Tag Archives: HIV/AIDS

Introducing our university students!!!

Melody M. is one of three Tariro students who will begin attending University this fall

Melody M. is one of three Tariro students who will begin attending University this fall

It’s been a quiet summer… but we’re still here! As we move toward the end of summer, it is time to introduce the three Tariro students who will be attending university this fall.
First among them is Melody M., who originally joined Tariro as an Ordinary or “O” level student in 2008. Melody lives with her aunt and uncle in a stable home. Melody has occasionally missed school to take care of her aunt, who has health challenges, yet she remains passionately focused on her schoolwork. After receiving a very high score on her “O” Level exams, Melody went on to Advanced, or “A” Level study, in preparation for attending college. Finally, that day has arrived!

Last year, Melody was one of five Tariro students to pass her “A” Level exams, receiving a score of 13 out of a possible 15 points. Melody’s score was not quite high enough for her to study her first choice of subject, which was law. However, she was accepted to the University of Zimbabwe for a degree in sociology. And as Tariro’s program coordinator, Tafadzwa “Fadzie” Muzhandu, writes:

I believe she will be able to do Law at a later stage if she remains focused. Melody is very cheerful and able to interact with people from diverse backgrounds.

During Melody’s time as a Tariro student, she has benefited immensely from our innovative programming, including opportunities to participate in mentoring programs through the United States Embassy, to explore career options by getting into scrubs at St. Anne’s Hospital, and to borrow books from our lending library. As Fadzie also observes:

She loves reading and has borrowed the most books from the Tariro Library.

Please join Tariro! Your help is critical to ensuring Melody’s success, so please donate now! We need your support in order to continue sponsoring Melody throughout the three years it will take her to complete a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Zimbabwe, as well as continuing to offer educational opportunities to other young girls. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of Zimbabwe’s young women.

I will leave you with a few photos of Melody, so you can see how she has matured over her years with Tariro, growing into the lovely woman she is today.

Melody, one of Tariro's rising stars

Melody in 2008

Melody in 2009

Melody in 2009

Melody today

Melody today


I am Malala

Tariro board member Chiedza Mufunde (with microphone) shares the stage with a panel of illustrious women at the launch of Hilary Clinton's Women in Public Service initiative, at the United States Department of State in Washington, DC

Tariro board member Chiedza Mufunde (with microphone) shares the stage with a panel of illustrious women including Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright at the launch of Hilary Clinton’s Women in Public Service initiative, at the United States Department of State in Washington, DC

Today, I would like to share a few words from a blog post by Tariro board member Chiedza Mufunde. Born in Zimbabwe, Chiedza came to the United States as an undergraduate student at Mount Holyoke College. She is currently enrolled in graduate school at Boston College. In 2011, Chiedza was selected by the United States Department of State to participate in a panel discussion with Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright, as part of  Women in Public Service Initiative developed by Hilary Clinton. We are proud to have such an inspiring young woman serving on our board.

Chiedza’s blog post, originally published on HerZimbabwe, reflects on Mala Day, dedicated to the 16-year-old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot last October by the Taliban because of her passion for supporting girls’ education. In her post, Chiedza reminds us of the work that remains in ensuring that girls’ education is treated as a basic human right, rather than a privilege. As Chiedza reflects on hearing Malala speak:

Listening to her speak, I was reminded of the moment when I found my voice as a young teenager and how that experience has shaped so many of my life paths: my career goals, my understanding of the value of educating girls and the importance of youth voices in shaping policies that affect young people.

Please visit HerZimbabwe to read Chiedza’s entire post! Thank you Chiedza for your dedication to educating and empowering women and girls, and for your service to Tariro!

A little treat…

I’d like to share a short video clip with you of Tariro’s students dancing mhande. While this video was taken way back in 2009, our traditional music and dance ensemble continues to thrive, and we sent two students to Japan this past year to participate in an international arts exchange. Tariro’s traditional music and dance group is just one of the many ways we are working toward empowering the young women and girls enrolled in our academic school sponsorship program.

Tariro Director contributes guest blog post at Susan B. Anthony Institute

This week, Tariro’s Executive Director Jennifer Kyker has contributed a guest post to the blog of the Susan B. Anthony Institute at the University of Rochester. Her post is comprised of remarks she recently gave to the student body at Mount Holyoke College, upon winning the Mary Lyon Award, given each year to a promising young alumna. Visit the SBAI blog and read her post!

