Making dreams a reality: The DREAMS/Pathways Project

By Tariro Mhute and Vincent Mpamhadzi

Looking back Virgina Tshuma (34) from Mambo – Gweru, never imaged that one day she would own a thriving poultry business. With the prevailing economic crisis, making ends meet was only a dream as she and her husband only managed to provide one meal per day for their three children, let alone pay their school fees. Her husband is an artisanal miner and without a steady income – life wasn’t always rosy. This posed great tension in their home, which sometimes led to verbal and physical confrontations until Virginia decided to change her life around and enroll for the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Pathways Project.

Sinovuyo:  Creating a peaceful home

I enrolled into the Pathways Project in January 2020. Initially, I had reservations because I assumed this was just a waste of time, but now I realize it was a blessing in disguise. When I joined the Pathways, I started off with Sinovuyo Teens Parenting Sessions where I learnt a lot about communication between parents and their children.

“I was always an angry parent and sadly failed to provide a safe home for my children.  Mostly, my husband and I got into heated arguments over financial problems, I would take out the stress on my children – beating them when they make the slightest mistake. When I graduated under Sinovuyo Teens Parenting programme after 14 sessions a lot changed now peace prevails in my home and we are a happy family,” said Virginia.

Virgina explaining how she feeds her chickens.

Through the Pathways project CRS and its implementing partners are offering solutions to Zimbabwe’s HIV response and child protection systems so that orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) become healthy, stable, safe, and schooled. The US government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), supports the Pathways Project through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Pathways contributes to the eradication of HIV through two main streams: Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) – an initiative which aims at preventing new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW); and reaching other vulnerable children with prevention and other response services. Pathways recognizes that children are part of a larger ecosystem including the family and communities who know the challenges children face and therefore, hold the solutions to their development.

TEAMWORK: Virgin’s husband constructed the fowl run when she started the poultry business.

Virginia is one of the many caregivers who graduated in Sinovuyo Teens Parenting Program a positive parenting intervention under DREAMS. Jointed Hands Welfare Organization (JHWO), a CRS Pathways partner implements the project in Gweru. The Sinovuyo Caring Families Program for Parents and Teens targets pre-teens and teenagers between ages 10-14, and their caregivers.

The main goal of the Sinovuyo parenting Program is to aid in nurturing open, caring and trusting relationships between caregivers and their teenagers. Additionally, Sinovuyo increases parenting skills, while encouraging positive parenting behavior. The program improves the mental health, social support and problem-solving skills of the participants and community while decreasing harsh discipline and helping families respond better to crisis.

Layering of services: Sinovuyo and SILC building resilient communities

“Under the CRS Pathways Project, I also joined Saving Internal Lending Communities (SILC). We did 8 sessions which empowered us on how to save money as a group and engage in income generating activities. We learnt that poverty causes children to engage in risky behavior which exposes them to HIV/AIDS. As a parent with two adolescent girls aged 10 and 13, I took the initiative to ensure that they are safe, educated and empowered. Since my husband’s income couldn’t sustain us, the sessions from SILC inspired me to start a poultry business.

INNOVATION: Most people in Virgina’s community are into petty trading. Hence, she sells chicken cutlets which are affordable and bring in profits fast.

“Since then, I have never looked back. I can fend for my family; my two girls are on Pathways’ school fees support and I make sure there is enough food at home.  Something I couldn’t even do way back. Recently, I supported my children with data to connect to WhatsApp lessons conducted by Pathways Study Clubs facilitators!” said Virginia with a huge smile.

Despite substantial declines in new HIV infections globally, the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to disproportionately impact adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in many countries including Zimbabwe. To prioritize AGYW’s health and wellbeing, CRS incorporates its SILC model into the DREAMS initiative which offers pro-poor strategies to reach households; working with private sector providers to ensure sustainability and continuity. The SILC model is a holistic programming approach that offers households a strategy to protect assets, smooth cash flow, and increase sustainable income minimizing the impact of HIV/AIDS on vulnerable populations.

By the end of the Pathways project, almost 60 000 households will be economically stabilized and have resilience to meet their basic household needs and protect their children’s well-being without selling productive assets to offset basic needs. Virginia is one of the many caregivers receiving support in nine Districts across Zimbabwe (Bulawayo, Gweru, Guruve, Harare, Insiza, Lupane, Nkayi, Matobo, Mazowe). CRS continues to impact communities until the global targets of ending HIV/AIDS by 2030 are achieved!

Tariro Mhute is the Communications and Documentation Officer at Catholic Relief 
Services ( Vincent Mpamhadzi is the SILC and Livelihoods 
Specialist at Catholic Relief Services (


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