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The Friendship Bench Team

Dixon Chibanda

Dixon Chibanda is a senior psychiatrist and the principal investigator (PI) of the Friendship Bench.

He has started the Friendship Bench in one of Harare’s townships called Mbare in 2007 and conceptualized the first Friendship Bench intervention that has now been refined and adapted considerably.

He has been involved in mental health research for many years. Dixon is a key player in bringing the various stake-holders from local health authorities, health professionals, national and international researchers, and donors together to form successful collaborations. In his role as PI, he has led the Friendship Bench team through the rigorous exercise of the randomized control trial (RCT) which was able to deliver evidence for the intervention’s effectiveness. He is currently leading the team as they scale-up the Friendship Bench to over 60 primary health care clinics in the country.

Ruth Verhey

Ruth Verhey is the senior psychologist on the Friendship Bench team. She has played a major part in conceptualizing the intervention and the training material of the Friendship Bench Project.

It is really important for her to make mental health interventions accessible for everyone. She also works on building capacity in the clinical team to deliver a high standard service. Ruth is currently working on her PhD with the University of Stellenbosch researching trauma and trauma interventions for people living with HIV.

Aquila Vera

Aquila Vera is a clinical social worker who has worked in various settings providing high quality care and support before joining the Friendship Bench as part of the clinical team. She has 9y of work experience in individual, group and family therapy. Aquila brings skills in community dialogue, devising awareness campaigns and case management to the Friendship Bench. She is involved in training of the lay health workers and various research components. Aquila applies her energy, interest and dedication to the Friendship Bench where she motivates all her colleagues to work hard in order to achieve promotion of mental health nation- and worldwide.

Ethel Manda

Ethel Manda is a qualified counsellor with experience in project management and facilitating training workshops. She has been with the Friendship Bench for many years and is the counselling supervisor of the first group of lay health workers who started in 2007. She has seen how the Friendship Bench intervention was able to change people’s lives. Ethel is a committed team member of the clinical team, takes part in the training of lay health workers. She has a keen interest in the link between mental illness and HIV.

Her social character, her eagerness to learn and her interest for people help to make the Friendship Bench team strong and focused.

Jean Turner

Jean has studied Visual Communication at Red & Yellow School of Logic and Magic (Cape Town, South Africa), she then started freelancing in Zimbabwe and is currently doing a correspondence degree in psychological counseling. Along her journey she happened to meet some of the clinicians who head the FB, she started voluntarily work at ZEEbags and has just never left us! Jean is now a ZEEbag co-coordinator and does the graphic design for both ZEEbags and the FB Project. She explains “the feeling at the end of a workday is what FB means to me, it’s hope, it’s a future and it’s making a difference in a small country often just referred to as “Africa”, we are Zimbabwe!”

Rhulani Tsakani Beji-Chauke

Rhulani Tsakani Beji-Chauke holds a degree in psychology and a diploma in HR. She has worked in experiential learning and adult education. She works as a psychologist in the clinical team of the Friendship Bench. Her main task is to carry out the training of the lay health workers to become Friendship Bench counsellors. She applies her team spirit and integrating social skills in her dedicated work.

She has a vision of improving the so far neglected field of mental health in Zimbabwe and bringing mental health services to the all people. She aspires to become a mental health expert and work as a clinical psychologist in the near future.