In Malawi, local organisations have struggled for years to get young people engaged with the issues that surround HIV and AIDS, such as stigma and healthy living. The Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS (COWLHA) has found that Progressio ICS volunteers have made the difference. Here is one story that shows how young people are finally aware of the impact HIV and AIDS is having in their country.

Hassan Maulana, a 24 year old young man living with his sister in Malenga village, Nkhota-kota, had a great deal of interaction with the ICS volunteers during their placement with COWLHA. Hassan contracted HIV from his mother at birth, and has had to live with stigma and discrimination throughout his life.

The unjust sense of shame has negatively impacted his ability to form friendships and gain employment. The incorrect information and unfounded myths in his region meant that people would not talk to or eat with him for fear of contracting the virus.

COWLHA, established in 2006, has always struggled to engage the youth in the community, and it wasn’t until the second cycle of ICS volunteers in April 2014 that Hassan came into contact with them.

The ICS volunteers had organised an awareness event targeting the young people in the area. There was music, drama and film as well as messaging and training on HIV and AIDS. Hassan responded enthusiastically to the messaging and agreed to join TEEN Club, a support group for those living with HIV. At the youth group, he received positive living training and supported others to live safely.

“The training helped me to understand how to live safely with HIV,” Hassan said. “It gave me a desire to help to support others.”

It wasn’t long before Hassan was leading the TEEN Club and supporting others who are living with HIV. When he found out about the third cycle of ICS volunteers, he put his name forward to become one of the in-country local volunteers, and was selected.

During the third cycle, Hassan worked alongside other volunteers to mentor support groups, deliver training on safe living practices and encourage young people to engage in volunteering.

“I had the opportunity to learn about other cultures and to make lasting friendships with the volunteers from both Malawi and the UK,” Hassan said. “I learnt how to deliver information in a good way, how to convince others and how to better support my fellow villagers. I was taught the importance of leading by example and the power of supporting one another.”

Through TEEN Club, Hassan also benefitted from an ICS funded sustainable livelihood project. The group received 100 Broiler chicks to raise and generate money for the community which enabled them to purchase different crops and some land to grow them on. It has also enabled them to financially support those who are orphans because of HIV and AIDS in the community.

The nature of the endeavour means that, with each crop, further profit will be generated. These profits allow for further business ideas to develop and pay for education fees for those who seek to pursue further education, like Hassan.

ICS Progressio’s involvement in Nkhota-kota finished in September 2014. Since then, Hassan has continued to volunteer in the community.

He now supports a small grassroots organisation called ‘e-science youth organisation’ and continues to educate communities on the topic of HIV and AIDS, as well as engaging in other social issues. He claims that discrimination has greatly decreased and the young people in the area are now engaged.

“It has changed everything in my life,” Hassan said. “I have grown in knowledge and feel inspired to achieve anything I put my mind to.

"I’m enjoying supporting others in my community and helping teach those around me about the truth of HIV and AIDS. It has raised my dreams and lifted my eyes to once again have hope.”

When Hassan first came into contact with COWLHA, 16 ICS volunteers from Malawi and 16 from the UK were there to focus on better prevention, care and access to treatment for those living with HIV and AIDS. These volunteers focused on combatting stigma and discrimination amongst people living with HIV and AIDS.

The core objective of the ICS volunteers was to motivate more local youths to participate in COWLHA’s activities. This was achieved through the ICS volunteers engaging young people in Nkhota-kota, encouraging them to support the work of COWLHA and championing the messages around HIV and AIDS.

The ICS volunteers from both Malawi and the UK visited HIV and AIDS support groups, undertaking community awareness events with a specific focus on targeting young people. They produced awareness shows for the radio, provided testing and counselling for local people and delivered training.

COWLHA has reported increased youth engagement and increased reach within communities as two of the most significant impacts of the ICS volunteers’ work. Hassan is a fantastic example of this. COWLHA recognised the challenge ICS volunteers faced in engaging young people in their activities, and they are thrilled with the impact of the ICS programme and its transformative work.

“The overall objective of the partnership with Progressio was to improve COWLHA’s access to young people in the area,” a staff member of COWLHA said. “We really struggled with youth participation and had zero engagement as a result of the discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS.

“The young people from Progressio brought new ideas and an increased energy to the activities. Local youth were attracted to this and began to show an interest. As a result, COWLHA had unprecedented access to the young people in the area, enabling us to help teach about HIV and AIDS, to support those living with HIV and AIDS and to help combat new contractions.”