“Emotional and social well-being is not an afterthought”
Last week I attended the XIX International AIDS Conference on behalf of REPSSI (The Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative.) Based in Johannesburg, REPSSI trains "front-line" service providers on children's emotional and social well-being and works with governments and NGOs to develop child-friendly policy frameworks in 13 countries in southern & eastern Africa. There are at least 1,994 project sites where REPSSI approaches are being applied and five million children being supported by its partner network.
REPSSI is actively growing its “evidence base.” In addition to their current research (see here and here), they are about to embark on a randomized control trial in Zambia that will measure the impact of mainstreaming psychosocial support into education. Also, REPSSI's innovative, distance-learning course in Community-based Work with Children and Youth™ is the first accreditation of its kind and is making great strides in social workforce development. There are nearly 1,500 graduates in 10 countries—teachers, police officers, social workers, community volunteers, traditional leaders, and community- and faith-based groups—all meeting children where they are.
As an African-founded, -based and –led international non-governmental organization, REPSSI knows intimately the realities on the ground and how best to support the psychosocial needs of children and youth, their families and communities, while enabling local ownership and empowerment.
"The global community now appreciates the value of social and emotional well-being, and as it relates to children--their care, love and protection is very, very vital and it begins with the family. It begins with the community before it can even get into the formal systems... Emotional and social well-being is a core component of the HIV response. It is not an afterthought." ~Noreen M. Huni, REPSSI Executive Director
The fact the psychosocial well-being is considered a key part of holistic care for children in the HIV response is largely due to the mainstreaming efforts of REPSSI over the past decade to place psychosocial support on the national, regional and international agenda. REPSSI's work ensures that Africa's children get the right support so that they grow into capable and compassionate adults, and active citizens engaged in their communities.
I am proud and privileged to have been a small part of that work while the REPSSI team was in Washington D.C. this week.