Iringa Development of Youth, Disabled and Children Care (IDYDC) is an important partner in LIFT II’s referral network in Tanzania. IDYDC offers multiple services to vulnerable populations as well as youth, elders and those with disabilities. Since 2014 IDYDC’s multi-disciplinary approach, which includes financial support, training and health programs have helped more than 100 clients make and complete referrals.
LIFT II spoke with two employees of IDYDC; Julius, a Field Officer and Social Worker, and Upemdo, a receptionist who also works with the financial loans office, about their experience with the referral network and its impact. Both were happy to talk about the benefits they have observed in their work with IDYDC and LIFT II. The establishment of the Iringa Referral Network provided the member organizations, including IDYDC, with tools, to help them better serve their clients in making successful, multifaceted referrals. The most beneficial tool created by the Iringa Referral Network, observed both, was the directory of services and locations. Since every referral and client is unique, the directory helped IDYDC and others link clients with the most relevant and convenient service. Through this institutionalization of the referral network, they say, IDYDC has observed an increase in community members who feel empowered to request referrals either to IDYDC or from another member organization. Additional benefits of LIFT’s support in the referral network were monthly meetings. Meetings of directory participants created a space where all members were able to update each other regularly about what was working with their referrals, which services were offered and which had changed, and what challenges they were facing. This exchanges helped members to learn from their peers, with the added benefit of increasing network members’ understanding of where there was capacity to refer clients and what services they could offer. Julius and was especially enthusiastic about the opportunity these meetings provided to learn from their referral network members. The feedback helped them better understand challenges clients were facing, as well as how best to address them.
Julius and Upemdo also feel that they have seen positive changes in their clients as the referral network in Iringa becomes more integrated and responsive, allowing them to offer more targeted services to clients. For example, Julius observed that the microfinance component has grown to benefit many vulnerable households with loans and training, both of which help them better meet the needs of their households. They have also observed how collaboration between health workers and service providers in the network has helped them all better understand the needs of their clients. Before, the nurses would only be able to help clients for CTC services, but now they can identify other needs and refer them to services for psychosocial or economic needs.
The pair also talked about the been positive effects on the lives vulnerable children and youth they have observed over the past two years with IDYDC and LIFT. Through collaboration with the local Social Welfare department, they have referred children from the streets who are without education records helped successfully enroll them into programs, for formal or informal education. IDYDC and the other referral providers having increasingly helped youth link to vocational training center (VTC) programs which help them attend school and training more regularly. Upemdo told us about the success of several youths who were referred and enrolled in a 1-year program at the VTC. Upon graduation from the program VTC helped these youths find jobs and start down a path toward a stable livelihood. At a government level Julius and Upemdo also observed how facilitating collaboration between local health facilities in the referral networks and local governments, have helped limit the loss of vulnerable clients to care. Through such a collaboration, Upemdo described how IDYDC was able to identify and find the records of a girl living on the streets and was able to get her back on her HIV ARV regimen.
It is through examples like these, say Julius and Upemdo, that they see how referrals help fight HIV and how their work is helping vulnerable groups in Iringa achieve greater stability and opportunity.