Today is World AIDS Day. Our founder and executive director, Meghann, talks to the work TFFT does in relation to health care support as part of our whole child experience and the importance of advocacy for our children in the health and wellness sector.
“Good health is not only a consequence, but also a cause, of development. Healthier individuals, living longer lives; are more productive and contribute to national income, job creation, and economic development and growth; have fewer and healthier children, invest more time and greater resources in their children’s education, and thus secure the future for their societies; reduce costs of ill health to society and companies and enable resources to be directed to economically productive activities” (Harmonization for Health in Africa, Investing in Health for Africa).
TFFT serves scholars health and psychosocial needs in conjunction with their academic and life skills needs. Many of our children have been impacted by the AIDS pandemic and this makes them inherently vulnerable. These children have either lost parents and family members because of the disease, or are living with it themselves. We work in partnership with the DREAM clinic in Usa River, Tanzania to serve those scholars living with HIV/AIDS. DREAM was started as a program aimed at not only making antiretroviral therapy possible and accessible, but also addressing the complex measures and factors surrounding overall health care access for those affected by HIV/AIDS: health education, nutritional support, advanced diagnostics, staff training, malaria, tuberculosis, opportunistic infections and especially malnutrition. With the help of this program, our scholars are able to live productive lives and thrive in academic settings. The challenges are great, but the possibilities for these students are even greater.
Our work addressing our scholars’ health and psychosocial needs started when we noticed how the financial constraints led to our children becoming perpetually sick. Illnesses worsened, and student school absences increased due to health matters. Our first intervention was providing comprehensive health insurance for our scholars. When a child or family has health insurance, their ability and probability to go to a local clinic or hospital in town significantly increases. Our children receive wellness check-ups, and have access to eye and dental care. Those living with HIV are provided additional nutrients while in school, vitamins and anti-retroviral therapy when needed. Our staff has been trained to counsel and address health and psychosocial matters. Additionally, we have created partnerships with other NGOs (Arusha Mental Health Trust and REPSSI) to best serve those needs. We also work directly with our partner schools to ensure they have trained professionals serving as nurses in their clinics and they are able to respond in adequate time to serve the children at their schools. A World Bank study in Tanzania suggested that HIV/AIDS may reduce the number of primary-school children by 22 percent and secondary-school children by 14 percent as a result of increased infant and child mortality as well as lower attendance (International Institute for Educational Planning).
Beyond health insurance, we also look at how early childhood trauma impacts our scholars’ ability to thrive. We address vulnerability, and we do that through securing educational and emotional support. In order to achieve these goals, we have to improve their support structure, with health being a key component. We believe that sending scholars to school, while ignoring the health component of their mind and body, will act against the students in being able to reach their full potential.
Join us in supporting the whole child. If you be interested in sponsoring a scholar or learning about how you can support the whole child experience for the students we serve, please email me at Meghann (at) thefoundationfortomorrow.org