Health Workers Offer HOPE to Families in Settlements
Project HOPE works around the world to support and implement health care programs that literally change the perspective and direction of lives – for children, teenagers, mothers, families and communities.
“When I am older, I want to be successful myself – maybe a success in business,” says Delina (14), who lives in Namibia. “But I also want to help out others in the community who are not able to support themselves.”
Situated on the outskirts of Namibia’s capital stretches a sea of corrugated metal housing. A sprawling suburb of small shacks nearly stacked on top of each other, each home is practically identical in size and exterior appearance: metal, windowless, dimensionless.
There are also few interior amenities. Water and sanitation are lacking: the homes share makeshift outhouses spaced sporadically throughout the otherwise barren landscape divided into areas which are referred to as settlements.
A new lease on life for a mother of five
Grace lives with her five children in one of these tiny shacks in the settlement. In 2017, her health began to fail, and her life began to fall apart. “I always felt sick,” she recalls. “And I couldn’t stop coughing.”
Exhausted and unable to keep up with her children, the desperate young mother made her way to the hospital where she tested positive for HIV and was immediately placed on antiretroviral treatments (ART).
As her health improved, Project HOPE’s Community Health Worker Naomi stepped into her life.
“When I met Naomi at the hospital, she asked if she could visit me at my house. After I signed the consent form, Naomi contacted the Ministry of Gender to register all the children so that they could receive social grants from the government. She helped me register them in January and by February we were receiving money.”
Namibia’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare works to ensure gender equality and equitable socioeconomic development of women and men and the wellbeing of children.
Grace’s tiny shack is now twice as big as it used to be thanks to the extra government assistance she receives. She decorates the inside walls with colorful fabric and keeps it neat and clean. Not only does she have the strength to care for her children, she also works outside the home.
“I am so happy to see the change in Grace’s life,” says Naomi.
In addition to ART adherence counseling, Naomi helps the family learn about good hygiene, nutrition and health education.
“Before I met Naomi, my five children and I had nothing,” says Grace.
“I want to thank Project HOPE. For so long, my children and I were suffering. Now I am very happy. I want to see my children grow up healthy and happy. I want them to use their brains and get educated. I am also hoping to use some of the government money to start a small business.”
Claudia and Delina, two teens
Teen friends Claudia, 14, and Delina, 19, also live in the settlement. Both are HIV positive.
Delina’s mother, 47-year-old Martha, first became acquainted with Project HOPE when she was in the hospital and met Kornelia, a Project HOPE Community Health Worker working under the Namibia Adherence and Retention Project (NARP) which HOPE implemented with Catholic AIDS Action, funded by PEPFAR through USAID to improve HIV care and treatment.
Martha, like the teens, is HIV positive.
“I met Martha at the hospital and she gave me consent to meet her family and come to her home,” says Kornelia, who subsequently helped facilitate a social grant for Delina through the Ministry of Gender. Martha and Delina received other counseling services as well, including joining the project’s Village Savings and Loan (VSL) program. “The family is now very strong and so appreciative to Project HOPE,” says Kornelia.
Delina and Claudia’s VSL education is through a teen support group sponsored by Project HOPE that meets once a month on Saturdays. All the teens in this group are HIV positive.
Not just surviving – but learning, growing and thriving
“Project HOPE has helped me learn how to save and spend less money. They care about people and have developed programs that will help us more in life.”
Teen clubs like Delina and Claudia’s help the youth members navigate the stigma that often accompanies an HIV diagnosis, as well as focusing on important life lessons such as fiscal responsibility.
“We talk about how to help people who are infected with HIV/AIDS,” says Claudia.
“You can’t discriminate against them,” adds Delina. “You have to treat them just like anyone else because there are no other differences between people who are HIV positive and HIV negative.”
“But we also learn how to save money,” continues Claudia.
Each teen receives a savings book to keep track of their contributions. Most teens save a portion of their government grants each month. Delina says she has saved $1,600 (Namibian Dollar). Claudia has saved $950.
“Project HOPE has helped people who have poverty at home,” explains Delina. “Through the savings and loan program, you can borrow money and then pay it back with interest. Project HOPE has helped me learn how to save and spend less money. They care about people and have developed programs that will help us more in life.”
Both girls agree that the multifaceted lessons learned in the club empower them to dream big – and to give back.
“When I am older, I want to be successful myself – maybe a success in business,” says Delina. “But I also want to help out others in the community who are not able to support themselves.”
Claudia’s dreams include studying medicine, eventually becoming a dermatologist. And she is determined not to let her circumstances block her path.
“Project HOPE has helped me to learn that my future has nothing to do with my background.”