This past Saturday approximately 45 adolescents gathered at Machinga District Hospital for Teen Club – a chance to receive a monthly medical check up, to collect their medicines, and to receive peer-to-peer support. At this particular session, the teens learned the “chicken dance”, completed a “hands-on” art project and played team-building games to enhance their communication skills. According to Dignitas’s Teen Club Coordinator Brave Nyirenda, the latter is so important “because HIV+ teens need to feel comfortable talking to their guardians or medical care providers when facing health issues.”
Brave recently joined Dignitas International in July 2013 but is no stranger to youth-friendly programming. He has worked for several NGOs, including the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI), which developed the Teen Club model. Brave has seen how powerful Teen Club is for young people with HIV who are transitioning into adulthood. “We try to instill hope for a positive future. “I know some teens who had previously dropped out of school but the lessons from Teen Club have encouraged them to finish their education,” says Brave. A recent Dignitas study also showed that adolescents enrolled in Teen Club are three times less likely to stop taking HIV treatment than those not enrolled in the program.
The Machinga Teen Club is still in its infancy – the inaugural session was held last November, only two months ago. Brave hopes to increase the Machinga Teen Club membership up to 100 members by June. In total, Dignitas is supporting more than 300+ adolescents attending Teen Club across Malawi’s South East Zone.
Dignitas International is pleased to be an exhibitor at this year’s Sick Kids Global Child Health Day in Toronto. Now in its 8th year, this one-day symposium brings together national and international experts to share leading research and lessons learned from applied practice. This year’s theme is “Adolescents and Global Healthcare Systems” and participants will examine the core health issues concerning adolescents and explore the strategies needed to address these challenges. Dignitas will share information about our Teen Club program and showcase the “hands-on” art completed by the Machinga Teen Club. We will also exhibit winning photographs from Zomba Teen Club member Edith Kachingwe. Edith was the recent winner of a WHO photography competition, where she captured images related to adolescent health. The event will held on Tuesday February 18, 2014 from 9am to 3pm. If you are in Toronto that day, we invite you stop by the Hospital for Sick Children and check out our Teen Club exhibit.