Worldmaker and Consolidated Africa Services – Private Voluntary Organization (CAS-PVO), co-hosted an International Resilience Symposium in Victoria Falls on August 1, 2022. The focus was Redefining Resilience for a Post-COVID Zimbabwe.
Train. Retain. Sustain.
Ed Holme, a leader at CAS-PVO, opened the day by giving an overview of the challenges and opportunities in Zimbabwe. With only one clinical psychologist for every 750,000 people, the needs are high. He emphasized the role of training and the key challenge of retention. Often, professionals are trained in Zimbabwe and then move to other countries that offer better salaries and opportunities.
Reducing Mental Health Stigma
Dr. Mavungandzi, a psychiatrist and Director of Mental Health Services (Ministry of Health & Child Care), serves at the highest level of the government, overseeing mental health services across 20 provinces. She talked about surges in substance abuse and the need for child and adult psychiatric treatment. While Zimbabwe continues to build awareness of mental health and treatments, stigma continues to be a major concern with some strong cultural beliefs that associate psychological issues with demonic influences or spiritual weakness. She noted some promising work being done in partnership with the Clinton Foundation to equip health care professionals to routinely screen, assess and diagnose mental health conditions.
Community is Key to Closing Gaps
Dr. Mudavanhu, Deputy Director of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) and Covid-19 Coordinator from Ministry of Health & Child Care, talked about the ripple effect of NCDs, such as cancers, asthma, skin diseases, malaria and mental health. Given the stigma, needs and lack of resources, the way forward must include a community health focus, such as shifting substance abuse treatments from in-patient services only to community-based outpatient services. CAS-PVO is actively engaged in this work, partnering with Rotary International on Community Health Days.
Laying a Foundation
Mr. Mushati, Provincial Mental Health Manager (Zimbabwe Prisons & Correctional Servies), introduced the mental health needs of correctional officers, prisoners and families. CAS-PVO has provided basic mental health education for the wardens in preparation for using Worldmaker’s THRIVE curriculum to deliver comprehensive resilience training. Dr. Marti of Worldmaker provided an overview of the THRIVE Resilience Model and then Thembile Gola of CAS-PVO (who has been trained as a THRIVE trainer) shared tools from the Involvement and Coping Skills modules.
Relationships as the Heartbeat
Over tea, lunch and numerous breakout discussions, the day allowed for conversations between members of the Worldmaker and CAS-POV teams, government officials and policy makers, psychologists and mental health professionals, local and US business people, and youth participants. Participants brought humility and curiosity to the process of asking questions, identifying common ground and honoring cultural differences as they explored resilience building across sectors, including communities, schools, prisons, hospitals and workplaces.
Onward We Go, Together
In Zimbabwe, it is the ministry’s role to evaluate projects and provide letters of support. With few financial resources available from governmental ministries, the work itself relies heavily on nonprofits and private voluntary organizations to raise the funds needed to execute the projects. With a successful Resilience Symposium that provided full scholarships and travel stipends (thank you, donors), our key next steps are to use the symposium conversations to guide the prioritization of projects across schools, prisons and communities.
Collaborating with CAS-PVO, we will then turn to raise the funds needed to undertake this work while also continuing conversations with corporate organizations to provide resilience education and toolkits in the workplace. Another key focus point is working with CAS-PVO to train and equip a larger cohort of Zimbabwe-based THRIVE trainers to meet the demands of the various projects.