In Mombasa, the combination of tourism, East Africa’s busiest port and a lack of economic opportunities has led some young people to seek alternative sources of income—including participation in the sex trade industry. “Mombasa is a tourist town and a lot of young people are jobless,” says Kasena Evans, Program Coordinator for Kwacha Afrika. “Their families are living below the poverty line so the only thing they can do is to use sex as an income generating activity.” This engagement in sex work leaves young men and women vulnerable to gender-based violence, unplanned pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.
Kwacha Afrika, which is Kiswahili for “Arise Africa,” tackles the oppressive realities of poverty through the use of theatre for development. “The [Kwacha volunteers] are really committed to their interests and devoted to Kwacha and the community,” says Amanda Birch-Bayley, Kenya 2009 Alumna. YCI volunteers and program staff have been working alongside Kwacha to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS amongst youth, promote condom use, and help youth develop an understanding of their sexual and human rights.
In October, YCI mobilized our second Youth Innovators program. (The Youth Innovators program, previously called the Youth Ambassadors program, was first piloted in March 2009 in Ghana.) We recruited, interviewed and selected 10 individuals that embodied YCI’s values of volunteerism and innovation, and who had backgrounds in HIV/AIDS education. Want to know a bit more about our Youth Innovators?
Group 1: October 2009-November 2009
Dan attended Queen’s for Biology and Health and Physical Education, and also possesses a Bachelor of Education. He has previously participated in health promotion placements in Samoa and St. Vincent. For the past two years, he’s been working on a health promotion and advocacy program to prevent tobacco use amongst teenagers.
With an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and Physical Education, as well as a graduate degree in Health Studies, Lisa’s knowledge will be invaluable on the Youth Innovators project. She also has experience as a peer health promoter, and is currently working on a student peer leadership initiative to prevent substance abuse among grade seven and eight students.
April was born and raised in Toronto, but moved to Australia to complete her Masters in Health Science, with a specialization in health promotion. She resides outside of Melbourne, where she works as a community planner for a local city council.
Travelling to Kenya with YCI was James’ first international volunteering experience. But he’s no stranger to working with youth. James has worked and volunteered with Street Kids International, Oxfam Canada and the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. He has also completed a post-graduate degree in Fundraising and Volunteer Management.
Tsion was born and raised in Ethiopia, but now resides in Toronto, where she graduated from York University’s Social Work program. She has experience as an HIV/AIDS peer health educator with the Ethiopian Association of Toronto.
Brandon first got involved in YCI in 2008, when he participated in an Ethiopia project. Following his placement with YCI in Ethiopia, he traveled to South Sudan and Malawi, where he volunteered and worked with other non-profit organizations. He currently resides in Saskatchewan.
Another alumna of YCI’s programs, Candice traveled to Vanuatu in 2006. After graduating from a Master’s of Health Promotion program in Halifax, she moved to Yellowknife, where she works as an HPV Study Coordinator. Following her placement in Kenya, Candice intends to begin her doctoral studies, specializing in youth sexual health in the circumpolar region.
Sonja has a background in journalism, has conducted community research In Havana and believes in using experiential education (including the use of puppetry). Prior to her placement with YCI, she was studying in South Africa. Along with Candice, Sonja was a participant on the Ship for World Youth.
Katherine is originally from Vancouver, but currently resides in Toronto. She completed her Master’s in Sociology, with a focus on gender, family and women’s health, at the University of Toronto. She currently works in health research.
Yet another alumna, Corinne volunteered with YCI in Grenada in 2007, where she facilitated workshops for adolescent mothers, with a focus on women’s right, sexuality, health and self-worth. She works as a registered nurse in Toronto in a trauma intensive care unit.
By combining their unique experiences and skills in youth programming and HIV/AIDS education, the Kenya Youth Innovators teams are working together with local youth, YCI volunteers and peer educators from Kwacha to organize school and community outreaches, talent shows and “Club Nights” in Mombasa’s club district, all with a focus on HIV/AIDS awareness and testing. These events utilize the skills and knowledge of locally trained peer educators and targeted young sex workers.
Next up? The Youth Innovators program will return in January to Ghana.