Our April - June 2016 cycle of volunteers in Zimbabwe were the last cycle to work alongside partner organisation Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme (DOMCCP) after four years. The team have complied a series of case studies demonstrating the impact the ICS programme has had in Mutasa.

“Beyond a steep slope, the other side is gentle”, these were the words said by Hope (not the real name), 39, a beneficiary of the nutritional garden. Residing in Mutasa, she narrates her ordeal prior to 2014, when she was diagnosed with HIV. After her husband consistently fell ill, the couple decided to go for HIV testing, where they both tested positive. The reason behind them going for testing were the HIV learning sessions that were conducted by the ICS volunteers, in which extensive information on HIV & AIDS was disseminated.

After being diagnosed, Hope took her three children (two girls and a boy) for testing and they all tested negative. She went on to say that her husband’s health, as well as her’s, deteriorated drastically, constantly falling ill. The reason for this was their inability to accept their status. It soon became a ‘blame game’ about who brought the virus into the house and the relationship. Hope could fall ill to the extent that she could not fend for her three children’s food and school fees. Her husband went away to search for a job elsewhere, but due to the economic hardships, his efforts were in vain.

“Life was really bad for me and my family to the extent that I was relying on well-wishers aid”. Dependency syndrome became the daily routine. However, a turning point of all the troubles came. She started attending the ICS volunteers’ income generating activity (IGA) sessions and became confident to start her own IGA - a road runners or indigenous chicken project. From the project, she gets eggs and meat to boost her household nutritional levels. She also sells some chickens locally and uses the money to buy basic goods, as well as to pay school fees for her children. “The dependency syndrome is now a thing of the past, now I’m on the other side of the steep slope, the gentle side”, boasted Hope.

Hope also added that being a member of the nutritional garden has significantly improved her social life. It is a place where she meets with her friends and chats about how to soldier on with life despite being HIV positive; no more emotional stresses. She is so thankful of the work done by previous and current cycles of ICS volunteers. The mother of three concluded by saying that she is now one of the people actively encouraging other colleagues to go and get tested with their partners.

Compiled by Kudzai Witness Chimeura (Team DOMCCP, April - June 2016 cycle, Mutasa, Zimbabwe)