Embracing the Responsibilities of Adulthood
Quote: “The [Africare] workshop really touched my life. I realized that I want to be able to provide for my family and have a solid life on my own.”
At the young age of 21, Joseph Cooper already had four children. Joseph, his wife and their children lived with his parents in the rural community of Zebay in Bong County, Liberia. His parents took responsibility for raising his children since Joseph’s youth and lack of education made it difficult for him to support them. When Africare’s Improved Community Health Project (ICHP) came to his town offering a program for youth peer educators in health, he signed up to learn more about how to help his community.
Joseph was struck by how relevant the training was to his life. ICHP’s week-long Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Behavior Change Communication (BCC) workshop was geared to 14-24 year olds and focused on using contraception as a way to plan the future and their lives. The group discussed their perceptions of life, their futures, and their ideas about what has value in life. In a country recovering from 14 years of civil war, empowering young people to take control of their own futures has enormous impact, as Joseph can testify. “The workshop really touched my life,” he explains. “I realized that I want to be able to provide for my family and have a solid life on my own.”
Joseph was inspired to return to high school to finish his education, and he vowed to use condoms to prevent having any more children until he could support them. “I want to be able to focus on the family I have and be able to support them before I have any more children.” Joseph and his wife have now established a small farm where they grow bitter ball—a common Liberian food—and which they use to pay Joseph’s school fees. “When my children are old enough, this will help me to pay their school fees as well,” explains Joseph.
But Joseph’s work did not stop there. The workshop was designed to teach young people not only about how to plan their own futures with family planning, but how to help their peers as well. Joseph has conducted several family planning counseling sessions with the youth in his community in order to help them make informed choices about their futures and their lives. “I hope that others will learn from me,” Joseph explains. “I care about my wife and my children, and family planning will help me and others delay having more children for a brighter future.”