Walter, from Zimbabwe, works as an Advocacy and Communication Adviser, alongside the Zimbabwe AIDS Prevention and Support Organisation and the National Employment Council for the Transport Operating Industry.

What is your work background?

Before joining Progressio, I worked as HIV and AIDS Programme Manager for Panos Southern Africa (PSAf). PSAf uses media and communications to ensure that the development agenda is shaped and driven by the most affected members of Southern Africa’s communities.

What inspired you to become a Development Worker with Progressio?

Progressio offered me an opportunity to use my knowledge and experience, acquired at international and regional levels, in a local environment. This is my first time working exclusively in Zimbabwe, as I have always worked at regional and/or international levels. Being a Development Worker (DW) also provided me an opportunity to not only impart my skills and knowledge but to also learn from partners, as well as fellow Progressio DWs from various backgrounds and skills. It also gave me the opportunity to continue working in development, changing minds and changing lives, putting people and partners first, while I am in the background.

What is your first memory of starting your placement?

After a full week of serious induction at Progressio offices, I went to my first placement and was shocked with what I encountered. A totally different work culture from what I had been used to, no desk to work from, hardly anyone had an idea of what I was to do, a department in chaos, you name it. That full heavy week of induction at Progressio suddenly kicked in and I said to myself, “This I am trained and have been well prepared for”. I have been happy and enjoying my work ever since. Whenever I face serious challenges – and there have been many! – I take a moment to remind myself of the reasons why I am at my placement and with prayer I always find renewed strength and am able to overcome these challenges.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Being able to use my skills, knowledge and experience to help others, even with simple things that some take for granted. Making a difference, giving people hope and contributing to making their lives better. Being part of a very large global team, working to make HIV and AIDS history. 

What has been the most exciting moment so far?

There have been a number of notable exciting moments. Being part of the first ever team to coordinate a Zimbabwe exhibition stand at the XVIII International HIV and AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, in 2010. Being the chairperson for World AIDS Day commemorations in Zimbabwe for two years running. Making a presentation entitled ‘Hear Our Voices: Speaking Out for HIV Services and Care Support in Zimbabwe’ at the XIX International AIDS Conference, in Washington DC, USA, in July 2012. Participating at national forums and platforms influencing national HIV and AIDS coordination and management. Publishing the ‘Our Responsibility: HIV and AIDS Workplace Peer Education Essential Handbook’.

Above all, each time I get feedback on how our publications, trainings, meetings and workshops have changed individual sexual behaviour, attitudes towards HIV and AIDS in general, and accessing of treatment and care.

And the biggest lesson?

With determination, dedication, hard work and prayer, you will achieve your goals. 

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

An increase in HIV and AIDS activities in the workplace in Zimbabwe, targeting employers and employees at their places of work.

What is the biggest development challenge facing Zimbabwe?

Improving people’s lives. Zimbabwe has been faced with many political, social, economic and developmental challenges for far too long now. Living standards continue to deteriorate. Far too many people are out of employment and a lot of people have little resources to help them work the land, despite the government’s best efforts.

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

As much as Progressio DWs are experts in their respective fields, they do not dictate or have a ‘know it all’ attitude but are part of a team, working within a team, providing support and skills. They put counterparts and partner organisations first, while they work like shadows.

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

Sometimes you don’t know what is good for you until you try it. If you want to help others, find fulfillment in what you do, put your skills and experience to good use, be in touch with the inner you and your spirituality, enjoy a good challenge and want to make your mark in contributing to a better world, then become a DW. 

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 definitely would like to continue working in development. With the knowledge, skills and experience I have gained over the years, as well as being a DW, I would love to work for Progressio or like-minded organisations at a higher level, so as to continue to improve the DW methodology, having greater impact on targeted communities while further enriching the experience of DWs.