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How are Foxes Community and Wildlife Conservation Trust supporting AIDS orphans in Tanzania?

Nicola Shepherd By Nicola Shepherd
20 Apr 2021
Tanzania Foxes Trust - children at Igonda - Aimi Duong Gallego.jpg

In Mufindi, the epicentre of HIV in Tanzania, the rate of infection is nearly eight times the national average and 40% of children have lost a parent to AIDS. Foxes Community and Wildlife Conservation Trust are bringing light back to the lives of these children and the wider community through a holistic approach.

Foxes Community and Wildlife Conservation Trust, supported in the UK by Orphans In The Wild, operates in the beautiful tea-growing highlands of Mufindi district in Southern Tanzania. I had the great privilege of visiting them when I stayed at Mufindi Lodge and I was so incredibly struck and moved that I vowed to assist the charity as soon as I returned home.

I am happy to report now that I have a client who has supported them with such generosity and, additionally, The Explorations Company have supported them over the last year, too. However their work is complex and ongoing and funds are especially short at the moment, so any donation that you, too, could make would be greatly appreciated and put to the best use.   

 


Geoff and Vicky Fox have lived on their tea-growing estate in Mufindi for over 60 years and witnessed the devastating impact of HIV and AIDS on the local people. In African rural communities there is usually a strong extended-family support system.

If a parent should die or be unable to care for their children, the orphaned children are traditionally taken in by close relatives within the same community. However, Mufindi’s adult population was so impacted by AIDS (37-44% of the population has the virus) that this system broke down and many children who lost parents were alone, facing poverty and hunger.

 


The Igoda Children’s Village

Geoff and Vicky responded by setting up a refuge for orphans when they created Igoda Children’s Village in 2005, which began with just one small house modelled on the family houses in the village. Since then the charity has grown enormously and it is fabulous to see such a wonderful initiative that makes such a difference to so many people. When I visited I was overwhelmed by the atmosphere of positivity and hope, and how the children are given the chance to have a bright future - something that would not otherwise be possible for them.

There are now six houses providing shelter and a family setting to a total of 62 children aged from newborn to 17 years old. The houses are bright and colourful and each house has a ‘House Mama’ to care for the children, give them nurture, and create a happy community that echoes village life.

 


In order to provide the best possible start for the children at Igoda Children’s Village there is also an on-site medical clinic, a kindergarten and nursery for the younger children, and a vocational school project for older children. Volunteers come to lend their skills and knowledge – no staff except for locals are paid, allowing 99% of donations to go directly into improving lives:

  • In the Children’s Village health clinic, long-term volunteers and the finest visiting doctors and clinicians treat the children and staff as well as people from the nearest villages. Clinics include paediatrics, dentistry, physiotherapy and clinical psychology.
  • The Village kitchen garden teaches children to cultivate and harvest vegetables, fruit and crops and take care of chickens and a cow as part of a self-sufficiency project. The food they produce is used as part of their diet and in the future they hope to sell extra produce to generate income.

 


  • The kindergarten on-site at the Children’s Village offers the youngest children the best possible start and preparation for school. They use the Montessori method which has been the most suitable style for the vulnerable children and is working wonders! The NGO is now running an outreach program to train local teachers how to use Montessori principles and provides start-up materials for nearly 30 local kindergartens.
  • Newborn orphaned babies whose mothers died in childbirth are the most vulnerable, as often the cost of milk formula and bottle feeding is untenable for the remaining family. Foxes provides milk formula to these children and the Children’s Village cares for them until the family is in a position for them to return.

 


  • Providing for the health of the children they care for is very important, especially when some of the children themselves are HIV positive. The Village has raised funds for a van which is used to take children and babies diagnosed with HIV for their monthly tests, which would be an hour's walk away.

Education support

Although schooling is free in Tanzania, many children impacted by the disease cannot even afford the cost of uniform, paper and pens. Children must walk long distances to school on difficult muddy roads and, in families impacted by AIDS, often do not have the support to do so.

 


  • Foxes’ NGO supports the education of their children at the Children’s Village at Primary and Secondary level. Sponsorship is provided for those that need it and the Village runs a school bus to transport the children to school (it is over a two-hour walk each way on muddy roads). In addition, study evenings are run by volunteers to help students living locally.
  • Foxes have also supported local schools with infrastructure projects which include new classrooms and a library at Igoda Primary, a new library at a nearby Secondary School as well as building a dormitory for girls at a Secondary School (which is too far to travel to daily, so allows the community children to board). Due to the support of Foxes’ NGO, several students associated with (or from) the Children’s Village are continuing education or attending university, supported by sponsors. 

 


  • Many children do not enroll in Secondary School in rural Tanzania (less than 5%) but still need to build life skills and employment skills to earn an income. Foxes have set up a Vocational Education project, along with building a training centre, to train local teenagers (and the local community) in Tourism and Hotel Management courses and find them free placements to gain employment experience.
  • Teenagers can also learn computer skills and can take a two-year sewing program that teaches them skills in sewing and running a business then gifts them a sewing machine when they graduate, so they can start their own business. They can then go into the community as adults having everything they need to provide for themselves.  Foxes want to expand to teach carpentry, mechanics, masonry and plumbing.

