Over the years, Africa Directions has evolved in line with the needs and desires of the youth within the communities we serve. AD’s success in reaching out and gaining the trust and affections of so many youth is largely due to our consistent consultations and engagement of youth in strategic development and assessment of programs. While the initial emphasis was on HIV/AIDS prevention and SRH awareness through theater for community action, AD now incorporates gender issues, life skills, and more recreation and sports facilities to attract a wider demographic and address the social, economic, and cultural issues that hinder behavior change. In developing a strong and comprehensive foundation in our young people, we enable them to take the information they receive and use it to overcome obstacles and make right decisions. AD reduced the target age group from 8 to 25 years to 3 to 25 years to cater for the ever-increasing number of children accessing the centre and has developed programs and activities exclusively for them.
Valuing the concerns and voices of community leaders and other stakeholders, AD has tried to develop a more holistic approach to youth development, not only giving information, but care and support. The foremost example of this is our newest venture done in collaboration with Elizabeth Glacier Pediatric AIDS Fund (EGPAF) that looks at the social, psychological and physical wellbeing of children living with HIV through the formation of a child support group.
Additionally, we actively work to form partnerships with other organizations to collaborate and learn best practices, as well as, link people in the community to existing services. Our partnership with Marie Stopes now allows women and men in the community to make informed and safe decisions about when and how many children to have and access free to low-cost services at their convenience. Similarly, our peer educators have linked with area schools in order to start school clubs to better equip pupils with life skills and recruit them to the center. Since it’s beginnings, AD has partnered and been supported by many organizations including SIDA, the Swedish Embassy, the British High Commission, VSO, Peace Corps, International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ZNAN, UNICEF, UNFPA, John Hopkins University, KNH, Elizabeth Glacier, Youth Alive Zambia, AATAZ, Marie Stopes, Youth Vision, PPAZ, NAC, the Zambian Ministries of Youth, Health, and Education, as well as, many more community based organizations.
In 2004, after several outreaches in schools and the general community of Chilenje, civic leaders recognized the great effort that AD was doing to promote positive development among youth in their constituency and invited AD to replicate the work they were doing in Mtendere by opening another center within Chilenje. This first expansion of AD activities was done with the rehabilitation of the then dilapidated Chilenje community hall, into “Pamo youth centre,” with the help of Norwegian Church AID and UNICEF.
In similar lines of recognition of AD’s successful work, UNICEF asked AD to partner with them in a child and youth development program focusing on HIV/AIDS in Luapula Province. As such, AD opened its first rural youth centre in Mansa in 2008, replicating its positive youth friendly programmes, services and activities. Additionally, with the support of UNICEF, the Government of Zambia has replicated the AD’s programming design in all their provincial youth centers in Zambia.
AD’s future endeavors include designing programmes and services that will strengthen youth’s skills and knowledge in information technology, entrepreneurship, girl’s negotiation skills and knowledge in relation to their reproductive health and rights. Additionally, we hope to invest in research on the relation between socio-economic status and culture in youth behavioral change, using the findings to help young people breach the gap between information and action.
Many young people who have graduated from AD programmes, have been able to break the bondage of poverty, contribute to their communities, and fulfill personal goals they would not have dreamed of had they not been influenced by the programs they were exposed to at AD.