Written Thandolwenkosi Sibindi, Gender Advisor, GOAL Zimbabwe
The Mbare Community Centre in Mbare, one of the oldest high-density suburbs in Harare Province in Zimbabwe, is a place of solace and hope for almost 800 people. The visitors here are vulnerable and reliant on services, and include young children, widows, adolescents, mothers looking after children with disabilities, and people who are HIV positive. This time last year, the community struggled to access clean water for drinking and completing chores as water sources were dilapidated or contaminated by sewage. But a donation from UK company, C-KO International, which facilitated the drilling of a borehole, has literally changed lives. GOAL Zimbabwe worked with the women and young people to facilitate the drilling of the borehole as part of a Cholera Response project. Waterborne diseases such as Cholera and Typhoid thrive in high-density environments such as this one, and can be fatal to those living in desperate poverty or with HIV/AIDs infections.
The centre provides a number of important supports including HIV care and prevention services, skills training, psychological support, survival skills training and the opportunity to meet other likeminded people and to help each other with day to day tasks. Before the new borehole was drilled the centre often had to close, cancel services and send people home when water was not available. Now, this no longer happens much to the delight of community members. One of those using the community centre’s services and enjoying the benefits of the new borehole is Elizabeth Mugurwa. Elizabeth is HIV positive and attends her HIV support group in the centre which plays a vital role in her health and mental wellbeing. She recalls a time when water would only be available twice a week, and how it would make her and her peers nervous about contracting Cholera or Typhoid.
Now there are plumbed toilets and clean treated water to drink on site - and those using the centre don’t have to face dangerous walks to reach the closest water source. “We used to walk 600 metres to collect water for drinking and for use in the toilet facilities. We had to cross the road, where we faced risk of being run over by cars. At the borehole, the queues were usually long, and it would take more time to get water. I am an HIV positive mother. My health is at times not too good. Often, I do not have energy to walk long distances to collect water. I am now happy that water is always available at the tap.” The centre was founded to provide a platform for Mbare residents to acquire life skills, conduct income generating projects and offer peer to peer education on healthy lifestyles, alcohol and drug abuse. The two centre managers, Lillian Butawu and Tariro Chikwanha, are delighted with the addition of the borehole as it has opened up avenues for capacity building and income generating projects. Ms Chikwanha has expressed her thanks and gratitude to GOAL and to Eddie Collins of C-KO International for his donation which has resulted in a lifechanging addition to their centre:
“Availability of water has improved our programming at the centre. Besides supporting over 700 of our beneficiaries, the donation is serving thousands of people in the Mbare community. Other community members come here to fetch drinking water using 5-litre bottles. This is the kind of needs-based work that NGOs should be doing more at community level.”
From here the centre will grow and Ms. Chikwanha is already excited about the future of the centre and of the residents of Mbare.
“Our next step is to establish a nutrition garden since there is space at the centre. This will enable us to boost the nutrition statuses for people living with HIV and those living with cancer. There are also plans to start a poultry project by youth and women’s support groups.”
Mr Eddie Collins of C-KO International, said they were delighted to have supported this important project.
“We are very supportive of GOALs work and it is moving to see what a difference our donation has made to this community” said Mr Collins, who was born in Dublin but who has lived and worked in the UK for many years.