Reflections from our first family residential
Chiva associate Angelina Namiba shares her thoughts on the first weekend Chiva have run for families with young people living with HIV.
The first ever Chiva residential just for families took place over a weekend in mid-April. And it proved a popular idea, bringing together 17 parents and carers, and 30 children – that’s 16 families altogether. A small team of Chiva staff, associates, and volunteers, including myself, helped run the weekend, with a special creche held for the younger children.
The residential was organised in direct response to a call by parents and carers who attended the last Chiva family conference, where they expressed a desperate need for the space and time for a residential of this kind. This, they said, was partly because they appreciated the support, information, and value their children got from attending Chiva’s support camp. They felt it was important to be able to hold a space where they could be with their children and other carers and feel safe to be open and share.
The aims of the weekend were:
- To explore experiences of living well with HIV, sharing strategies, ideas, and examples of how to achieve a good quality of life as a family.
- To create a safe space where family members could explore experiences of HIV openly, hoping to improve communication between parents/carers and children.
- To begin to build ongoing regional peer support networks and plan further events.
- To create a safe space for families to socialise and build relationships.
The programme was an intentional mix of varied workshops and activities – separate parent/carer workshops, children’s outdoor activities, such as climbing, archery, mountain biking, as well as joint family workshops. These included, a creative writing workshop, a parent/carer focus group on having conversations about HIV with their children, a mindfulness session, an art session for the family, group walks, a cooking session for the whole family, which was facilitated by the Food Chain, and an appreciation exercise. There was also a closing ceremony where families could share reflections on the weekend and how they planned to use information, networks and strategies gained going forward.
I facilitated the creative writing workshop for parents/carers, where we started with simple writing exercises, including writing about the senses and how differently we see the world and things around us. We then moved on to a longer writing exercise exploring some of the challenges parents/carers face either as parents living with HIV or bringing up children living with HIV.
In this session, we also looked at what helped the parent/carers to cope with challenges. This was quite an emotional session as a lot of what was shared was painful for many. And a lot of people were sharing their experiences for the first time. But it was also very powerful because the parents/carers were open, honest and incredibly supportive of each other. At the end of the session, all agreed they got a lot out of it.
Feedback from the weekend residential was very positive, with many of the families saying they were already looking forward to the next one.
One parent said: “Loving the space where we freely talk about anything with no judgement.”
I’d like to say a huge personal thank you to Chiva for listening to parents and carers, hearing what they had to say and acting on it by organising the residential. It meant a lot to the families. And I feel honoured and privileged to have been a part of this inaugural Chiva weekend for families.