Sentebale, founded by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho in 2006, works with vulnerable children in Lesotho to help them get the support they need to lead healthy and productive lives. Since 2008, Sentebale’s flagship Network Clubs and Camps Programme has been delivering psychosocial support to children and adolescents aged 10-19 who are living with HIV and are struggling with adhering to their medication.
Lesotho is one of the world’s least developed countries, and has the second highest prevalence rate of HIV globally. About a third of the population’s children have no parents, and there are around 21,000 teenagers living with HIV. Stigma and discrimination are the biggest barrier to children and young people accessing care at a time when HIV remains the number one cause of death among 10-19 year olds in Africa.
Over the last 10 years, Sentebale has been working hard to address some of these issues. The charity supports vulnerable children in Lesotho to receive the support they need to lead healthy and productive lives. Sentebale’s Network Clubs and Camps Programme offer psychosocial support through monthly Saturday clubs and weeklong camps.
Originally, Sentebale’s camps were held in temporary accommodation in Leribe but the charity was determined to create a space where it was able to deliver more weeks of camp. In April 2014, Sentebale broke ground with its first, purpose-built ’Mamohato Children’s Centre in the foothills of Thaba-Bosiu; a sacred place for the Basotho people. The centre was named after His Majesty King Letsie III and Prince Seeiso’s mother, the late Queen ’Mamohato Bereng Seeiso, who was known as the Mother of our Nation. It officially opened on 26th November 2015.
The centre marks the beginning of Sentebale’s plans for expansion, as it aims to support four times as many children and young people living with HIV than Sentebale was previously able to cater for in the past. It will serve as a platform for expansion into other southern African countries where there is a similar need. The ’Mamohato Children’s Centre is a place of hope and opportunity for future generations.Cathy Ferrier, CEO, Sentebale.
As the first supporters of the ’Mamohato Children’s Centre, ICAP has helped Sentebale to build a Centre of Excellence that will host and help over 1,500 children living with HIV a year in Lesotho. Week-long residential camps are held at the centre to support adolescents living with HIV to come to terms with their diagnosis, learn about HIV and help them to understand the importance of taking their medication. Sentebale has also tested over 10,000 9-18 year olds for HIV throughout Lesotho since the inception of its outreach programme in 2014.
The clinic, supported by ICAP, plays an integral role in the children’s health and future. If a camp resident does not feel well, the clinic is where they go to feel better. A nurse will look after them and make sure they are well enough to enjoy the games and activities. The clinic is also where they gather to make sure they take their medication each day. It is the heart of a centre which makes them feel encouraged and loved.
Thanks to the ’Mamohato Children’s Centre, Sentebale has delivered camp to 1,051 children this financial year, which is more than double of any other year to date. These have included camps for children and adolescents living with HIV, camp specifically tailored to those who are graduating from Sentebale’s monthly network clubs, and camp for children from the local community. The camps not only teach children about HIV and how to adhere to their medication, but also gives them a chance to come together and socialise with other children living with HIV, make friends and realise they are not alone in coping.
It is not only the children at camp who benefit from the centre, but the volunteers as well. The delivery of camp requires the assistance of many volunteers, all of whom receive training and development from Sentebale, helping them to give back to the local community and increasing their skills for future job opportunities. One volunteer said, “You are not only bringing change in children's lives, you’re also bringing change in the lives of all the volunteers. Camp ’Mamohato you are special... thank you.”
When the ’Mamohato Children’s Centre is not being used to host children at camp, it is also used to hold a range of events and workshops to benefit children. This includes community partner workshops and training for organisations caring for vulnerable children, peer educator workshops and forums.
At the opening of the centre in November 2015, Prince Harry expressed his sincere thank you to those who helped to fund the ’Mamohato Children’s Centre. “Thanks to all our donors and supporters for sharing in this vision – your help will transform the level of support and training we can provide across the region.”
Pictures: Getty Images for Sentebale / Chris Jackson.