The Zamimpilo Training Centre is situated in the Emmaus community of Okhahlamba Municipality, a region of 150,000 people in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Province of South Africa. It was established approximately 30 years ago by World Vision and over the years has been used as a centre for various community projects such as a feeding centre, brick making, sewing, a bakery and a training centre.
In 2004 the Emmaus Community Committee, which was responsible for operating Zamimpilo at the time, approached the Philakahle Wellbeing Centre about taking on the centre’s management. Philakahle agreed to this proposition and has since developed Zamimpilo into a comprehensive training centre that provides the wider community with affordable accommodation and workshops about HIV/AIDS, agricultural skills training and life skills education for orphans and vulnerable children. Philakahle continues to operate the centre today.
In 2008 Philakahle established a Values Based Life Skills (VBLS) program aimed at orphans and other vulnerable children in Okhahlamba. Using an established curriculum, this VBLS initiative seeks to: a.
Reinforce adolescents’ personal risk perception, self-esteem and self-efficacy
Help children and youth to cope with peer pressure and personal emotions
Provide skills in the area of assertiveness, communication and decision making
Educate participants about their right to live free from abuse and exploitation
Instill compassion and anti discrimination
To make the program more sustainable, the VBLS team conduct workshops for peer-group leaders, providing them with the tools to start their own support groups in their local areas. A central focus is to reduce HIV infection rates in young people by reducing risk taking behavior. Such behavioral change is motivated by the realisation of self-worth and the prospects for a better life. This leads to making better decisions and life choices.
Achieving long-term behavioral change requires a holistic approach and the Zamimpilo program includes two additional focus areas – strengthening existing family structures in the community and working with teachers in the schools. The objective is to equip teachers, extended family members and other caregivers with skills to support and encourage positive behavior in their children and youth.
While structured data collection and evaluation of the program’s effectiveness is limited at this stage, there is solid anecdotal evidence that the children and youth participating are more empowered and confident about dealing with their life circumstances. They are also better able to translate information about HIV/AIDS into protective behaviors.