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Kenya: Responding to the needs of young people today

Sr Veneranda Shieta Lusuli IBVM writes about the AHAPPY sessions offered by AJAN at the Loreto High School in Limuru, central Kenya, in March and May 2014.

What I like about the AJAN AHAPPY program is that although it follows the teachings of the Catholic Church, it is nonetheless relevant for everyone.

I am a high school teacher by profession and have worked very closely with young people for almost 18 years. Most of them are very gifted but some do not achieve their dreams because of challenges and risks arising not least from social media, and because of lack of guidance at home and at school. Our school welcomes girls from all over Kenya and they are no exception.

The school syllabus doesn’t help much: academically oriented, it has no room for programs that directly address challenges facing young people today and that form their character. So we were happy to welcome AHAPPY, the AJAN HIV&AIDS prevention program that promotes the integral development of young people. Forms one to four had two-day sessions in March and May.

I found it amazing how problems that people usually shy away from were addressed openly during the AHAPPY sessions. The films especially captured the students’ attention and helped them to understand how they could be exposing themselves to danger, even unknowingly.

Discussions were based on real-life experience and this really challenged and educated our students who participated actively. They were given the chance to ask questions freely and, where necessary, their views were challenged.

The presentation and facilitation were very creative and I really appreciate the time taken to prepare the material. Many topics were tackled, among them who am I, identity crisis, values, different levels of relationship, peer pressure, irresponsible sexual behaviour and sexually transmitted diseases. Students were encouraged to choose role models who will help them to grow, and not just to turn unthinkingly to celebrities, as they do.

I felt the team responded to the needs of many young people today. They not only mentioned challenges but also clarified confusing issues and offered possible solutions. The students were reminded that they need to be careful, to wait and to abstain from sex. They could clearly understand that AIDS is real and that they need to take care of themselves. Apart from generating this awareness, AHAPPY also encourages young people to make the most of their talents and helps them grow in self-confidence.

When I asked for their views, one student said a similar program should be organized for parents as well. Another said: “I hope Pauline and her team go to as many schools as possible, please, please ask her to do so.” “What about the slums and children’s homes?” asked another girl. “They too should not miss this chance.” All in all, the AHAPPY sessions were a blessing for Loreto High School Limuru. We are very grateful and truly believe the world can be gradually transformed through this initiative and commitment.

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