UMCOR partner Island Hospice Services provides grief workshops to children who have lost parents and guardians to AIDS and other illnesses. These children participated in a workshop in remote Nyadire, in Zimbabwe. CREDIT: Courtesy of IHS.
October 30, 2013—Years after their parents died, Darlington, now 17, and his two younger siblings, ages 14 and 10, finally are able to grieve, thanks to support they have received from Island Hospice Services (IHS), a partner of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Zimbabwe.
“Our parents died when we were very young,” said Darlington (not his real name). The children moved in with their grandmother, but she, too, passed away just a few years later, and Darlington became the head of their small household in remote Nyadire, in northeast Zimbabwe, near Mozambique.
“We had never had an opportunity to talk about the death of our parents and our grandmother to anyone,” Darlington said. Instead, he said, they struggled to feed themselves and to stay in school.
Earlier this year, Darlington and his siblings were invited to participate in grief workshops offered by IHS, which for 30 years has provided holistic care and support for people living with HIV and AIDS, those with other life-threatening illnesses, and the bereaved, especially underserved children.
The incidence of HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe has been dropping over the years, but it still afflicts more than 13 percent of the population—and affects many more.
IHS is headquartered in Harare, the capital, but the organization has broad outreach across Zimbabwe and Africa. It also serves this vulnerable population of children and youth with mentoring, academic tutoring (in math, business, English, and science), livelihoods training (garment making), and home economics lessons.
During the grief workshops, bereaved children like Darlington and his siblings, share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns with each other in the presence of two community caregivers in a judgment-free environment. The community caregivers are volunteers trained by IHS and overseen by IHS social workers.
An UMCOR grant has supported the training of four new community caregivers. Ongoing mentoring of the volunteers adds to the training and provides the community caregivers with tools to help children and youth who are dealing with multiple losses, trauma, violence, or hunger.
“The criteria used by IHS in the selection of community caregivers in Nyadire are youth-centered and passion-based,” reported Elgar Dhliwayo, the organization’s senior social worker. He said IHS especially seeks caregivers who live in the area where they volunteer so that they can provide “continued support” to the children and youth.
In grief workshops like those Darlington and his siblings attended, the community caregivers use drawing, stories, dramas, and play to encourage the children to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
“Through the groups for bereaved children which we attended, facilitated by Island Hospice, we had an opportunity to talk about the death of our parents and we were able to express our feelings. The group sessions helped us deal with our loss,” Darlington said.
For children and youth whose parents and guardians have been lost to AIDS, their often unexpressed grief is a little-told story. You can help them acknowledge their loss and receive support to strengthen their young lives. Give to the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, UMCOR Advance #982345.
In 2014, UMGAF will particularly seek to support projects and ministries around the globe that focus on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS. Your support is urgently needed. Please give generously.
And remember to mark World AIDS Day on December 1. For more information about UMGAF resources to help your congregation develop an HIV/AIDS ministry click here.
And thank you for your support for UMCOR Global Health, Advance #3020622.