African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) together with Service Yezu Mwiza (SYM) organized AHAPPY TOT for the youth mentors/teachers/supervisors (les encadreurs) and members of staff of SYM from 3rd to 7th March 2023 at Emmaus Jesuit centre in Bujumbura- Burundi. The aim of the training was to enrich knowledge and Ignatian pedagogy of accompanying the youth, as well as share materials essential to enhance their work.
In 2021, SYM rolled out a program for the youth in line with UAP number 2- to accompany the youth to a hope filled future. Beginning from youth for youth initiative launched by AJAN during the Ignatian year, SYM took upon itself to start a program targeting the youth with the aim of reducing teenage pregnancies and school drop outs and promoting healthy environment.
SYM enlisted collaboration with schools within the provinces of Bujumbura. The project plugged into the existing health clubs (clubs de santé). In the first year, 20 schools were beneficiaries of capacity building sensitization activities, inter-school competition on health and environment carried out by SYM. Above all, SYM interventions saw capacity building of teachers who are the mentors of the students and matrons/patrons of clubs de santé (les encadreurs).
The AHAPPY refresher training was attended by teachers from 23 schools located in Bujumbura provinces plus 5 staff members of the SYM. The training was facilitated by three trainers from AJAN; Fr. Ismael Matambura S.J., Mr. Dieu Merci Kienge and Ms. Pascalia Sergon. Among the trainees was Dr. Gaston, a medical doctor from SYM, a valued resource person who highlighted the issues of HIV and STIs particularly in the context of Burundi.
Also present was Fr. Yamuremye Desire S.J., director, Service Yezu Mwiza (SYM), in his opening remarks, he asked the participants a very critical question: “Why do we still have the highest number of HIV/ STI infections in Africa despite the fact that we are beneficiaries of many interventions?” for this reason “SYM has invited you here to take this training so that we form a society of young people who are more responsible. This work, to realize a healthier community, is for all of us. The insights you will gain here should help you and give you skills to be more productive in accompanying your students.”
He went on to emphasise that Service Yezu Mwiza is there to support in so many ways, good intentions carried out to ameliorate the situations of people struggling with the burden of disease, beginning from the young people. More importantly, Fr. Desire said, SYM has started this collaboration with schools to see the young people supported and accompanied to live meaningful and fruitful lives. In the closing remarks, Fr. Desire reiterated that SYM will be there to support the works of the teacher supervisors(trainees) and schools to ensure that they succeed in their mentorship of students.
The idea of SYM to work with schools as an entry and space to meet young people is a game changer particularly for the students and teachers. First, for the reason of wider reach. For example, the immediate direct beneficiaries of AHAPPY (members of clubs de santé) in the 23 schools represented is over 1,969 students while indirect beneficiaries (other students) is over 24,253. This is the minimum population that trainees aimed to reach and contribute to their integral formation.
Second, for that reason, SYM adds impetus for students to acquire life skills and love for ecology through AHAPPY. The program becomes, for the teacher and mentors a resource toolkit to nurture character and talent in the students. Based on the example of the positive progress of AHAPPY program running in 12 schools in Rwanda, under the auspice of Jesuit Urumuri Centre, St. Aloysius Gonzaga in Nairobi among other countries, AHAPPY has the capacity to speak to moral values and developmental needs of the students and results are visible. With patience, dedication and passion, already demonstrated by the trainees with assured support of SYM, much is expected to be achieved by this team.
The participants gave positive feedback of the training, here are some of the highlights of their experiences.
Jeanine Nduwayezu, Staff at Service Yezu Mwiza (SYM) says,
“The training awakened my awareness to many ways to teach our children. As a parent, I gained enough knowledge to teach the younger generation about a better world that they live in. We want a world without HIV / AIDS, to fight against STIs, drug abuse, starting with my family and friends.”
Juvenal Ndiritiro, teacher and AHAPPY trainer at Lycee Municipal de Buterere says,
“I supervise the health club at the school. From the training that I have just attended I have acquired a lot of knowledge, my gratitude to the trainers. The training was aimed at impacting us with human and Christian values. The mentioned dimension is what makes a whole man. We were also trained about the human identity in relation to the divine plan which is all about knowing ourselves, and having the self-knowledge and that of others plus the environment in which we are called upon to act.
We have been taught that man is trained from his youth. From this training I am going to be close to the young people, instill in them the values, virtues and principles. Emphasis was placed on self-awareness, because when we are aware of whom and what we are, we become better selves. This helps us plan our training activities well.”
Ezechiel Nimbona, teacher and AHAPPY trainer at Lycee Municipal de MUSAGA says
“About my experience in training the young people is that, sometimes you find that the young people usually finish the lesson being tired, so they themselves choose the subject which they discuss together. If there are any questions about what they don’t understand, I answer easily because most of the questions are part of the biology course. Having undergone this training, it will help me to sensitize more in the club and the other groups, I am in a better position now to coordinate the movement of Catholic apostolate in my parish. I will have the opportunity to call a meeting in favor of the young people who are in the different apostolate groups. This training allowed me to broaden the field of work for awareness in and out of school.”
By the end of the five-day training the participants gave back a number of recommendations, particularly directed to SYM. Most outstanding among many were;
- “The knowledge we have received in this training is practical and helpful; schools need this, please could SYM consider reaching to other many schools in the country?”
- “We request the staff of SYM to give us continued support, visit our schools and give us resource persons whenever we request.”
- “The needs for student mentorships in our schools are huge, the personal needs of students are immense, we want to count on staff of SYM for services that we may not be able to give.”
From the perspective of the trainers; the trainees showed a grasp of the immense responsibility they have in mentoring their students. Through their sharing, one participant for instance said ‘I am becoming more and more aware of the needs of students in my school and I feel the pressure of this responsibility on me.” Further, at the close of the training each group (schools and SYM) shared calendar of activities they would undertake in the course of the year, in relation to accompanying the youth (AHAPPY).
Ms. Pascalia Sergon,
AJAN Capacity Building Officer