O Level results are out!

Ashley M. is one of three students to pass her O Level exams in 2012

Ashley M. is one of three Tariro students who passed O Level exams in 2012 (photo courtesy of Tessa Munson)

Today, I’m pleased to share with you Tariro’s 2012 O Level results! Last year, we had six students write their O Level exams. Of these students, 3 passed five or more subjects, resulting in a pass rate of 50%. While slightly lower than last year’s pass rate, this is still an exceptional success.  In the first place, Zimbabwe’s national pass rate is an abysmal 18.4%. This means out students are passing at more than twice the rate of the national average. Yet our students have overcome odds much greater than many of their peers, making their accomplishments even more significant. Given that all five students who wrote their A Levels exams passed, Tariro’s overall pass rate for 2012 is an astounding 72%! We couldn’t be more proud of our students.

One of the students who passed her O Level exam last year is Ashley M, pictured at the beginning of this post. Almost four years ago, Ashley say down with Tariro’s former program coordinator, Nyasha, to tell us about the challenges in her life, as well as her dreams of passing her O Level exams. I will leave you with the opportunity to watch this short interview, with the knowledge that Ashley has been successful in accomplishing her dream. We look forward to staying involved in her life as she now moves on to even bigger dreams!


Five Tariro students pass A Level exams!

Tariro student Melody M scored 13 points out of 15 on her A Level exam!

Tariro student Melody M scored 13 points out of 15 on her A Level exam!

Every year at the end of January, Zimbabwean students nervously await their Ordinary and Advanced Level exam results, which are required to continue on to university level work, and are also requested by many employers and vocational training programs.

In 2012, Tariro had an unprecedented number of students write their Advanced, or “A” Level exams, with five students sitting for this important test. Late last week, I received a very exciting email from our program coordinator, Fadzie Muzhandu. All five of our students passed! With a pass rate of 100%, Tariro students are significantly exceeding the national pass rate, which stood at 82% this year, according to the Zimbabwean School Examinations Council, or ZIMSEC.

Students generally write three subjects for their A Level exams, and are graded on a scale of 5 possible points per subject, for a total of 15 possible points. According to ZIMSEC, passing the A Level exams is defined as receiving a score of at least 2 points out of 15. And of the five Tariro students who wrote the exam in 2012, Pamela K. and Natalie S. earned a total of 3 points each, putting them near the bottom of the passing range. We’re proud of their achievement, as even making it to A Levels represents a goal that many of our students never thought they would achieve.

But the news is even better than that! Scoring near the top of the range, our other three students came out of the exam with flying colors! Melody M., pictured above, earned 13 points on her exam! Joining her, Politeness N. likewise scored 13 points. And with a total of 11 points, Tariro K. wasn’t far behind.

For Melody, Politeness, and Tariro, attending university is now a very real option, and Fadzie is working actively with them, as she does with all of our O and A Level graduates, to help them find placement in tertiary level study.

Tariro’s dedication to seeing our students through university is one of the things that sets us apart from other organizations. Unlike programs that focus on elementary and secondary education alone, we want to see them go all the way through college!

As we see more and more girls rise to this level of achievement, though, we also experience a corresponding rise in our need for funding. Attending the University of Zimbabwe is only around $2,500 per year, a very reasonable price when compared to getting a college education in the United States. Yet we’ve never had so many girls attending university at one time before. We’d love your help in sending them all to university! Please join us in celebration by making a donation in support of their education, and by spreading the news about Tariro’s great work with Zimbabwean girls!


An Interview with Fadzie Muzhandu

In this video, taken in October, Tariro’s program coordinator Fadzie Muzhandu speaks about our work with Dr. Jan Servaes, a professor at UMASS-Amherst, and the UNESCO Chair in Communication for Sustainable Social Change. Their conversation touches upon the many challenges Tariro faces in working with some of Zimbabwe’s most vulnerable children, as well as the small yet tangible gains our students are making with your assistance.

As the year comes to a close, don’t forget to make a donation in support of our work. Our need for donations is especially critical at this time of year, as we draw closer to the beginning of the Zimbabwean school year in January.

