In this week’s post, I have a short update for you on Noleen’s condition. However, I’d like to start by sharing some other exciting news with you. In just a few weeks, Tariro will be holding our annual empowerment camp, “Building Girls, Building Dreams.” This year, we are pleased to host a special guest at the camp. Lauri Benblatt is a licensed psychotherapist and art therapist in Boulder, CO, and has offered her counseling services as a volunteer with Tariro since 2005, traveling to Zimbabwe twice to work with our students.
In addition to working directly with Tariro students at this year’s empowerment camp, Lauri will be training several counselors who currently work with Tariro students. Tariro’s counselors include Peggy Samhaka, the guidance counselor at Highfield High 1, as well as facilitators from Camps Unlimited, the organization that runs our annual empowerment camps. Funding for the counseling component of Tariro’s work is provided by PEPFAR grant from US Embassy in Harare. We are extremely grateful to the Embassy for providing this funding, as we have identified mental health needs as the second most important concern facing our students, after the necessity of securing financial support for their education.
Lauri has recently completed a program in global mental health work through the Harvard Program for Refugee Trauma, at Harvard’s Medical School. We are excited that she has this opportunity to share her expertise by working with our students, many of whom have experienced significant trauma upon losing their parents to HIV/AIDS. Counseling through art is an important way for students to explore these issues in a safe and supportive environment.
This drawing, for example, dramatically represents the effects of HIV/AIDS in our students’ lives. Done by a group of four students, it read, “AIDS brings sickness with no cure. Sickness that makes you unable to eat. You are left thin, unable to survive, without a good life, once you have AIDS.” For many students, the arts, including drawing, poetry, and song, is one of the only realms in which they are free to speak openly about HIV/AIDS, making it an extremely important way of communicating about the effects of HIV/AIDS, as well as prevention and behavior change. (To see other artwork and poems done by Tariro students during Lauri’s work at the 2007 annual empowerment camp, please visit our website)
I’ll close this post with an update on Noleen’s condition. I spoke on the phone with Tariro’s program coordinator, Fadzi, earlier this morning, who reported some very good news! Noleen’s doctors now believe that the catheter they inserted last week may have drained the blockage which was affecting Noleen’s kidneys and urinary tract. In an attempt to avoid scheduling a costly and possibly dangerous surgery if at all possible, her doctors have sent Noleen in to Parirenyatwa today for another scan to determine whether or not the surgery needs to proceed. Noleen’s mother reports that Noleen is feeling much better, and is no longer in pain. We are therefore hopeful that she will be able to return to school this coming term.
Finally, the Kutandara Center is hosting their 4th annual benefit for Tariro today in Boulder, CO. Lauri and I will both be at this event, so if you are in the area, please stop by the Boulder Bandshell, between 4-8pm. Photos and an update on this event will be forthcoming in the next post!