From 2002-2005 Africare implemented the Community Based Care, Protection and Empowerment (COPE) for Children Affected by AIDS (CABA) project in Mutasa District of Zimbabwe. The goal of the project was to encourage shared responsibility for orphans and vulnerable children by increasing community capacity to respond to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). Working with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education, district leaders and school heads, the project instituted an innovative strategy of providing block grants to schools to increase the enrollment, retention and completion of secondary school for OVC. Grants were provided to schools to address their infrastructure and material needs on the condition that schools agree to enroll at least 55 additional OVC in exchange. Using this strategy, the project enrolled 3025 OVC in the district. Lessons learned: The use of block grants is effective in increasing enrollment and retention of the OVC; the project achieved over 90% retention rates for the children enrolled in schools. Furthermore, the issue of stigma and discrimination has been reduced, as the focus is not entirely on the orphans, but on meeting the needs of the entire community. Finally, over 20,000 people benefited from this resource exchange, proving that programs can directly impact the life of an orphan without singling them out, as is normally the case with the payment of individual school fees. Recommendations: Governments and organizations should consider such innovations that address the needs of the entire communities in order to address the needs of vulnerable groups, especially OVC.
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