Africa: Children and Youth

Kenya: Giving Hope youth
Youth members of the CWS Giving Hope program. Photo: courtesy Amelia Vogler

Giving Hope

The Giving Hope program seeks to address the dilemma of growing numbers of orphans and vulnerable children emerging from both the swell of HIV/AIDS and conflicts in the African Great Lakes region.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to around 14.8 million orphans, according to UNAIDS 2010 statistics. Given the rising occurrence of orphans and in the wake of overstretched, informal fostering systems, African adolescents and young adults, ages 12 to 24, have emerged as the heads of their households. Referred to as youth caregivers, they are shouldering the primary care responsibilities for their younger siblings, and often times ailing adults.

The Giving Hope program builds upon the significant strengths that youth caregivers and their households possess by restoring relationships, structures, and routines in youth caregivers’ lives, and recognizing and reinforcing youth caregivers’ existing assets. This may include:

  • Facilitating youth caregivers to establish kitchen gardens and seed centers for improved household food security and nutrition
  • Enrolling youth caregivers in vocational training and apprenticeship programs
  • Supporting financial savings activities at the ‘youth working group’ and household levels
  • Business training and granting “seed funds” to jump-start income generating activities
  • Supporting youth-led initiatives on HIV education and prevention through “SMART Grants”
  • Facilitating youth networking and peer exchanges for youth, children and partner staff

To conduct these efforts, youth caregivers are facilitated to form Working Groups consisting of several youth and a group-nominated adult mentor from the community. These groups provide the youth with an important structure for psychosocial support, acting as an extended family. The group members function as a team, conducting periodic meetings, managing their joint income generating activities and helping each other in everyday activities such as farming, or other household needs.

School Safe Zones

Since the inception of the Africa Initiative in 2004, the School Safe Zones program has promoted the capacity of communities to provide safe and healthy educational environments for their children.

SSZ focuses on building the capacity of teachers and school committees, providing water and sanitation facilities for school children, improving hygiene practices, upgrading educational programs, and facilitating access to health services.

CWS’ primary role in the SSZ program is to build the capacity of communities. By training school management committees on how to identify their local school’s needs and how to search for local solutions to their problems, CWS encourages communities to move away from a feeling of helplessness towards a feeling of empowerment. The SSZ model encourages networking between schools, private businesses, and NGOs, increasing a school’s access to development partners and financial resources.

In order to expand the program’s reach, SSZ has focused on the creation and distribution of a Safety Standards Manual. This manual, supported by the Kenyan government’s Ministry of Education, outlines basic safety standards and indicators for schools across the country. By providing schools with access to this information, these manuals better enable schools and the government to hold one another accountable for school safety.