Transforming lives through Kawempe Youth Centre (KYC)’s Community Outreach program
[The aim is that…] youth that are informed, independent and self-reliant through sustainably providing services that meet their educational, informational and recreational needs
There is a lack of information on health, sanitation and hygiene issues related to the youth. In the Ugandan culture, it is a taboo to talk about sexual related issues and so; many youth especially girls get information from their peers or are ignorant about issues that affect their health. Also there is a very big lack of sanitary pads usage. Girls who can't afford money for pads improvise with strips of toilet paper, banana fibre or old cloth. Many of the youth in Kawempe come from very low income families, many affected by HIV/AIDS, and without a platform to develop their talents and or share their life experiences. Kawempe Youth Centre (KYC) implements a community outreach program which focuses on enhancing the children and youth’s potentials to improve and or discover their abilities through health, sports, music, dance and drama activities in addition to entrepreneurship and life skills trainings.
KYC Community Outreach Program
KYC is a registered not-for-profit Non Governmental Organization (NGO) that works towards building literate communities in Kawempe division, Uganda. KYC’s Vision is to see youth that are informed, independent and self-reliant through sustainably providing services that meet their educational, informational and recreational needs. KYC works with partner schools and other like-minded organizations to promote and provide modern library services and information technology facility to the target groups. Among its community outreach interventions, KYC facilitates health talks at the centre with main focus on the girls. One of the approaches used in the talks to help the girls open up through the discussions is dance therapy. As the girls dance they gain the confidence to share their story and ask questions related to the topics discussed. Here, I will refer to one girl who when she started her periods came rushing to the centre to find out if she will still be allowed in as she felt unclean. She was counselled about her new development and her fear was dealt with. Until today, she is actively involved in the dance group and volunteers to facilitate children’s reading activities during her school holidays. During the talks, the youth will discuss anything from lack of sanitary pads, poor health facilities in schools and in the community, as well as try to find solutions. Some youth will open up to discuss family issues that are negatively affecting their lives and in some cases would also ask for KYC’s moral and sometimes financial support to settle such issues.
Girls whose parents can't afford money for sanitary pads improvise with strips of toilet paper, banana fibre or old cloth. Still, some girls can’t afford the mentioned items so they are absent from school for some days every month which affects their school performance. KYC has provided re-usable sanitary pads in partnership with AFRIpads to about 199 girls in partner schools and to 50 girls at the centre. AFRIpads manufactures low-cost, reusable and washable cloth sanitary pads which are made by local Ugandan women giving them the opportunity to generate an income and send their children to school. The sanitary pad kit provides girls with affordable, environmentally-friendly menstrual protection for up to 1 year. The use of these sanitary pads greatly enhances the girls’ health and also provides them the opportunity to continue work and school during their periods, thereby improving their future progress and development.
At the partner schools, KYC facilitates health talks to both girls and boys in partnership with Straight Talk foundation which provides health information material to the youth. During the talks, youth are given an opportunity to ask questions related to sexual reproductive health. It has been noted that every year, KYC receives a number of the same questions from different youth about sexual issues which shows a need for continuous awareness raising.
KYC also works with the health department through the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) – Kawempe division to provide health information and related services such as HIV/AIDS Voluntary counseling and testing and other sensitization activities at the centre and within the community.
KYC has a dance group of 20 youth from Kawempe community who meet atleast 3 times a week to participate in the music, dance and drama sessions and attend different life skills trainings (Kawempe Youth Centre You-Tube video). The group aims at a) aiding personal development, building confidence, self-esteem and discipline b) creating a platform where young people will meet and interact with others to learn while developing social skills. c) promoting the talents of young people through which they can develop themselves and d) create awareness and understanding about their cultures and respect for other cultures from other nationalities. It is hoped that young people’s participation in the dance group will help steer them away from damaging behaviour and lifestyles.
Once in a while, the dance group is invited to perform at functions such as weddings, graduation parties and the income generated is used to sustain the activity. The group also performs cultural dances for the foreign volunteers and visitors received at the centre as a way of sharing and orienting them about the Ugandan culture. Over time, the youth have gained confidence and self esteem. Some youth in the dance group received school fees sponsorship from individuals in the Netherlands of whom some have completed secondary school. The youth in the dance group have an opportunity to use the library services for free and receive discounts to train in computer. Currently, 2 of the library staff are in the dance group and previously received school fees support from KYC friends in the Netherlands to complete their secondary school education.
It is expected that throughout the program, young people's confidence will be built, their horizons broadened and aspirations raised and in turn be able to take charge of their lives and unlock their potential for self development.
Author: Esther Kyazike
Chief Executive Officer
Kawempe Youth Centre, Uganda