The Youth conference checklist

April 25, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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  • youth march for peace at Kenyan Youth Peace Summit

    youth march for peace at Kenyan Youth Peace Summit

    I am trying as hard to stay in Kenya in my head for as long as possible (going on 5 days now).  First thing at hand was working out a nasty computer virus that attacked my laptop.  With the youth media team swapping flash drives faster than 17 year-old girls change outfits all the computers stopped working after a few days.   A few working methods I plan to take with me to what I hope will be many more youth peace summits in Africa:

    • wear the flash drive around my neck so I don’t lose it, and bring 5 to share
    • upload any important files to an internet site in case flash drive goes missing
    • travel with anti-virus software and learn how it works in extreme rescue situations
    • travel with sound cables to hook up the laptop to anything with speakers
    • disallow workshop presenters from using powerpoint because 1) they don’t use it correctly and only put up their talking notes 2) for goodness sakes this is a youth conference 3) I need to use my stressed out moments for human-related problems
    • when an American wants to come, I will say yes only if they have IT  skills including the ability to take a projector apart and put it back together in 20 minutes
    • when an American wants to come, they must first pass a comprehensive  “go with the flow” test (sorry type A’s).
    • must have on hand “the Kenyan big sister” – she deals with women issues including counseling and telling any women acting up to get it together, and likewise “the Kenyan big brother” to keep the boys in line. (obviously nationality to change in case of conference)
    • as lovely as a youth videography team is, if we want this thing captured properly we need a professional
    • build in hours of flexible time into the schedule so we can adjust as chaos demands
    • fight like hell to have time before and after the conference in country to do follow-up and prep.

Thembi´s radio diary tells story of living HIV positive

August 5, 2008 at 4:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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On-air speaking about Living Positively

With her doll-like face, she hardly looks her 23 years, but Thembi has learned a lot about life. After she was diagnosed with HIV at age 16, she started taking a tape recorder with her everywhere. At, listeners travel with her to her first visit to the doctor, and hear when she learns about the decline of her T-cell count. The stories cover her progression to full-blown AIDS, starting ARV treatment, and finally giving birth to a daughter.

Presenting her story at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, she talks about how keeping a diary empowered her. “Ever since I knew my status my life has changed for the better. Ever since I started my diary I have felt more confident and comfortable and I am an inspiration to other young people.”

In a conference of thousands of experts, the most powerful presentations still come from personal testimony. In one of her entries, she reflects on the future.

I’m just imagining what a world would look like without me in it. I’m not scared of dying but of leaving my baby behind. I want to see her grow a little bigger. HIV will try to rule my life on the inside but outside I will be boss. I want to study and have a good job, I want to go on with my life.

Beyond the radio, Thembi also writes a blog. Attending a recent concert hosted by the South African government, she reflects below on how AIDS messages still don´t effectively reach young people at risk.

I felt like those images on those big screens with infected people had nothing to do with me. It reminded me of high school. When they would show pictures of thin, poor orphans that look like they are dying, and try to scare you out of having sex. But it never works because young, South African, at-risk kids do not see themselves in those images. They cannot imagine that it can happen to them.

Her shows have been used as a teaching tool all over the world and aired on National Public Radio in the U.S., and in the U.K., Australia and Canada, reaching more than 50 million people.

a song and a powerpoint for reconciliation

March 27, 2008 at 8:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The youth conference I am coordinating in Rwanda is in full swing and these youth are blowing me away. I arrived at the conference center this morning and 80 of them were standing in rows at their conference table singing. We have so many resources in our audience, we just have to ask, who can lead a song? and an entire choir comes up and sings in harmony. I don’t know a lot about music but there is something about an African choir that the West can’t even touch.

This was the first day of the conference, so I was worried everything would go wrong, but the it was a great day. We have more than 80 young people from Rwanda, DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and USA. Somehow they came, across language barriers and borders, and the way the information traveled is a fascinating exercise in word of mouth and community networks, but more on that later. After the singing, a young person from each church and country came up and told about their local youth projects and challenges. Everything was translated to English or Kinyarwandan on the spot. Did I mention that this portion of the schedule was unplanned?

Our speaker on peace and reconciliation came with his own powerpoint machine during lunchtime. While I was pleased to see he brought his machine, I was worried about the power supply, the screen, the technology…so many things could fail. Well, now I understand whey a trainer on peace and reconciliation needs a power point. When you talk about a genocide, the pictures of the people who have been killed, bodies stacked in the road, have so much more power than any words. The electricity held throughout, but a tremendous downpour — the kind that is inches of water in minutes– started mid-presentation and rain came through the roof and onto his laptop.

Unfortunately the conference center promised us both internet and a sound system and failed to deliver on both. So our youth media team can’t blog live as planned, instead they have to shuttle in the evening downpour to a hotel so they can upload pictures on their blog. (You can have a sneak peak as they just get started.) But they are determined, so they will stop at nothing now that they have a platform.
media team hard at work
They are cutting videos on the new Flip Video, a camera with a USB port on its side, cute as an Ipod, super easy to use, and takes double AA batteries for an hour of footage. Interestingly, the youth media team of the conference is almost all women. Now this doesn’t surprise me as my co-students in Strategic Communications are almost all female, but we had to struggle to make sure that this conference had gender balance. When you make a call for youth leaders in Africa you will get all men if you’re not careful. In Africa, communications is still a male profession, so building a youth media movement could really do a lot to empower women, as well as promote literacy and civic participation.

There is something really happening here, so stay tuned…

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