Youth and Peer Education in Haiti
It's Friday afternoon and young people begin to gather in the bright yellow youth-friendly space to discuss sexual and reproductive health issues at one of PROFAMIL's health centers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Most of the youth are part of IPPF/WHR Member Association's youth peer educator group. The earthquake in January 2010 badly damaged the space but now that the space has been repaired the teens can start using it again instead of temporary space in PROFAMIL's central office about a half-hour ride away. The space still needs some basics such as a computer, projector and more chairs, but for now the teens are making the best of it and there is a lot of excitement in the room.
The group meets each Friday afternoon to talk about sexual and reproductive health issues and to explore new activities for PROFAMIL's peer education program.. These sessions are a space for not only peer educators, but any young person interested in learning more about these issues. It’s a great way for prospective members to be introduced to the club.
The Youth Officers at PROFAMIL sites in Port-de-Paix, Port-au-Prince and Jacmel use these sessions to review SRH information through interactive activities that encourage the youth to practice critical thinking, improve communication skills, and engage in respectful debate. By helping them build these skills, the Youth Officers prepare the youth to serve as a resource for their peers at school and in their neighborhoods through formal workshops and informal conversation.
The youth groups are so dedicated that often even when the Youth Officers are away, senior members of the group will coordinate the activities. This was the case recently when Caidor, the Youth Officer in Port-au-Prince was away for a week attending a conference at the United Nations in New York on a Ford Foundation grant through IPPF/WHR, The groups explore issues related to self esteem, clarifying values, making choices, managing relationships with parents, peer pressure, relationships with partners, HIV and pregnancy prevention, living in post-earthquake Haiti etc. The topic for this week is the anatomy.
This program, and all of the youth activities at PROFAMIL, are managed by Anne Marie Dieudonne, the Youth Coordinator. Anne Marie oversees the three youth officers in each of the cities where PROFAMIL operates: Port au Prince, Port de Paix, and Jacmel. She also runs the newest youth program for young girls. Anne Marie has an unwavering commitment to the young people in Haiti and wants to see them succeed in all aspects of their lives. As one peer educator said, “when there is a question that is too much for me, I call Anne Marie.”
Back in their youth-friendly space and in the hands of two capable leaders, the young people of Port-au-Prince are lucky to have Anne Marie and Caidor as devoted allies at PROFAMIL.
Photos: Top: youth-friendly space in Port-de-Paix Haiti, Bottom: Caidor Casimir, Youth Officer, and Anne Marie Dieudonne, Youth Coordinator