After a short breakfast and bus ride, we pulled up next to the small walled building where our first meeting would be held. As we entered ZAPHA+ (the Zanzibar Association for people with HIV/AIDS+), we were welcomed by the kind voices and smiles of the organizers and children. The children, Qassa Mahamumud, Kauthar Simai, Fatma Mazige, Soud Khams and Ally Mwaita, shook our hands and led us into the discussion room. We sat along the edge of the room and gazed up at the colorfully painted walls covered with children handprints and writings. The leader began by explaining the organizations major contributors, UNFPA, UNICEF and UNAID, and their goal of removing the societal stigmas of HIV/AIDS and helping those both indirectly and directly affected by HIV/AIDS. The majority of the meetings focus was on children and child protection, although we also learned about the three groups who are most commonly affected by HIV/AIDS. At one point during the meeting the leader brought out one tool that they use to help children discussion the issues that face them and the changes that are ahead of them. It was called the journey of life.
The first picture shows to young children walking along the path, happily, even though they don’t know exactly where they are going. The leader explained how pictures like this spark conversations about their situation and how they cope with it while also teaching children that they don’t necessarily need to know exactly where their path will take them in life.
The second picture depicts to young children, although it is hard to see, one child who is nourished and growing and one child who is malnourished. Although it is up to the child’s perception, it is commonly thought that both children are affected by HIV/AIDs yet one has proper care and one does not. This is supposed to teach children about the great importance of proper nourishment, especially when on medicine for HIV/AIDS. It is extremely unpleasant to take the medicine without food as it makes your stomach upset, this picture opens the conversation to ensure kids are following the proper diet to keep them healthy.
The leader proceeded through many other pictures meant to convey the struggles that children and adolescents face and explained how each photo opens the conversation for children to discuss these issues. After exchanging emails with the students we went on our way and visited the Darajani Market and played a amazing game of soccer with the New Generation Queens.