In Memory: Ambuya Kundai

Ambuya Kundai's passing means greater hardship for her four orphaned grandchildren

Ambuya Kundai

It is with great sadness that I write to report the passing of one of Tariro’s grandmothers, Ambuya Kundai. Truly dedicated to her grandchildren, Ambuya Kundai was raising four orphaned and vulnerable children at the time of her death late last month, all of whom have been sponsored by Tariro for many years. Three of her grandchildren, Kundai, Rudo, and Vanessa, are siblings who lost first their father, then their mother, and next their paternal grandmother, who initially cared for them following the death of their parents. A fourth grandchild, Dennis, is a cousin to the other three siblings.

Given the desperate circumstances in which this family found themselves, Tariro made an exceptional decision to sponsor Kundai and Dennis, Ambuya Kundai’s two male grandchildren, in addition to the two girls, Rudo and Vanessa. While our primary focus is on educating girls, on very infrequent occasions during our early years as an organization, we perceived a compelling reason to extend our sponsorship to the male siblings of an already-enrolled female student. With her very limited income, advanced age, and exceptional responsibilities, Ambuya Kundai struck us as one of these extraordinary cases.

Ambuya Kundai's four orphaned grandchildren Kundai, Vanesaa, Rudo, and Dennis, pictured here with their cousins Jessie and Tinashe.

Ambuya Kundai’s four orphaned grandchildren, pictured here with two of their cousins. From left to right: Kundai, Vanessa, Rudo, Jessie, Tinashe, and Dennis. Photo taken in 2008.

The loss of their maternal grandmother is a terrible final blow for Kundai, Rudo, Vanessa, and Dennis, who are all currently between 10 and 17 years old. As she passed away so recently, we are still unsure as to whether these four children will be able to remain in the same home with surviving relatives, or whether they will have to move yet again. It is possible that they will experience substantial instability in the coming months, as the various families involved- their fathers’ families, the family of Ambuya Kundai, and their maternal grandfather’s family- discuss who can best care for them. As we learn more about the family’s plans, I will continue to post updates on whether these four children are able to remain in their neighborhood, and in Tariro’s programs.

As Americans mourn the loss of so many children to the violence plaguing our society, Zimbabwean children like Kundai, Rudo, Vanessa, and Dennis are also mourning, as they grieve the loss of multiple, successive family members. What can we do in the face of so much loss? For me, the answer has always been to take small, yet tangible steps toward social change. Write to a senator, demanding better gun control. Choose not to own or use a gun. Study peace. Enable a single girl to return to school. Buy her a uniform, and give her access to books. In this way, Tariro began, and in this spirit, we continue to work, doing our best to honor to the memory of Ambuya Kundai, and all of the many relatives our students have lost.

Looking toward 2013 with excitement, and anxiety

Tariro coordinator Fadzie Muzhandu (left) with the Chipira family. Photo credit Trishula Patel

Tariro coordinator Fadzie Muzhandu (left) with the Chipira family. Photo credit Trishula Patel

In today’s post, I’d like to share with you a note written by our wonderful program coordinator, Fadzie Muzhandu, as a preface to this year’s annual report. I will be including some highlights from the annual report in forthcoming posts. As we seek to raise the funds necessary to continue our programs in 2013, Fadzie’s words, copied in below, are an exceptionally moving tribute to both the joys and the worries involved in our work.

From Fadzie…

Every year begins and ends with some excitement and anxiety for many Tariro girls and myself.  We are happy we got through the year, paid all our fees, and are moving to the next grade, and we are extremely proud that none of the students dropped out of school. We tell ourselves, the students and I, that we must be doing something right.

At the same time, we are restless about things we cannot control, like whether Zimbabwe will have presidential elections or not and what it means for the program. I am especially restless at the beginning of the year, because this is when our final year students receive examination results, and I speculate about how many will pass, and what future our students who fail have. Even those who pass are still confronted by the realities of a country not fully recovered from a decade long economic crisis, with unemployment well above 80%.

I also worry about whether we will have enough school fees for our students for the next year and how many more we can recruit.  Students worry about how their Christmas break will be, whether they will have enough food for celebrations, and if they are very lucky, whether a relative will buy them a new dress.

The realities of working with underprivileged children confront us around the holidays, but we still find time to celebrate our big and sometimes not so big achievements of the year. We celebrate the many students whose lives we have changed by paying school fees and through our mentorship programs. We celebrate that Noleen, who is in a wheelchair and through physiotherapy paid for by Tariro, made her first unassisted step.  Many students have become leaders of clubs or were selected to the student government, and have made contributions to their communities. Our proudest moment was when 3 students were selected to participate in a cultural exchange program that saw them showcase Zimbabwean traditional dances in Japan!

