This week’s entry comes from guest blogger Laura Sibanda. Laura is a PPI Fellow originally from Zimbabwe, and is a Program Director for the South Africa Life Skills team. Here, she explains PPI – SA’s approach to Life Skills and how that differs from some other organizations’.
At some point in life, we find that we have a deep desire to share something about ourselves with – not just anyone – but someone we can trust to keep our secrets or help us when we need it. It is not often that we look to our teachers or parents for help because they tend to be unapproachable and can be judgmental. Instead, we look to our peers for comfort and advice. While “life skills” programs are implemented in schools throughout South Africa, these programs can be run by teachers who are quick to judge or threaten with repercussions for any choices that have been made. There can be little time spent trying to understand the reasons behind a decision or what has led to help-seeking behavior.
What PPI – SA seeks to do is to create a safe space in which one can learn and freely interact with both information and peers. Playing on a team is an additional advantage because bonds of trust are formed not just between the coach and players but among teammates.
In this age of HIV/AIDS, it becomes essential to build such relationships and allow for in-depth understanding of how behavior can threaten the future. Statistics have shown that young people in South Africa between the ages of 15 and 25 have a 50% greater chance of contracting HIV before their 25th birthday than young people growing up elsewhere in the world. The time has come to take off the gloves and begin the process of trying to understand what puts our youth at risk and what can be done to make information clear. Even better, we can determine what can be done to promote a culture of self preservation for the future.
In response to these challenges, the PPI-SA Life Skills Program has evolved into a multi-focal program that has a strong focus on HIV prevention, coupled with a focus on the age groups that exhibit the highest incidence rates.
What differentiates our program from others is that our coaches have now established strong relationships with the participants they work with. They present information through open discussion outside confined classrooms, which encourages participation and interaction, in some instances even on the basketball court. Bonds of trust are formed between coaches and participants which allows us to reach our participants where other programs do not.
It is these bonds of trust that allow disclosure of any kind to happen within safe spaces created by the coaches. The resilience that is shown by our participants is proof that a relationship built on trust is one that can last a lifetime and give hope and faith in a bright future. This can only be a testament to the dedication and commitment that all PPI-SA staff have to the program and the faith our participants have in us.