AIDS orphan achieves her dream

Sofia Viriri (33) was in primary school when she lost both parents to AIDS-related illness. Alone with her three siblings and no income, the family sank into abject poverty. A few years passed, but life only became more difficult as immediate family members were not willing or able to provide support.

Sofia Viriri - I never thought that one day an orphan would become an employer.
Sofia Viriri – I never thought that one day an orphan would become an employer.

Just when it seemed that there was no hope left and that she would have to quit secondary school in 2007, live took a turn for the better.

Emergency plan

Through the assistance of her teacher at Gutaurare Secondary School, Viriri was identified as a vulnerable child by the Bakorehama Children Centre, an organisation supported by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Zimbabwe Orphan and Vulnerable Children project (ZOVC).

The overall goal of the ZOVC project is to mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS on children by enhancing the sustainability of care and support services for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC). Bakorehama Children Centre is a registered, private voluntary organisation established in 2001.

According to the administrator, Caleb Tengwana, the Children’s Centre is an initiative created as a result of the overwhelming number of orphans. The high number of orphans corresponds to the high number of deaths caused by HIV and AIDS.

“The emergence of juvenile delinquency among the OVC’s prompted the creation of Bakorehama Children’s Centre,” said Tengwana.

Skills provision

“The Centre works at community level to help orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS. Through vocational training, this organisation has provided more than 1 400 individuals with the skills needed to access a sustainable livelihood.

Through this economic strengthening, they have been able to relieve some of the burdens caused by the HIV epidemic,” he explained.

Once connected with Bakorehama, Viriri enrolled in a six-month tailoring course. Before she completed her course she was already earning an income and started saving. She used her savings to open her own tailoring shop and this has allowed her to help support her siblings and maintain her financial independence.

With two sewing machines, one employee and tiny premises, Viriri started her business at Sakubva bus terminus in 2009.

Thriving business

Today she owns one of the most thriving and successful tailoring businesses in the city of Mutare. Since relocating she now has six full-time employees and does everything from designing and weaving her own cloth to tailoring and making beautiful clothes.

As a result of this growth, she has been able to invest in new machinery as well as a new workshop where she displays and sells her variety of outfits. Major clients are individuals, crèches, schools and churches among other organisations.

In a recent interview Viriri, with tears of joy in her eyes said: “I owe it all to God. At one point, when I was young, I thought of committing suicide. My life as an orphan was hopeless. I and others like me were stigmatised.”

“But, there was something in me that kept me strong and I always dreamt of owning my own business. God remembered me, He made me strong and took me to another level,” Viriri said.

“I want to thank the Bakorehama Centre and PEPFAR for allowing me to do the tailoring course. I never thought that an orphan would one day become an employer,” she said as her eyes filled with tears.

Though she does not want to dwell on the income and financial success of the business, she did say that frequent bulk orders received from schools and crèches do bring in a large revenue.

Bigger dream

Viriri’s dream has come true, but now she has an even bigger dream. She is looking forward to employing more women who have experienced a life as tough as hers. “I want to give life to the disadvantaged. I want to increase producing quality clothing to satisfy the growing demand. I want my products to be found in every store and in every household and with hard work and determination it is certainly achievable,” she said.

Now married with two children, Viriri looks forward to seeing her business grow as she continues to pass her skills on to other young women.

Post published in: Analysis

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