Ever since the day I watched a documentary called Wasteland on how a photographer changed the lives of rubbish pickers in Brazil by empowering them to make art with the recyclable materials they pick from the dump site my mind now forever boggles on how best people can make of the circumstances and scenarios they are in. The Friendship Bench at Harare Hospital is one of the many ideas across the country of how communities are being empowered.
I recently visited the Friendship Bench at Harare Hospital. An organisation created by Dr Chibanda to assist low-income people suffering from depression and anxiety. Patients come to the wooden bench for counselling from trained health workers. After realising that most of the people receiving counselling at the Friendship Bench had no source of income, the idea of Zee Bags was born. These women crotchet old plastic bags into colourful shopping baskets and fun handbags.
Now the women have been so empowered to make their own living. If you attended HIFA this year, you probably saw their stand, which was big and eye-catching. Being at HIFA and exhibiting was a great achievement for them and now they look forward to doing the same at the Harare Agricultural Show.
Being around this group of women you can see how this community development project has helped them to deal with their challenges with common mental disorders, depression and anxiety. During the interviews I gathered most of the women eluded that before joining this project all they could think of were their worries leading to stress, but now making these bags keeps their minds busy. And it’s also giving them some income to take care of their families.