Adolescents with HIV-not to be left behind: Eshan & Alina

It was on an exquisite morning, the weather was as cool as a cucumber; the ground was filled with many adolescents both from Zvandiri and others from Harare’s oldest suburb Mbare community.

Driving in to the soccer ground main entrance l could see Zvandiri adolescents carefully marking out a soccer field.. One by one, the five a side soccer teams started to arrive – excited, young boys, 8-12 year olds from Zvandiri, proudly escorted by their coaches , their older peers also from Zvandiri. The teams were from Highfield, Mbare, Epworth, Dzivarasekwa, Kuwadzana and Budiriro.

Adolescents in the soccer pitch were thrilled when they set their eyes on Eshan, our organiser for the day, as he arrived in his blue “Chelsea” jersey. Eshan is a young football fanatic from the UK.

Despite all the strides from advocates, communities, policy makers and government ministries and youth serving organisations which programme on children, adolescents and young with HIV, this cohort is still vulnerable in many spheres of society including sports and other talent show activities like modelling. Talent, a 10 year old boy, stated “I love soccer but I don’t get a chance to play at school because we’re told we can’t because of our status”

Playing sports helps one to stay in shape, teaches how one can organize his or her time, it boosts friendships, and builds relationships with peers. Due to high rate of HIV related Stigma among young people in Zimbabwe, adolescents with HIV have been sidelined in participating in different activities including sports due to suspected HIV positive status of which according to the African Youth Charter ,it is the right of every young person to participate in all spheres of society.

9 year old Eshan Mir envisions children, adolescents and young people with HIV living happy, healthy and fulfilled lives.

“When l thought of this activity l wanted to see true smiles of children and adolescents from Zvandiri , having a chance to play football and have fun.” says Eshan.

Zvandiri adolescents soccer team wearing Maruva Trust jersey

As a result of collaborative efforts from different slants the soccer tournament attracted many children and adolescents from Mbare community, they attended the tournament as spectators.

“I wrote an e-mail to my head teacher and he puts it in the news letter asking for soccer kits donations from school children, my mother’s friends then donated the Maruva football kit” added Eshan. The boys were so proud wearing their Man U, Barcelona and Real Madrid shirts!

Underscoring the sentiments, Alina Mir (11 Years), sister to Eshan mobilised resources for adolescent girls so that they can participate in a modelling contest as she deeply felt that the group need special attention for them to feel confident, valued and to believe in themselves.

“My brother was going to prepare a football tournament and l felt that l should do something for the girls so that they are not left out..” Says Alina

Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters (CATS) who gave a hand in the coordination of this tournament were excited by this incredible opportunity which was granted to their peers.

“ Deeply from my heart l would like to thank the Maruva Trust team together with Africaid Zvandiri for organising this tournament, as adolescents living with HIV we also desire to be involved in different sporting activities and l would also like to thank Eshan and his parents for mobilising a full football kit for us.” says *Takunda.

Maruva Trust are individuals, families, schools, churches and communities in United Kingdom who have supported the Zvandiri Programme since day one, 12 years ago. There are children in Zimbabwe alive today because Maruva funded their medication when there was no other way to get treatment. There are children, adolescents and young people who have acquired their education because of school fees which they received. More than 1200 HIV positive children and adolescents have been able to attend support groups every month for the past 12 years because Maruva supported these support groups, we also have a cohort of children who can now see and hear because Maruva funded their glasses or hearing aids and many children who have benefited in many other ways.

*Name changed to protect identity

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