Jack Petchey Foundation
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Breaking taboos- volunteer helps to educate youth in Zimbabwe about sexual health

Ruby Stolerman, aged 22, spent time volunteering in a clinic within a small community in Zvishavane, Zimbabwe as well as getting involved in various sexual health projects, to teach young people in the area about the importance of good sexual health. The Jack Petchey Foundation awarded Ruby a £300 Independent Volunteering Grant to help pay toward the expenses of the voluntary work.

The project was stationed in Zvishvane due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and sexual health issues in the area. Not only did Ruby provide an extra pair of hands in the clinic, helping to weigh babies, making posters, and recording data, she also helped to run interactive sessions and presentations on a range of different sexual reproductive health issues. These included STIs, HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention, misconceptions relating to HIV, stigma and how to reduce it, teenage pregnancy, correct condom use and demonstrations, family planning, living with HIV and the importance of getting tested.

Ruby also took on the very courageous task of visiting slum areas and speaking to people outside bars and their homes about sexual health issues. In addition she spoke at colleges and The Bethany Project, a charity centre for vulnerable young people.

The sessions involved presentations, question and answer sessions, and something interactive like quizzes or true/false games. Ruby and her team also held community action days such as sports days, where they would set up stalls, hold discussion groups and activities to share information and get the community involved. Their target group of 15-35 year olds lacked knowledge on sexual health as it is a very taboo topic, and so the project aimed to reduce the spread of disease through education and the breaking of taboos. Many people in the community had never been exposed to information about sex and sexual health, so just by being there and talking with people, they were able to share information, new perspectives and start to open minds in the community.

Ruby saw the impact of this project first-hand, by disproving radical popular myths about sexual health and explaining the viable and effective alternatives. Ruby remembers on particularly positive encounter; “I had a good conversation with a prostitute with HIV, who told me that male clients refuse to wear a condom. She was therefore continually reinfecting herself, as well as passing it on to her male clients. I told her where to get HIV medication from to stop it from developing into AIDS, and I introduced her to the female condom. She was ecstatic about this, and I think that encounter encompassed the hope of this programme.”

Ruby clearly had a great impact on the community through this project which wouldn’t have been possible without receiving an Individual Volunteer Grant from the Jack Petchey Foundation.  

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