being part of a team with experts from different fields was also an added attraction for me. It also meant that I could learn a lot from others and be part of a dynamic and innovative organisation.  

What is your first memory of arriving at your placement? 

My work station is in Mbare, one of the oldest high density suburbs in Harare, where ZACRO operates from. Mbare is known for its high population density, crime, politically motivated violence, etc. It’s a suburb where one’s first impression would be to ask questions such as, ‘what am I doing here, was my decision to come here a wise one, am I going to last in this environment, is this really worth it?’ I asked all these questions as I was being driven by one of the Progressio team though a whole maze of people, including informal traders each trying to find some form of survival activity, towards my final resting place, the ZACRO offices. I remember telling myself that I was not going to last. That was four years ago and to this day I am still here. I really enjoy my work station and the hustle and bustle characterised by ‘Mbaresdale’, as we like to call it.  

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Working with ZACRO, and especially inmates, enables me to exercise my professional skills, my spirituality and enables me to reach out in a very profound way. I have witnessed people’s lives being transformed. I have experienced reconciliation and forgiveness in a very life changing manner. I have found my work to be very dynamic, very fulfilling and enriching and I am really enjoying contributing to bringing change and transformation to people’s lives. I have been part of a lifeline to a number of people ever since I became a Development Worker with Progressio, and I find that very sobering but enjoyable in a very unique way.

What has been the most exciting moment so far?

Two moments have been very exciting for me during my placement. Firstly, the exchange visit to Zambia, which enabled us to visit Zambia Prisons and exchange ideas and information on programming strategies for HIV and AIDS. It enabled us to also appreciate some of the practices we currently have, as well as experiment with new ideas obtained from the exchange visit.

The other exciting moment has been when I made a presentation at a donor’s conference. ZACRO received funding for the women and children in prisons immediately after that conference and I was really excited about that outcome.

And the biggest lesson?

People can never be taken for granted even when they are at their most vulnerable position. If today you are at a position of advantage does not guarantee that tomorrow you will still be in the same position. People ought to be respected, despite their situations and circumstances.

What is the biggest change you have witnessed since starting your placement?

I have seen inmates change from repeat offenders to honorable members of society. That has been rehabilitation in its true sense. 

What is the biggest development challenge facing Zimbabwe?

The ability to deal with poverty. Despite dollarisation, the policies within Zimbabwe have failed to address the basic needs of the poor within our communities, especially inmates. Many ordinary Zimbabwean people are getting poorer each day, without much hope in the governance structures to put in place policies that attempt to change and improve the lives of ordinary people.

If you could change one thing, what would that be?

The living conditions of inmates in Zimbabwean prisons.

What strikes you most about Progressio’s Development Worker model?

One placement can influence and impact the lives of many people. It enables the sharing of skills, builds the capacity of local organisations and enables us as Development Workers to be enriched even in our own personal capacities. 

Whilst as Development Workers we work in totally different organisations and bring in different skills and expertise, we are still able to share information, cross fertilise ideas and input into each other’s work. I really love this aspect of our work and it has exposed me to learning about and inputting into other thematic areas, and contributes towards making us a unique organisation with a family feel.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of becoming a Development Worker?

Development work is exciting. It has a direct bearing on the lives of the people you interact with. It gives you both national and international experiences and exposes you to the lives of real people, so go for it, you will never regret it. 

Where do you see yourself once your placement has ended? And in what ways is this placement with Progressio assisting you to get there?

I would like to start my own organisation and continue with development work. I have a passion for it and I believe that I have acquired sufficient skills to be able to do so. I have obtained the skills to manage projects, interact with funding partners, develop monitoring and evaluation systems and interact with the people at grass roots level, which is really a total package. Thanks to Progressio for the skills, training and exposure.