One of my last stops in Zambia was the Kafue district, about 30 miles south of Lusaka. The district is home to about 243,000 people, with most of them earning a living through farming and fishing. Through our local community partner, the Kafue Child Development Agency, ChildFund is supporting more than 12,000 families in six communities.
Education quality is a top priority for this district, and we have a partnership with Zambia’s Ministry of Education to train teachers in child-centered teaching methodologies and techniques for ensuring child-friendly schools. We’re also helping out-of-school youth in Kafue by providing skills training in carpentry, hair dressing, tailoring and baking. These youth are also receiving social support and training on decision making and goal setting—life skills. A big part of that is just helping these youth feel safe enough to talk. I met with several young men and women who explained how their group is using tools like the tree of life, body mapping, trust falls and a spider web game to share their experiences with others and to help younger children in their community.
Twenty-year-old Emmanuel explained how the youth use different parts of a tree as metaphors to represent different aspects of life. With this tool, children affected by HIV/AIDS, poverty and conflict are given a chance to tell their stories, get advice and support from those around them. Likewise, the spider web is an experiential learning game that the youth use to demonstrate the importance of decision making. “Through this game, we remind ourselves as youth that it is our choices that determine how we end up in life,” Emmanuel told me. “People who are born on the same date and grow up together end differently in life because of the choices they make.”
I met, Arthur, 18, who discovered he was HIV positive at age 14. Confused and scared, he found support in the youth group, as well as insights. “Body mapping is a tool that has helped me and other youth who are in my situation get a better understanding of ourselves, our bodies and the world we live in,” Arthur shared with me. “It also helps us understand the sicknesses we carry in our bodies and the available medicines. For me, I have learned more about HIV/AIDS, and I now stick to treatment so that I can finish school, get a job and raise a family of my own.”
When I viewed his colorful body map poster, one quote in particular caught my attention: “Not all days are sugar.” How true. Yet, like every youth I met in this district, Arthur is making progress and has so much to offer. I urged them to hold on to what they’ve learned and accomplished, and to pass their skills on to the next generation. That’s how change takes root.