2010 marks the last year of the first decade of the new millennium; this year also marks a great milestone for Africa Directions as we commemorate the 10th anniversary of our birth as an organization. Looking back on the journey of our development, I must say, it has been quite a long, sweet, and sometimes bumpy road. Our first ten years of existence have been blessed with many milestones. From our humble beginings as a community based organization, we have now managed to spread youth sexual reproductive health and HIV/AIDS information and youth developmental programmes to most parts of Zambia, reaching the most vulnerable of youths.
Some of our greatest achievments of the past decade include: Opening the first youth Sexual Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS recreational centre in Zambia and, given its success, expanded our work to Chilenje, a compound in Lusaka, and more recently, Mansa, the provincial capital of Luapula. Through these 3 centers, we have managed to reach out to hundreds of youth with SRH, HIV/AIDS information, developmental information and skills building. A number of youth who have graduated from our centers have attained national and international recognition from the skills they acquired through AD. We staged one of the biggest VCT sensitization campaign concerts held in Zambia, resulting in better awareness and people actively knowing their status. Since opening our VCT center, we have tested more than 9,000 individuals for HIV, and linked those who were positive to support centers where they can access anti-retroviral treatment. AD also started a radio chat show which has been broadcasting youth-targeted messages across the nation for almost ten years. Most recently, we set up the first support group for children living with HIV in Zambia … and many other small and large milestones.
All these programmes are evidence of the hard work that AD staff, mainly young people recruited from the very communities that AD serves, have been putting in, wholeheartedly trying to meet the needs of youth with a holistic approach. These successes have also been made possible with help from the various partners who have believed in the dream and work of AD. These supporters include: Petri Blankoff, Dr. Tobias Rink Dewit, Elizabeth Serlimitsos, Justin Histead, Kathelin Dick and Family, Carlos Gomez, Mrs Elizabeth Mataka, Hon. Given Lubinda, MP and many other individuals, in addition to Zambian and international organizations who have supported our youth programmes. To all of these people we would like to give a huge thank you on behalf of all the children and youth who have benefitted from our programs. Without your constant support and guidance, we could not do what we do.
Despite all the milestones that we have achieved over the years, one of the main things that AD has learned is that our work only scratches the surface; young people growing up in the under privileged and economically deprived communities we focus on still have many desperate and unmet needs. With this in mind, our goals are equally far from being met. We need much more effort and collaboration to help young people fight HIV/AIDS and grow up into responsible adults who can contribute positively to the wellbeing of their communities and the world at large.
Given this background and information, Africa Directions staff constantly refine their strategic approach in programming and resource mobilization to meet the ever changing needs of the young people we serve and donor programs. We have come to experience that this is no easy task. Often we have to cut short some very important programmes due to funding constraints, community myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and the work that we do, as well as many other hurdles. However, these obstacles have not pulled us back in any way, but they have strengthened us to soldier on with the fight against HIV/AIDS and young people’s positive development.
The challenges and setbacks that we constantly experience in programming, implementation, and resource mobilization, have always been a wake up call for us to refine our programmes and tailor them to better suit the environment that we work in and serve our young people better. Accordingly Africa Directions plans to focus the coming months and years on preparing our youth for employment and survival in the 21st century; this means continuing to expose them to people and things outside their realm. We hope to open a training center with a computer lab where youth can develop IT skills and access the internet and we can teach young people about Income Generation Activities and business management to bring about self-sustainability. Additionally, we are beginning to meet the physical needs of some of our most vulnerable youth by supplying them with nutritional supplements in a feeding program. As always, incorporating gender awareness into all our activities remains a top priority.
As scaling up proceeds, so to does the difficulty of maintaining the quality of our interventions. Scaling up our youth programs will require a large vision, sufficient time, and adequate resources. Therefore, Africa Directions will endeavor to invite new partners and maintain our already faithful and existing partners, to support our programmes.
For Africa Directions to achieve this, I first thought of sharing some of our experiences with you through these words and, to cup it all up, we as an organization have decided to put up this web site so that you can now have a visual experience and feel of what we do. For us as Africa Directions, this is the best way to end our first decade of existence and start the next one: sharing our mission and achievements on the world wide web, for all to see.