The project that changed teenagers’ lives
It´s difficult to overestimate the extent to which this project contributed to the development and education of young people in Kazakhstan. Hundreds of enthusiastic participants talk about how the project changed their lives and, of course, armed them with useful knowledge which will serve them throughout their lives.
Alexandra Li, a Journey4life project manager at AFEW Kazakhstan, told us about the project and about how important it is to educate young people about the basics of sexual and reproductive health.
Alexandra, when and why did the Journey4life project come to Kazakhstan?
The Journey4life project from Dance4life came to Kazakhstan in September 2019. Earlier that same year, representatives of the Dance4life team from Amsterdam and Focus Media from Moscow came to visit us. They told us about the project and visited several organizations that could provide funding. AFEW Kazakhstan is an organization that researches and implements innovative projects, and since there have not been such projects in Kazakhstan yet, we were very interested in the implementation of the Dance4life initiative in our country, and were able to find funding. The first stage was supported by the Russian UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education. The second stage was funded by the Swiss Embassy.
Has COVID-19 affected project activities?
In view of the state of emergency which was declared in the country due to Covid-19, we had to adapt all the events so that they could be carried out online. Initially this seemed impossible, since the project contained a large number of interactive exercises. For example, a dance runs through the entire project, which unites Dance4life participants from all over the world. A secondary challenge was the quality of the internet, since during the training sessions the participants had regular connection problems. But we managed it.
It is very difficult to single out one thing. Each event of the project brought with it a sea of positive emotions. Working with teenagers means sincerity and burning hearts. We interacted with them day and night, and everyone was actively involved in the implementation of the project and brought their ideas to the table. Undoubtedly, one of the brightest moments was the 7-day training for Champions of the project. Sometimes we sat up late at night discussing the details of Journey4life. After this training, the Champions were full of energy and a desire to change the situation in the country for the better.
Social media and teenagers are usually considered inseparable. Did you have a special way of connecting with them online?
Every week the Champions4life received materials for self-study, as well as various tasks via WhatsApp. During the Champions4life training, we raised the topics from the manual normally used by Journey4life, such as: “HIV and STIs”, “Human Rights”, “Puberty”, “Personal Boundaries. How to resist the influence of others”, “Tuberculosis”, “Gender equality”, “Peer pressure. Bullying”, “Drugs: For or Against”. We developed a system for assessing completed tasks, awarding points for each task, and participants received additional points for new ideas and creative approaches to completing tasks. As time passed, the final scores were calculated, and the winners received prizes.
As part of the project we also decided to conduct live broadcasts on Instagram. This was a new experience for the Champions4life. The total number of viewers of the live broadcasts was 2,508 people, and this new practice has had a positive impact on those who participated. They became more confident, learned to present themselves and studied a lot of material and useful resources.
Does AFEW Kazakhstan plan on continuing to educate young people about these topics?
Of course! For example, we are now looking at raising funds to continue this project. There are plans to run the project in three more Kazakh cities.
Comments from participants
“This project not only opened up a lot of new doors for me, but also helped me in making decisions about work and other aspects of life. Thanks to the project I realized that I really like to teach people, and that I enjoy meeting with the other guys in the project. I had tons of cool experiences during the Journey4life project. I´d love it if there were more projects like this!”
“During the project, we all became not just friends, but a team. The project helped me to reveal qualities I never knew I had. We are not just volunteers – we are Champions, and we are the first in Kazakhstan! I think that the “Equal-to-Equal” system which shapes the project is now easily comprehensible for adolescents who need to know how to protect themselves and their loved ones. Today, young people are not fully informed about sexual and reproductive health issues, and I think this is a huge problem. We are Champions, those who will change this world for the better. Because we WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE HEALTHY! ”