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Dignitas Teen Club member Edith Kachingwe was recently selected as a winner of an international photo competition hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO). The confident and funny fourteen year-old, who lives with her aunt, three brothers and one sister, was overjoyed by the news.

The coveted prize was the opportunity to work with the WHO as one of 10 contributing photographers for the Health for the World’s Adolescents Report. Each winner was provided with a bursary of $1,000 USD to take photos. The photos will belong to the winners, although the WHO will have the right to use them in the report and for future publications.

A novice photographer, Edith wanted to participate in the competition because she thought it would be a great way to learn more about what adolescents, across the world, do to stay healthy. Both Edith and her aunt wept when Teen Club Coordinator Brave Nyirenda and Global Health Corps Fellow Lindsey Kinsinger visited her home in Chikanda, Malawi to share the important news.

Edith is an HIV+ teen and a regular member of Dignitas International’s Teen Club in Malawi. The clinic provides youth-friendly services under one roof and is a safe space for teens to receive their medications; learn about safer sex, reproductive health and life skills; and form supportive peer and mentor relationships. Each month, nearly 300 HIV+ teens come together to receive care and support. Here they are given a safe space to be themselves – to be teenagers, not patients.

Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to suffering from stigma and discrimination related to their HIV status, which deters them from seeking treatment. They also face barriers in their interactions with the health system due to gaps between pediatric and adult care, as well as experiencing insensitive and judgmental attitudes from health providers that discourage health-seeking behaviour. The Teen Club seeks to address these issues. For the competition, Edith submitted photos under the categories of “Health Education” and “Health Advocacy”, capturing images at home, school and at Teen Club.

Edith attends Malindi Secondary School in Zomba, Malawi and when she’s not busy with schoolwork, Edith likes to hang out with friends, talk about health-related issues, and read. Upon graduation from high school, Edith hopes to pursue studies to become a nurse so that she can help others living with HIV.

Global Health Corps Fellows Lindsey Kinsinger and Kondwani Mmanga enjoyed working with Teen Club members for the WHO competition, which included various creative elements such as poetry, short stories and photography. On working with Edith, Lindsey commented, “Edith is an amazing and bright individual. She had fun participating in the project and enjoyed simply learning how to use a camera.”

Adolescents discussing issues important to their health, with doctors and nurses at Dignitas International's Teen Club. Photo Credit: Edith Kachingwe.

Adolescents discussing issues important to their health, with doctors and nurses at Dignitas International’s Teen Club. Photo Credit: Edith Kachingwe.

The Global Health Corps selects recent college graduates and young professionals from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds and places them at health-related non-governmental organizations like Dignitas International in the US, East Africa and Southern Africa for a year of service. Fellows operate in teams of two – one national fellow paired with one international fellow – to create solutions for a variety of health issues like HIV, maternal child health, nutrition and healthcare access. Since being founded in 2009, GHC has deployed 322 fellows to work in 7 countries.

With a newfound love of photography, Edith hopes to continue taking pictures in her spare time. Malawi just may have a budding photographer in its midst.

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