 


Community outreach

The local population is still being decimated by HIV and AIDS; life expectancy is just 43 years and adults earn on average less than a dollar per day. Foxes’ NGO know that the situation will not improve for the children they care for until the local community as a whole can start to recover and provide secure and loving homes to the children.

The ultimate aim for the children cared for at the Children’s Village is for them to return to their home villages and live with their extended family. However much work needs to be done, so they have invested in community healthcare and education:

 


  • The House Father for one of the houses is a social worker that assists the older children to have contact with their home villages and relatives. He also visits children who have returned to their home villages to live with extended family and monitors their ongoing well-being.
  • The milk formula program also supports mothers with HIV to formula feed their newborns to avoid transmission through breastfeeding. Under-nourished infants and toddlers are also identified by the outreach workers in the communities and the mothers are given milk formula to improve their nutrition. Since inception the program has fed 265 vulnerable children in the community. They hope to expand this program and use the regular weighing meetings to educate local mothers about nutrition, healthcare and family planning.

 


Health in the community

There is much stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, which historically impacted on local people getting tested and therefore receiving a diagnosis and medical assistance. Despite anti-retroviral drugs now being funded by the Government, many could still not access them. There was no local testing facilities and the village is two- to three-hours' drive from the nearest hospital and two- to three-hours' walk to a village dispensary to collect medicines.

To help overcome practical difficulties and the stigma surrounded in accessing healthcare for HIV/AIDS, Foxes’ NGO have set up a series of essential measures that are making such a phenomenal difference to the communities in their area:

  • They run seminars and outreach programs that educate the local community on the symptoms and prevention of HIV, as well as encourage them to be regularly tested at a local community clinic.

 


  • Foxes’ NGO have also established a Care and Treatment Clinic where people can come to be tested and receive their anti-retroviral drugs to help to manage the disease, as well as dispensaries to serve those in more remote communities.
  • Outreach carers help to visit those that cannot come to the Clinic and also note those families whose children are not attending school, to see if they have deeper problems that they need help with.
  • The clinic at Mdabulo has recently had their maternity wing refurbished by the charity and they encourage expectant mothers to attend the clinic to give birth, to reduce deaths in childbirth. The hospital wing has now been built to provide in-patient wards, an operating theatre, recovery and sluice rooms, consultation room and an X-ray room. They are still in need of funds to furnish and complete the project, including hiring additional staff to provide more care and carry out further procedures, as well as purchasing a generator to provide power during frequent power cuts.

 


  • The charity has a team of 30 outreach workers on the Home-based Care Team, local people in their own villages equipped with mobile phones that encourage people to get tested for HIV and then continue to monitor them and get them to attend for retesting to receive their ARV’s each month. They bring medical care to those sick and vulnerable people that cannot make the journey to a clinic, traversing on foot or on a bicycle donated to the charity. This team is instrumental in defeating sickness and therefore poverty in the communities.

With access to good healthcare advice, testing and medical treatment, local people with HIV can continue to live healthy lives despite being infected with the virus. They can continue to work, provide for their children and care for them. Now, over 5000 people are attending the clinic for testing and healthcare each month and this number is increasing all the time.

 


Community financial empowerment

The Foxes charity has supported the wider community to help itself as a part of a basket and rush-mat making co-operative. Many women who have HIV and AIDS are too unwell to work, or the people who care for them cannot work due to the burden of care. This initiative allows them to become financially independent and provide for themselves and their children.

The women collect reeds from riverbeds and dye them. Each woman has her own unique style and can weave the baskets in her spare time when she is not tending to crops or caring for her children. The charity assists them to find a market for the baskets through tourist visitors,  local markets and in a craft shop in Dar Es Salaam.

The income from the cooperative pays for school uniforms for their children, books and healthcare.

 


How can you get involved?

Please do include a visit to Mufindi and the Foxes Community and Wildlife Conservation Trust as a part of your safari to Tanzania. You can lend your skills as a part of your visit, such as helping the school with lesson planning, telling a story to the children or helping them with their homework. You could run or take part in outdoor activities with the children, or assist in planting and tending to vegetables in their greenhouse.

Additionally any donation you can make, large or small, would be greatly appreciated. Funds, especially now, are worryingly thin on the ground, as they are for many charities. I can say that everyone involved with Foxes' NGO and Orphans In The Wild are enterprising and hard-working, as well as deeply compassionate. Any amount would help to make an incredibly positive impact, not just to the orphaned children currently cared for but also on the wider health and wellbeing of the community, so that in the future fewer children will suffer the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS in their communities and families.

Please do feel free to get in touch with me for any more information or to make a donation. Or, if you would like to learn more about the various charities that The Explorations Company supports, whether elsewhere in Africa or in Asia, you can do so in our Philanthropy Handbook.

 


Images by kind courtesy of Foxes Community and Wildlife Conservation Trust and Aimi Duong Gallego

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