Outreach events are an effective way for youth to share their knowledge with their peers. As an international volunteer in Tanzania, I have been collaborating with several organizations, which focus largely on health issues. For the past month I have been working with UMATI’s Youth Action Movement (YAM). UMATI is a member of Planned Parenthood and their YAM is a group of 25 passionate youth working to improve the lives of others in their community.
Early pregnancy is a big issue in Tanzania, often resulting in girls dropping out of school. Due to this issue facing many youth, I have been working with YAM to plan an outreach event at a nearby high school. Youth teaching youth is a powerful tool, especially with a taboo topic like this.
After driving about 45 minutes we reached Mikese, a rural town on the outskirts of Morogoro. Upon our arrival, the students were immediately inquisitive and anxious for the event to begin. YAM members discussed issues related to early pregnancy, held a Q&A session, and hosted a rap competition. Music was an effective tool to create a positive, welcoming environment. Dancing united people of all ages, languages, and beliefs together; it seems wherever there is music, people will dance.
Seeing the success of the event, one might not imagine that we faced a major challenge along the way. A week prior to the event, we learned that we would not be able to demonstrate proper condom use, nor would we be allowed to focus on condoms as a method of preventing early pregnancy. Condoms are an incredibly important aspect, as abstinence is only effective if youth are not having sex.
Despite this obstacle the response from students was very positive. It was great to see YAM members come alive and really engage the student body. Along with local volunteers and my fellow YCI volunteer, we have been focussing lessons plans on such issues and I was impressed to see the amount of information the YAM members retained.
Each day I spend in Morogoro I am moved by the confidence, passion, and dedication of the youth. I am looking forward to our next outreach event on World AIDS Day. We will be uniting YAM with Chamwino’s Girls Club to host a large event specific to HIV/AIDS.
-Alicia Perry, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2012