|Peer Health Education|
Why it's needed
Children need to start learning from an early age how HIV spreads, to dispell the myths about it, and how to keep themselves and others safe. Talking about sex can be difficult between adults and children, particularly in countries where such topics are taboo. Talking to, and learning from, other young people is much easier and more effective.
We support fifty of our young graduates a year to train with our partners, the Copperbelt Health Education Project (CHEP), and work as peer health educators when they leave school and before starting college or work.
Running the peer health education sessions gives the young trainers confidence and is valuable experience for other training and work. Many of those we support on teacher training programmes volunteered first as peer health educators. Children who attend these sessions are inspired and motivated to do similar work themselves, and can also see that being an orphan does not prevent them from doing valuable work and holding a position of respect in society.
How it works
Each year we work with CHEP to fund the training of 50 young people. After the initial training, the peer health educators are supported to run HIV prevention and awareness-raising sessions in schools in Kitwe. They spend up to four days a week in school, presenting sessions that are part of the curriculum and also run after-school "Anti-AIDS Clubs". The peer health educators are currently active in 25 of the 57 schools in the Kitwe area where Cecily's Fund supports orphaned and vulnerable children.
Using drama, songs and games, the trainers help children discuss issues which are sometimes very difficult, understand their rights and where to turn for help.
The focus of the primary school sessions (children aged 7-13 years) is on abstinence, self-awareness and development of life skills. Sessions at secondary school level (children aged 14-18 years) deal with issues including HIV prevention skills, prevention of teenage pregnancy, sexually-transmitted diseases and behavioural change.
The peer health educators are supported in the schools by "matrons" and "patrons" - key contact teachers in each school. They do this in addition to their teaching roles because they are enthusiastic about the programme and provide a link to other staff in the school.
Since we began this work in 2003, Cecily's Fund has helped train 240 young people as peer health educators, and reached an estimated 7,500 pupils each year. It costs £450 to train an orphaned school-leaver as a peer health educator and pay for them to deliver workshops in school for a whole year.
Until last year, the peer health education programme was co-ordinated by Paul Kasoka. Paul has now moved on to managing our Comic Relief programme but is himself an orphan who was supported by Cecily's Fund through school and then as a peer health educator.
Paul is a charismatic and inspiring role model for Zambia’s many orphans and vulnerable children and has helped to train over 150 others to overcome their perceived inferior status in Zambian society to become positive role models too.
Once he’d finished working as a peer health educator, Paul stayed on as Assistant Supervisor of the programme, learned the ropes from two experienced Supervisors and is now fully responsible for coordinating the Programme. Paul was given an industrial award for excellence at an inter-industry ceremony in 2008.
“From an orphan I am now an adult citizen with potential,” says Paul.