MWANDI UCZ MISSION
OVC: Orphans and Vulnerable Children
There are many orphans and vulnerable children living in Mwandi due to HIV/AIDS - at present, estimated at 1,300 out of a 7,000 population. These are children living with sick parents or relatives, orphans left without one or both relatives and orphans who themselves have become HIV+ either through mother-child transmission or prostitution. This project aims to provide educational, social, spiritual and nutritional support to these children. It is a holistic mission that aims at supporting, equipping, enabling, empowering and healing the community for community building and development. The Project Coordinator, Fiona Dixon Thompson (who is supported by the United Church of Australia) is backed up by a board of trustees from UCZ and the local community. The project was started in 2002, and has particularly grown since the building of the drop-in centre in 2005.
Nutritional support is provided via a feeding program that provides one balanced meal a day for orphans and vulnerable children between the ages of 6 months and 15 years, as well as daily multi-vitamins. There are currently 100 children who attend each day.
Health checks are also given, including the cleaning of teeth on a regular basis and weekly showers. Children attending the feeding program are weighed monthly, and those that are HIV+ are provided with extra food and receive monthly check-ups at the hospital.
Basic needs are care for through the provision of blankets and clothes that are sent in containers by donors. Fishing nets are provided to the older children to enable them to make a living and support their families.
The project covers the education costs (school fees, uniform, shoes, stationary and boarding fees) to enable children to attend school in Mwandi. At the moment, the school is only equipped until Grade 9, but some children are able to attend the High School at Sesheke (70km away) through a child-sponsorship programme run by OVC. Assistance is also provided to enable children who are the head of their household or who have a baby to care for to attend classes in the evening.
The drop-in centre houses many of the project's activities, including the feeding programme, workshops and job training seminars. It also serves as a location for children to gather for educational and recreational activities, including skipping ropes, football, a playground and a well-stocked library. There is a preschool run from the centre (aged 5-7) and sport organised for the village teenagers. The centre has a vegetable garden and is currently building a bakery for use in the feeding program.