Simunye Youth Development: Health and Economic Empowerment for Out-of-School and Unemployed Youth

Tugela Ferry
South Africa
Faculty advisor (name): 
Nicoli Nattrass

Drawing on my experience as a Community Health Educator in New Haven public schools, as well as my first few weeks observing HIV education classes in several local South African high schools this summer, I ran a workshop for twenty out-of-school youth to become peer HIV educators. By training this group of out of school youth, I hoped to take advantage of this valuable resource in a community where prevalence is estimated at nearly forty percent. Immediately, my youth began putting their newfound skills and knowledge into action. Targeting schools, churches and more remote village members, they wrote several short plays, poems, motivational speeches and performed condom demonstrations to educate their fellow community members about HIV prevention, combat stigma and provide practical skills to empower those at highest risk. In little time they became known in the community as new players in the collective fight against HIV and were sought out for community HIV awareness events.

However, the purview of the group soon reached far beyond HIV education. In addition to developing the leadership and communication skills necessary for the peer education which my youth were carrying out, I ran several workshops to further empower them and provide additional practical skills. We worked together on typing classes, college and financial aid applications, and small garden building, as well as sessions on writing resumes and on job interview skills with a local Peace Corps friend of mine who has a background in human resources. Finally, since word of mouth about the group spread around the community, I trained four of my youth to lead the same peer health education training I had led for them six weeks prior and they successfully conducted the workshop on their own for an additional forty members of the community.

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