As field based officers we sometimes forget that the work we do is made possible because of the generosity of many. Many who have never been to Zimbabwe, but have committed their time and resources to improving the lives of young women. Through our donors’ generosity, Tariro has provided education funds for more than 300 students since 2003.

Every year I am encouraged by our supporters’ bigheartedness and would like to reassure you that your support is going a long way in empowering and transforming the lives of young women in a big way. Every year we recruit about 15 young women, and for these young women Tariro not only gives them hope, but an opportunity to rise above their backgrounds and plan for, rather than just dream about a better future. For some of these young women, we simply help them reclaim their childhood.

A balanced perspective on Tariro’s work

For me, one of the most powerful things about Fadzie’s perspective is that the work of development, like any other human endeavor, is marked by both happiness and suffering, both success and failure. For a grassroots organization like Tariro, the path forward can only be navigated by working together, in a concerted effort that begins with our students and staff, and expands to include our donors, board members, and volunteers.

Thank you Fadzie, for your hard work, your important insights, and your true investment and belief in our students. And thank you, readers, for your donations and support. Together, we’re making a small but powerful difference, one girl at a time.

World AIDS Day 2012: What Happened to AIDS?

Today is World AIDS Day, yet you won’t find a story about HIV/AIDS on the front page of the New York Times. In face, aside from the occasional red ribbon posted in solidarity as a profile photo on Facebook, it seems that HIV/AIDS is simply no longer news. After all, the disease has shifted from being a terminal disease to a chronic illness for most people living with HIV in the world’s industrialized nations,  doctors have managed to completely cure AIDS in the case of one extraordinary patient, and the disease can now be successfully be prevented by having HIV-negative people take daily anti-retroviral drugs as a form of “pre-exposure prophylaxis.

From the perspective of a comfortable kitchen table in South Philadelphia, where I sit typing this post during a break from attending an annual conference of the African Studies Association, AIDS no longer seems a deadly threat, no longer a cause for the type of radical action undertaken by organizations such as ACT-UP in the early days of the epidemic. Do we even still need a World AIDS Day?

The somewhat surprising answer to that question lies far from a kitchen table in Philadelphia, or the front page of the New York Times. We find it only on the front lines of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, in the slums of Kibera, in the drug treatment clinics of Kabul,in the crowded hospitals of Brazil. Here, we begin to see a different face of HIV/AIDS, one defined by crippling levels of poverty, high levels of gender and income inequality, and their associated barriers to adequate prevention and treatment options.

In fact, AIDS cases continue to rise dramatically in many places, including some of the world’s most populous nations such as China, challenging global prevention efforts.  On the African continent, which has born the vast majority of the burden of HIV/AIDS, gains in prevention and treatment efforts made by countries such as Uganda have recently been eroded, reversing decades of success. And even in countries where AIDS rates have declined, such as Zimbabwe, recent scholarship suggests that this decline is tied not only to successful prevention efforts, but also to mortality rates.  In other words, many of the Zimbabweans previously counted as people living with HIV have simply died.

Even as the disease continues to expand into a growing, global pandemic, however, funding for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS has declined shockingly, jeopardizing many of the gains made over the past decades. As a result, the World AIDS Campaign reports that

after years of international investment, just when we seem to have the right technologies, drugs, and approaches to keep the epidemic under control, success hangs in the balance.

Even in the United States, one of the world’s wealthiest countries, AIDS patients living in states like Florida are denied adequate treatment, receiving life-saving anti-retroviral drugs only once their immune systems are already severely compromised.

For the 34 million people living with HIV around the world, the 16 million children orphaned by the epidemic, and the many millions more at risk of contracting HIV, reductions in funding are not simply academic: they are a question of life or death. On World AIDS Day 2012, we at Tariro urge you not to forget that the fight against HIV/AIDS has not yet been won. To the contrary, a long, hard road still lies ahead.  Given the recent decline in funding, your donations to organizations working in HIV prevention and treatment are more important than ever.

On the occasion of World AIDS Day, and as we enter the holiday giving season, we therefore ask you to give.  Give to a local AIDS clinic, such as AIDS Care Rochester. Give to The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. Give to Tariro. Working together, we can continue to ensure that HIV/AIDS remains a global health priority. Together, we can ensure that treatment and prevention options continue to be available to the 99%, not only the 1%. Together, we can continue to make progress in the fight against AIDS.