2024 Capstone Fellow Spotlight: Kudzaishe Chaonwa

Photography, film, and healthcare—my three passions seem quite divergent, especially because I was personally obliged to brainstorm a Capstone Project that resonated with all three. Then I thought “I once participated in the National Aids Council school quiz competitions at St Faith’s, my previous school, so it would be nice to incorporate another of my obsessions into the whole picture.” And then it struck me: What if I can be the information bridge between health professionals and the general population (both HIV+ and HIV-) in my hometown, Chipinge? What if I were to design HIV/AIDS education videos to expose the Ndau-speaking community to fresh, nuanced, and accurate medical perspectives that address some of the most confusing concepts in HIV programming? Could this considerably help the National AIDS Council reinforce behavior change communication thereby improving antiretroviral therapy adherence behavior? 

Fortunately, the Capstone Fellowship Program from Education Matters provided answers to these questions in ways I never imagined possible. To reinforce the USAPCS Honor Code value of service, I am spending my six month gap year living a life of service to my community as a Capstone Fellow. The problem I am addressing is the high incidence of suboptimal adherence to antiretroviral therapy among geriatric HIV+ patients in my community. As a solution, my goal is to create and edit HIV/AIDS telehealth videos in the Ndau dialect to educate the Chipinge community through the power of social media. Another of my key interventions is to physically show these videos using my media equipment via outreach to poorly resourced individuals in my community. 

After graduating from USAP Community School, I began searching for organizations that shared the vision of my Capstone Project. Following thorough research and several delays, I discovered that the National AIDS Council district office in Chipinge was coincidentally seeking someone to spearhead an initiative similar to my Capstone Project. As a result, they were more than happy to partner with me. This non-governmental organization helped me by reviewing my film scripts and identifying topics that needed to be addressed, such as: How churches and other religious organizations influence antiretroviral therapy adherence, recognizing the leadership role of community stakeholders in HIV programming, Myths and misconceptions governing antiretroviral drugs and so forth.


In addition, the National AIDS Council (NAC) allowed me to partner with two other organizations that also believed in my vision: Vivid Arts Trust and the Young People’s Network on Sexual Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS. These two organizations provided me with filming equipment plus crewmembers as well as a working social media platform to share my content, respectfully. 

Personally, my favorite part of my project is the fieldwork, which entails walking with the crew through residential suburbs carrying cameras, light reflectors, stands, boom microphones, script books, laptops, and even chairs. Quite interestingly, my filming package included other unexpected features: I am constantly obliged to inform members of the public that I am neither shooting a new trendy music video nor working for ZBC TV.

Probably, my most valued feature of the whole program is the bonds I’ve formed with the amazing and inspiring twelve 2024 Capstone Fellows. From our weekly WhatsApp meetings to the fun-filled Capstone Retreat, they have always been there to offer advice and support this project. I am grateful for the important role they are playing in inspiring me to think outside the box just like they are doing in all their twelve impactful projects. 

On a happy note, my community engagement in the health field through this Capstone Project has exposed me to an amazing opportunity from the Junior Medical Academy: Out of a competitive global applicant pool, I was selected to be one of the ambassadors of the global Junior Medical Academy. This will ultimately give me the chance to educate and inspire the young future medical doctors of tomorrow, Indeed, #usaprocks! 

Kudzaishe Chaonwa is a 2023 graduate from the USAP Community School from Chipinge who has been accepted and funded into the Brown University Class of 2028.

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