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Zimbabwe: Working miracles

Time Baluwa, Integral Youth Development Coordinator, Harare

The AJAN HIV and AIDS Prevention Program for Youth (AHAPPY) is working miracles. We are seeing young people who have gone through the AHAPPY program move from being self-blaming and passive individuals to confident and assertive people. We have experienced young people living with HIV transform from being just patients to pro-active and free individuals.

It is the tone of the programming in AHAPPY that builds a sense of worth in people, giving meaning to their existence and clarity in direction. And when that is done to someone who had nothing, it’s a miracle.

We always acknowledge the transformation of one boy, let’s call him Sam, who died at the age of 15. He was born with HIV and had suffered stigma and discrimination. This made him reserved, less confident of himself, lacking in self-worth and bitter about life. He didn’t do very well in school, perhaps he didn’t see the reason to do so. Although he was on ART, he was not keeping well due to poor adherence to his treatment. This was how he was when he was referred to our training program by a counsellor from Nazareth Hospital.

The experience Sam had with AHAPPY empowered him to work through his poor perception of himself and the world and boosted his adherence to treatment. Later Sam developed complications due to drug resistance, because he had taken his antiretroviral medication irregularly for a long time. But by then he had become more at peace with himself. We feel privileged to have helped bring about this miracle even if it was just for the last months of Sam’s life.

The word ‘miracle’ can sometimes be confusing. For some, what comes into mind is the instant miracle when, say, someone who was in a wheelchair suddenly starts to walk. I’m not disputing that kind of miracle but what I’m presenting here is another sort that usually happens not instantly but over time. It is the miracle of the inner being, one that transforms the core aspects of a human being invisible to the eye: knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, perceptions and values.

At Integral Youth Development (formerly Jesuit AIDS Project), we can see the miracle unfolding thanks to the very effective monitoring matrix that is built into the structure of AHAPPY, which reveals the details what we need to know. Because the miracle is in the detail.

Since its inception, AHAPPY has structured its activities in a matrix that lays out objectives, activities, outcomes, indicators and means of verification. This result-oriented programming has enabled us to measure the impact of AHAPPY. While the quantitative element of this approach was and still is impressive, it is the qualitative aspect that really moves us and encourages us to soldier on.

Today young people are facing so many challenges; HIV and AIDS is just one of them. The challenges can work on their inner being and make them unhappy and irresponsible members of society. The strength of AHAPPY is captured in its ability to transform their inner being so that they become better people. The process of doing that is not easy, it’s a miracle at work.

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