Ethiopia: JRS trains peer educators on HIV/AIDS
27 July 2009

According to the UN children's fund, there are currently 92,000 children under 14 infected with HIV/AIDS by pediatric infection in Ethiopia. (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
"For refugee children who are mostly deprived of formal education, participating in such a workshop is a privilege."
Addis Ababa, 27 July 2009 — The JRS Refugee Community Centre (RCC) conducted a workshop on HIV/AIDS for 23 peer educators between 14 and 21 years from different nationalities.

The workshop took place under the motto “Our Actions are for Change!” It aimed at raising awareness on HIV/AIDS and encouraged participants to change their behaviour in order to fight the disease. For refugee children who are mostly deprived of formal education, participating in such a workshop is a privilege.

Lessons first focused on communication skills, values, and reflections on the future, decision making and management of emotions. The peer educators also learned how to enhance their self-confidence. In a second step, participants learned about reproductive anatomy, gender, sexuality, the importance of abstinence and faithfulness, HIV and voluntary counselling and testing (VCT).

In an attempt to empower JRS employees and to enhance their expertise, the workshop, unlike previous ones, was facilitated by three JRS staff members who are well trained on HIV/AIDS. They mainly used the Youth Action Kit, an entertaining guide which aims at providing young people with useful skills to become happy and successful. Different activities and role-plays not only made the workshop participatory but also helped participants to develop relationships and communication skills.

Making the most out of training

The trainees appreciated the training, saying the topics discussed were of great relevance and that it was a wonderful opportunity to learn more. They also expressed the desire to continue with the training. As peer educators they are supposed to be role models for their peers and to create a common understanding on issues that affect refugees. They work closely with the facilitators on educating their peers. Almost all of them form part of a refugee youth association which was founded on the occasion of International Youth Day on August 12.

At the end of the workshop, JRS Ethiopia country director, Mr. Seyoum Asfaw, handed out certificates to the participants and congratulated both, facilitators and trainees. “I admire the initiative taken by the project staff and the way you have offered real accompaniment. Continue using your potential,” he said, addressing JRS staff members. 

Speaking on behalf of the RCC, project director Mr. Mulugeta W/Eyesus, underlined that JRS staff knows and understands the psycho-social circumstances of young refugees well. Unlike the previous practice of inviting trainers, the shift to use JRS staff members as facilitators is effective and efficient both in terms of training content as well as costs. It also allows to better address the issues of young refugees.

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