FOR some of us who find enigma in the created world, every encounter is a puzzle, a mystery. The number 30 is a fascinating one, for example. Cats have exactly 30 teeth, the famous Beatles ‘White Album’ has 30 tracks and 30 is also the atomic number of zinc. The Holy Bible gives evidence that Aaronic priests were dedicated to serve at 30, in part because it was the age when a person reached both physical and mental maturity and could therefore handle major responsibilities. Jesus Christ’s public ministry began at the age of 30 (Luke 3:23).
This year, 2017, Zimbabwe’s first Aids Service Organisation, Family Aids Caring Trust (FACT) celebrates 30 years since its founding in 1987 in the amiable environs of Mutare. The great physician and paediatrician, Dr Geoff Foster, was touched by the plight of children, men and women who bore the brunt of the effects of HIV and Aids. Having been recently discovered, the health system grappled first in understanding its genesis and development or spreading.
More heart wrenching was the fact that health workers and practitioners could not profer mitigatory measures in form of cure or stem the cadaverous effects. The locals resignedly coined the term ‘shuramatongo’ (desolation) , for what was an obvious calamity then. Dr Foster worked very hard with churches, founding groups for pyscho social support, palliative care to counter the effects of what had developed to a pandemic on the advent of the 1990s. His model provided some respite.
FACT was formally registered as a welfare organisation in 1989 (WO 17/89), based on the mission, vision and values of its foundation two years earlier. It was known as Family Aids Counselling Trust, which was reflective of its thrust then. Over the years the organisation has gone through many changes and phases but maintaining fidelity to its founding ethos.
- a) From a presence in just one district of Mutare back then, FACT is now present in 32 districts of the country
- b) It has grown from being a success story of the Manyika (tribes of Manicaland) to affect all the provinces of Zimbabwe. FACT operates in all the 10 provinces of the country.
- c) Growth from a church based governance system to one with a broad based approach. The Christian founding values are key in the governance philosophy at FACT , hence the biblical by-line ‘by love serve one another’ (Gal. 5:13).
- d) Purposeful transition in its intervention thrust. HIV and Aids admittedly informed programming and purpose — the Board and Management have been strategic to diversify as it were, into livelihoods, wider health concerns, capacity development and research.
- e) Building and acquiring properties in areas of implementation. This is proof of FACT’s connection and grounding within communities. The organisation cannot forget the community from which it was birthed.
- f) The organisation started with little or no funding. It was an idea which in the analogy of the mustard seed, germinated, sprouted and has now grown into a bush where birds find shelter.
Collections from churches, personal resources of the founders and foundations sustained the formative years.
Now, FACT has grown to attract regional and international agencies funding. Resource mobilisation efforts at the local level and internally are also being pursued.
The journey of FACT is firmly rooted in its community based approach. Christian values spawn ethical conduct , hence sustainability.
- The writer is a researcher and scholar and can be contacted on: email@example.com