Wednesday, February 6, 2008

a little seedling of hope

I am really excited about one of my current projects. I found out about this contest called Scenarios from Africa ( and introduced it the kids at all the centres. Youth from all over Africa, ages 12-24 are invited to create a story about HIV – they can choose from topics given or create an original scenario. Winners have a chance to get their stories adapted into a short educational film by a leading African director. The contest itself is interesting but it also helps with a bigger problem. Lately some of the kids have said they are tired of hearing about HIV. It’s practically shoved down their throats through ad campaigns and ineffective programs run by larger organizations. Even in the last year I have been guilty of talking AT the kids. Well they’ve shut their minds down now when it comes to HIV and they still don’t have all the important facts that will protect them and could potentially save their lives.

That’s what is exciting about this project – we aren’t talking AT the kids at all. They are given the chance to “drive” any discussions that come up but even more importantly, they finally have the floor, the spotlight and can tell us what they know and actually how it affects their lives. Most of the kids seemed excited about the idea and my thoughts are to try and address some of the problem areas where there are gaps in their knowledge. We’re going to show some of the Scenarios educational films and just informally (but hopefully effectively) talk to the kids during the next month. We’re only in the middle of the whole process and anything can happen but I have high hopes.

At the end of the month the kids will get to perform their stories for each other and we’ll submit them to the contest. I’ve even added some pre & post testing to see if any knowledge is actually gained. And I want to talk to the kids afterwards and see what they thought about the whole thing. It all seems so simple in theory: what they got wrong on the quizzes we’ll address during the month and then hopefully they understand and internalize the facts and also demonstrate their knowledge in their stories. AND hopefully they enjoy the process. And the decisions and the way they live their lives is positively affected because they aren’t just hearing the words ‘HIV/AIDS’, ‘safe sex’, ‘abstain’, ‘be faithful’ but they actually understand the need to support each other if someone is positive and that they can stand up for themselves and demand boy or girl friends to respect their rights and decisions. And maybe they won’t be afraid of the disease anymore and start teaching each other that we’re all human and just need love and support.

This one project can’t achieve all that but maybe it can open their minds again and allow the seeds to be planted.

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