International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

This blog was originally posted at norahstanzanianadventure.blogspot.com

Yesterday was the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, and we were involved in organizing a Health Outreach day for awareness against drug abuse, HIV/AIDS and sexual reproductive health in a community called Uzini which was about a 30 minute drive into the country. In co-ordination with UMATI and Juwasu (Secondary Students Association) and ZANGOC, the YCI volunteers worked to come up with a morning’s worth of programming activities to engage the youth of the community in problems of drug abuse and associated consequences such as the spread of HIV infection and sexually transmitted infections.

Last week was our first week of work so needless to say it was intimidating having to organize a full outreach day right off the bat. However, things managed to come together really well and in our meetings over the course of last week we were able to come up with some creative and fun ideas for the day’s program.

About 250 people ended up coming out for the event. We had arranged ahead of time activities with 4 local secondary school’s through Juwasu. We organized a debate and an essay competition that the students were able to prepare for ahead of time. The topic of the debate was “Who should be punished for drug abuse – the drug dealers or the drug users?”. We had 6 students from two different school’s debate this in front of the crowd. All of this was in Swahili so I only got a small idea of what was said from translations. One part that was translated for me that I really liked was said by a student who was arguing that drug dealers should be the ones punished, and he said “Drug dealers are only one person but drug users are many.” We picked this debate topic because we thought it would address some really important issues around the stigma associated with people who have drug abuse problems. The essay competition was similar in that the students prepared short presentations ahead of time to discuss how HIV/AIDS is related to drug abuse.

Another highlight of the day was the two drama presentations, one given by the host community and one given by the UMATI drama group. The drama groups were excellent at maintaining the audiences attention and they managed to get lots of laughs from the crowd as well! These dramas are very integral in getting important messages across to youth. It is a popular form of expression here and I think a very effective one. In the photo below, the group from Uzini is giving their drama performance.

ZANGOC also generously provided free Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) for HIV/AIDS for the duration of the event (9am-12pm or in swahili time, saa tatu asubuhi – saa sita). The picture below shows the VCT room. Over the course of the day, the VCT room ran 120 tests (77 female and 43 male) which all came back negative. Great news. Some other fun activities of the day included a donut on a string competition and a tug-of-war competition. Lots of great prizes were included for the winners such as t-shirts, wristbands, pencils, soccer balls, etc. (there were even prizes for the donut winners, though this was debated among the volunteers as we thought a donut was a prize in itself)! All in all it was a very successful event and a great way for international volunteers to get a feel for how planning and implementation of these outreach events should go. I was impressed by our ability to work together with UMATI and Juwasu in such a short time to get this event off the ground.

There is a lot to look forward to in the next 6 weeks. With such a capable, skilled and enthusiastic group of partner organizations, local and international volunteers, and YCI staff, we surely will be able to make a difference in many ways!

- Norah MacMillan, YCI Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2011. Norah is two weeks into an eight-week project based in Zanzibar, Tanzania. You can read more from Norah on her blog: Norah’s adventure in Tanzania.

For more volunteer blogs, check out our Travel Diary category.