Written by HeatherS on 2nd October 2023
Would you like to share your story with me?” The elderly woman sits down gently beside a slight man who sits with his head bowed on a simple wooden bench shaded by wild banana trees, in Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare.
The Friendship bench is an initiative was launched with the idea of combatting depression and loneliness and to make basic counselling available to those who might not be able to access it for a variety of reasons. Known as community grannies, most of the therapists are older women, who are trained in the basics of cognitive behavioural therapy and who have also been traditionally seen as a source of wisdom in the community.
One such is Felistas Gasa who started helping 47 year old Elton when he came to her bench. He had lost his wife, was struggling to raise his sons and found himself turning to alcohol. He said “Grandmother was patient enough to speak with me, she asked about my state of mind and I felt as if she cared for me”
There are plans to roll out the Friendship Benches to other cities all around the world.