A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Doing what they can, with what they have, where they are.


‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are’.

Dr. Margarete Junker, and the people of Mbuya took the above to heart, when they started ‘Reach Out Mbuya’ in 2001. Reach Out is a HIV/ Aids initiative, which approaches care in the true sense of holistic. Not only does it provide drug and therapy treatment, but also has structures for income generation, school sponsorship, micro-finance, a feeding programme and a community outreach initiative.

The centre is a hub of activity. With over 200 volunteers, who receive small stipends for their work, Reach Out can now treat and support over 2000 clients. Over 70% of the volunteers are themselves HIV positive, which means that the organisation is greatly in touch with the needs of its client base.

In just four years, systems and structures have been put in place to support the work, now operating in four localities in the area. Reach Out have also produced a ‘RepliKit’, an information and advice pack, to enable other organisations to learn and reproduce their model.

I found it hard to believe that the centre is just four years in operation. Walking around the clinics and talking to staff and volunteers, each spoke with pride of their role and impact ‘Reach Out’ is having in the local community. They talk about how the medication had enhanced the whole community, but they also talk about the skills they have learned, and the self confidence that has been built. To them, HIV/ Aids treatment and prevention is so much more than drugs and information, it is about caring for the body, mind, spirit and the health of the entire community.

Margarete explained that volunteering is a huge part to the success of the programme. People come, and no matter who they are, have some skills to give- they may have medical training, they may know how to sew, how to cook, how to welcome people, how to do accounts, how to drive- no one, she explains, is turned away. She emphasised that without the dedication of the entire staff, the ‘mosaic’- all the departments, clinics and the ethos of the organisation would not come into focus. ‘Never, never, never, is it just one person’, she passionately explained.

Margrete is soon to move to Mozambique with her husband and five children. (He is working for the UN, and is soon to be placed on a new assignment there). She is sad to leave, but knows that with the current team in place, the work is going to expand and improve, and Reach Out will continue to do exactly what its name proclaims.

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