Release date
September 18, 2004

Improving Care and Support for Vulnerable Children

September 18, 2004, —

There are more than 1 million orphaned children in Zimbabwe today, and countless others made vulnerable from the effects of HIV and AIDS on themselves, their families and their communities. Orphans and other vulnerable children in Zimbabwe face enormous obstacles in their everyday lives.

Hearing impaired child.

CRS provides education assistance to children who have hearing impairments and need specially trained teachers.

However, there are many powerful community initiatives which involve ordinary people doing extraordinary things to care for and support these children. The STRIVE project (an acronym for Support To Replicable, Innovative, Village/community-level Efforts) works through community-based partner organizations to improve the care and support offered to children affected by HIV and AIDS throughout Zimbabwe.

STRIVE directly serves more than 20,000 orphans and other vulnerable children on a regular basis, providing holistic care and support, education assistance, food security, psychosocial support, economic strengthening and health assistance.

Education Assistance

Education assistance initiatives improve children's access to quality education. Several project partners pay the public-school fees for orphans and other vulnerable children, and many provide textbooks and other important resources to schools in exchange for the schools' agreement to enroll a specified number of children.

Food Security

Food security activities enhance children's access to nutritious, reliable sources of food. For example, CRS nurtures the creation of community nutrition gardens, which community members establish and tend to provide healthy produce for households caring for orphans and vulnerable children.

Psychosocial Support

Psychosocial support for children affected by HIV and AIDS helps them cope with uncertainty and stigmatization after the death of their loved ones. That's why CRS supports partners who provide counseling to children, help children create family memory books, organize recreational activities, and facilitate Kids' Camps and after-school Kids' Clubs. These initiatives develop children's coping strategies, train them in important life skills and offer them a much-needed listening ear.

Women Singing in the Garden

CRS helps communities establish nutrition gardens that are tended by people who care for orphans and other vulnerable children.

Economic Strengthening

Economic strengthening bolsters the social safety nets of communities and households that care for and support orphans and other vulnerable children. One approach CRS promotes is training community members on how to form internal savings and lending groups. Group members contribute a small sum every month and then are able to borrow money to buy assets, such as livestock. In addition, the groups works to meet community needs, such as purchasing school supplies for children.

Health Assistance

Health assistance activities include helping children access clinic services and needed medications. In addition, children with disabilities receive therapeutic equipment to advance their physical development.

Importantly, all STRIVE activities take special care to understand and address the particular needs of girls. STRIVE and its partners also encourage children to participate in developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating projects.

Future Plans

Since it began in 2001, STRIVE has continually adapted its interventions and identified new community-based partners in order to more effectively meet the changing needs of orphans and other vulnerable children in Zimbabwe. In 2007, STRIVE will increase efforts to reach out-of-school youth, a group often overlooked by programs aimed at children affected by AIDS. These youth face a range of challenges that CRS and its partners will address by helping them develop marketable skills and by organizing specially-designed psychosocial support activities.