Orphans & Vulnerable Children
Southern African Youths
Say "YES!" to Life
With Africare's support, youths in the Southern African nations of Malawi, South Africa and Zambia reached out to their peers under the Youth Empowerment and Support, or YES!, program — preventing HIV transmission, helping those already infected with HIV or full-blown AIDS, and liaising with government authorities on matters affecting their reproductive health. YES! enabled teenagers and young adults to strengthen 30 community-based initiatives for HIV/AIDS control. Youth-created and youth-run, the initiatives have been uniquely positioned to reach what is now the world's most at-risk group: young Africans (and young Southern Africans, in particular).
YES! operated from 1999 through 2004. Its prime movers were about 450 Southern Africans between the ages of 15 and 24. They operated their initiatives on a shoestring budget but grew steadily in their abilities to conduct their activities effectively and to financially sustain them. Prevention education ("behavior change communication") took forms ranging from traveling drama shows to small-group discussions in specially-established youth centers and local schools. The groups have been autonomous; they have tried to involve the whole community; and they have stressed gender equality.
Said a member of Zambia's Chizingizi Youth Development Group, "Africare has taught us how to unite, love each other and work together."
Although the formal YES! program has ended, its work has not. The original participants continue to train others, and their community initiatives continue to grow.