Arifa Finds Her Strengths; Soft-Spoken Teacher Emerges

Arifa Finds Her Strengths; Soft-Spoken Teacher Emerges

Arifa leads a computer class at FACT in Guyana. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

When Arifa arrived in August 2010 at Family Awareness Consciousness Togetherness (FACT), a USAID-funded non-governmental organization (NGO) that receives technical support from the MSH-led GHARP II Project, it was immediately evident that she had major communication challenges. At age 17, Arifa found it difficult to have even brief conversations with anyone.

The Berbice Technical Institute had sent Arifa to FACT as a work-study student for a two-month term. At the time, she was studying for a Certificate in Information Technology (IT).

FACT assigned Arifa to be an assistant teacher in their computer program with 40 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), ages twelve to fifteen. Most of the time, Arifa could be found sitting in a corner all alone. When she did speak, the children made fun of her.

The staff quickly encouraged Arifa to get involved in FACT's peer education training and participate in the in-house interactive sessions with the staff. These sessions focused, to a large extent, on communication, team-building, and developing self-confidence.

Gradually, Arifa's communication skills began improving.

She started engaging different members of staff in conversation at intervals, and displayed more confidence when interacting with the children. She became more involved and began taking an interest in the well-being of the children; she even signed up as a volunteer caregiver for the children.

By the conclusion of her two-month term, Arifa knew the computer program entirely and was leading many of the sessions on her own. The children developed great respect for her and learned a lot from the lessons. “It is fun working with the children, helping them to learn to type and spell words correctly," Arifa explained.

Arifa’s mother, seeing the positive changes in her daughter's behavior, became more interested in FACT, and enrolled in their parenting group. This group was established as a result of a parenting session held by GHARP II in 2009.

Arifa, the newly-appointed IT teacher at FACT in Guyana. (Photo credit: MSH)


With the mentoring and on-the-job training she received from FACT, Arifa decided to continue volunteering with the organization as a caregiver after her term ended.

When the information technology teacher left, Arifa applied and was appointed to the position. She now successfully manages all four of the classes and continues to actively volunteer as a caregiver in the program.

Shameza David is program officer for the second phase of the MSH-led Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention Program (GHARP II).