Chowa Project: A Classic Poverty Reduction Venture

In the former mining town of Kabwe, people are now finding the HIV/AIDS pandemic a lot easier to cope with simply by associating themselves with a local community-based organisation, Chowa-Railway Home-Based Care project.

By joining such an organisation, people living with HIV/AIDS are able to adopt positive and healthy lifestyles. And all affected families are easily sending their orphans and vulnerable children to schools without worrying about how they are going to settle school fees.

It is one organisation whose services have effectively reached out to over 40 urban and rural communities in its catchment area of 43,550 people.

Currently with a total membership of 1,747 people living with HIV/AIDS and up to 180 orphans and vulnerable children, the Chowa Home-Based Care project which started sometime in 1995, is doing a lot in uplifting the living standards of the people.

In a town that has over the years been penned the "Ghost" town due to lack of viable economic activities, the relevance of the organisation is one thing that cannot be questioned or doubted in any way.

This is especially so because of the locality of the project. It is strategically placed in the former mining area, Chowa, next to Zambia Railways township.

Both Chowa and Zambia Railways townships suffered great loss after the closure of the mine and the concessioning of Zambia Railways.

According to Chowa project co-ordinator, Matildah Musonda, the folding of the mine at the dawn of privatisation in the early '90s and the concessioning of the railway transport company also propelled the closure of several other companies that depended on the two firms for their operations.

"Many companies closed up and left our people depressed after losing employment. This is why we have so many orphans and vulnerable children in Kabwe today. Our people died of depression," she said.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has also taken its toll on the hapless residents. One theory has it that after the death of bread winners or their loss of employment, some families turned to prostitution as a survival mechanism.

And this is what led to the formation of Chowa Home-Based Care project in 1995 as a community initiative.

The initial objective of the organisation was to offer counselling services to the affected families.

But it has now grown to provide food, drugs and other basic necessities to the infected and their affected families.

The project is promoting prevention, care and support to people living with the virus that causes AIDS.

With the support from Government through the Zambia Social Investment Fund (ZAMSIF), Chowa Home-Based Care project has been able to extend its services even further.

It is now offering survival skills to the members and also running a hammermill business as an income generating venture in addition to cultivating a five-hectare piece of land.

According to Central Province Permanent Secretary, Richard Salivaji, the hammermill business together with the farm, had been milestone achievements in alleviating poverty among the benefiting communities.

Unlike in the past when residents exclusively depended on buying mealie meal from established companies at high cost, people are now able to have their maize milled at an affordable cost of K300.00 per five kilogramme.

"There can be no better way of fighting poverty than by providing affordable services to the people.

Chowa project is a classic poverty-reduction venture which has played an important role in bettering the lives of our people," said the permanent secretary.

The hammermill was bought in 2003 at a cost of K18 million through the help of ZAMSIF which also funded a number of activities at the project site.

ZAMSIF regional facilitator for Central Province, Joel Bwalya, said the Government's poverty reduction programme spent about K180 million on Chowa project.

The money went towards the completion and electrification of the hammermill building, the buying of the hammermill and training of 100 community volunteers as care providers in combating HIV/AIDS.

A further 15 volunteers were trained in psycho-social counselling and some 35 others were empowered with skills in business and revolving fund management.

ZAMSIF also bought 30 bicycles for various home-based care activities besides funding the planting of exotic trees around the new building as an environmental mitigating measure.

The community on the other hand, contributed about K14 million in form of moulding blocks and providing building sand, crushed stones and other locally-available materials.

Mr Bwalya said the decision to fund activities at the Chowa project followed his organisation's commitment to fighting poverty by investing in social amenities that benefit the vulnerable people.

"We realised that the most pressing need in Chowa area was a hammermill and since our core objective is to reduce poverty and improve the living standards of vulnerable people, we sponsored this project," Mr Bwalya said.

"Chowa is one of the most successful home-based care projects that we have funded and we are currently working out measures to support similar projects in other parts of the province."

Much of the proceeds from the milling business go towards paying school fees and buying uniforms for vulnerable children in schools while the other money is used for buying food supplements for people living with HIV/AIDS in the area.

"If it was not for this organisation, I would not have known how to read and write. I thank the project for sending me to school.

They buy my books and pay all my school fees," said 12-year-old Romancia Daka, a pupil at Waya community school.

Another pupil, Paxina Chola, 15, who is in grade five at Buyantanshi community school, said life would have been difficult for her as a double orphan without support from the Chowa project which had been buying her clothes, uniforms and food.

"I am able to concentrate fully on my studies because I don't worry much about the food I will eat or the clothes I will wear. Everything is provided by the project," she said.

In confirming Paxina's impressive class performance, Buyantanshi school teacher Evans Ngulube said the sponsorship was a good motivating factor.

"The pupils under the Chowa project do not feel inferior in any way to other children who are sponsored by parents. I think the support they get from the project somehow builds their self-esteem," Mr Ngulube said.

But for people living with HIV/AIDS, the organisation has been helpful by empowering them with knowledge on how to accept their status and openly talk about the disease.

Theresa Tandeo, a 37-year-old single mother of two, said associating herself with the organisation had brought healing to her life in many ways.

As a person living with the HIV virus, Ms Tandeo said the organisation had helped her to live positively with the virus. And she had been able to improve her health ever since she became a member.

"When I just joined, I was terminally ill and was up and down regularly.

But this organisation has helped me to accept my status and live positively with the virus. I know that I will only die when my time comes," said Ms Tandeo who recently underwent a short course in business management under the auspices of Chowa project.

Another person living with the virus, Martha Daka, confessed: "It is not easy to be HIV positive but through the several counselling sessions I have undergone, I have learnt to live positively with the virus. I don't even feel any pain when people stigmatise me."

Indeed, such testimonies only go to show that in the former mining town of Kabwe, people are truly finding the HIV/AIDS pandemic a lot easier to cope with by just associating themselves with the Chowa Home-Based Care project.

1 comment:

Mike said...

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