Youth Step up Against HIV/AIDS: Program develops young leaders to bring change to their communities
Cité Soleil, Haiti. Ernancy Bien-Aimé understands the challenges facing her community in the Bois-Neuf zone of Cité Soleil, Haiti. A high rate of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections combined with a lack of leadership to address the crisis have resulted in a large population of disaffected youth who believe that this situation is hopeless. Ernancy, however, is inspiring change, thanks to her participation in the Leadership Development Program (LDP) funded by USAID. She is now reaching out to school directors, religious leaders, medical doctors and local authorities as part of an initiative to sensitize young people about HIV/AIDS prevention.
“My life has changed since I did this program. Now, instead of worrying and complaining about these problems, I am taking charge and helping mobilize others. Leaders have to work together with the people and that is what I am doing.” - Ernancy Bien-Aimé, LDP Participant
Ernancy is one of nearly two dozen Cité Soleil youth who completed the LDP, which was offered through the Leadership, Management and Sustainability Program of Management Sciences for Health. Launched worldwide in 2002 to help develop managers who lead, particularly in the field of health services, the LDP in Haiti was the first-ever organized for youth. Local organizations FOSREF (Fondation pour la Santé Reproductrice et l’Education Familiale) and MAEC (Maison Arc-En-Ciel) sent three teams of young people to take part in the program, which develops knowledge and skills in leadership and management practices, asks teams to tackle a real-life challenge they are facing, and provides coaches to help sustain the results beyond the initial program period.
Inspiration. Motivation. Mobilization. These are just three of the concepts Ernancy has learned. Now she and her peers are taking the lessons they learned over the course of eight months into the community to create a groundswell of AIDS awareness. Prior to starting the LDP, she and her fellow FOSREF team members hoped to train 1,500 youth in HIV/AIDS prevention. By the end of the LDP, they had surpassed that goal three times over, reaching a total of 4,550 youth ages 10 to 24 in the Bois Neuf community.
For Ernancy, this is just the first step. “Next, we would like to start a mobile pharmacy, to reach out to many people who are sick but don’t have the money to buy medicines. We have a plan of action, and if we work together with others in our community, I know we can succeed.”