INTERIM REPORT FOR THE MERCURY PHOENIX TRUST:
Sentebale’s Mamohato Camps and Network –
Enabling children in Lesotho with HIV/AIDS to live happily and healthily
Lesotho is one of the countries worst affected by HIV/AIDS with one in four adults and an estimated 12,000 children infected with HIV. 90% of children with HIV contract it from their mother and so many will also be orphaned by the disease and be left struggling for daily survival.
A study commissioned by Sentebale in 2007 revealed worryingly that children with HIV, and their families and caregivers, did not have the knowledge they needed to understand and manage their illness, reducing a child’s chances of keeping healthy as well as their life expectancy. The study also showed how isolated a child can be by their HIV status, facing stigma and discrimination within their community and receiving no support with the social and psychological challenges they face on a daily basis.
In response to these findings, Sentebale has devised and delivers a programme of activities in partnership with the international charity Hole in the Wall which aims to: improve the physical and emotional well-being of HIV+ children in Lesotho; increase life expectancy among HIV+ children and young people; reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS through education and fostering child-to-child communication.
The programme comprises:
· Camps – Five-day residential camps designed to help HIV+ children grow and develop healthily. Campers are educated about HIV, learn life skills key to leading emotionally and physically healthy lives, and have lots of fun!
· Teen Clubs – Our monthly clubs, provide essential, long-term support, building on lessons learned at camp and enabling children to cultivate a peer-group network – an invaluable support as they face the difficulties of daily life.
· Caregiver Days – Regular meetings for caregivers of HIV+ children which provide support and create an open dialogue between caregivers, children and their medical professionals, and so reduce stigma, encourage supportive relationships and lead to improved health.
The work of the Mamohato Camps and Network is unique in Lesotho and offers HIV+ children and their caregivers exceptional support and real hope for the future. We were delighted that this was recognised in the UN General Assembly country report published in 2010 which highlighted the programme as a model of international best practice and described it as “effective, having ethical soundness, cost effectiveness, relevant, replicability, innovativeness and sustainability.
In December 2010, the Mercury Phoenix Trust kindly made a grant of £5,000 towards the Mamohato Programme which we are using specifically to develop our Teen Club network.
Update on work of Mamohato Camps and Network, January – July 2011
2011 has been a busy and exciting time for the team who run the Mamohato Camps and Network Club with the programme expanding to reach and benefit increasing numbers of HIV positive children in Lesotho.
Since January, Sentebale has held four week-long residential Mamohato camps in the capital Maseru: two in January attended by 85 children and two in July attended by 81 children. The first week of camp is for young people aged 14-17 and the second week for those aged 10-14. This year, we have recruited children from clinics in eight of the ten districts in Lesotho, compared to just two districts at the time of our application in June 2010.
Sentebale cannot currently increase the number of camps it runs each year due to the limitations of the accommodation available to us, but, subject to the funding being secured, we plan to have a new purpose-built site functional by the end of 2013.
This year’s camps were, as always, great fun but they were also very moving for children and staff alike. Staff members witnessed significant changes in the children during the camps, with children arriving shy, withdrawn and timid but transforming into confident, outgoing, happy children by the end camp. As well as learning how to live healthy lives with HIV, campers made important friendships - with each other, the camp volunteers and their medical care providers whom they will meet at their clinics following camp. These friendships are key to making sure that children feel supported and are motivated to manage their health status and live healthy productive lives.
What I loved about camp....
“All the games we played.”
“Being able to freely talk to other children with concerns similar to mine and to learn from one another.”
“Now I know the advantages of taking my medication well and disadvantages of not taking my medication well.”
“The talent show, the camp fire and the love we were shown by the counsellors and doctors.”
“We were not discriminated against.”
With the help of the grant from the Mercury Phoenix Trust, we are now running eight teen clubs, in seven districts of Lesotho attended by approximately 700 children, compared to six clubs in five districts in 2010. And work is underway to run a further two teen clubs in two new districts by September 2011 which will bring the total number of children supported through teen clubs to about 1000. We are on target to have teen clubs in all 10 districts of Lesotho by the end of 2012 so that children from across the country can benefit from the essential and long-term support that they provide.
Each clinic that refers children to the Mamohato Camp and Network, organizes a care-giver day event twice a year for the caregivers of these children. The number of clinics referring children to Mamohato has risen from two to eight in the last 12 months, leading to a significant increase in the number of care-giver days held. Since January, five care-giver days have been held - attended by 334 care-givers and 392 children – and a further 13 care-giver days are planned during 2010. This year, through this work, hundreds of care-givers will learn the truth about living with HIV, how to manage it and how to best support the children in their care.
The Mamohato management team are developing a comprehensive training programme for all staff and volunteers working on the programme to ensure they provide the best possible psychosocial support for the children attending Camp and Teen Club. We plan to introduce this programme later this year. Going forwards, we will also hold two workshops each year for the staff and volunteers running the Teen Clubs.
We are delighted to report that we have recently been awarded a grant from The Elton John Aids Foundation to cover the costs of recruiting and employing a monitoring and evaluation specialist for two years who will be responsible for putting in place detailed monitoring and evaluation systems for all of Sentebale’s programmes. This post will provide us with additional valuable quantitative data and qualitative feedback on the work of the Mamohato Camp and Network. We hope to have this person in post in the Autumn. In the meantime, Mamohato staff will continue to monitor progress towards our goals and the impact of our work.
On behalf of everyone at Sentebale and the children we support through the Mamohato programme, thank you to the Trustees of the Mercury Phoenix Trust for helping to make this work possible.