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    By the youth, for the youth

    On 10th of May, I visited the Youth Friendly Centre (YFC), which is located in Chiga, Kenya.  Having arrived there, I sat at the waiting bay and waited for the nurse to finish up with the clients. Friday is one of the busiest days at the facility, the nurse told me later. Finally, the nurse called me in and we talked about her daily work and challenges.

    The nurse mentioned that, “The youth friendly centre was established in 2017 by Make Me Smile-Kenya. It was due to the need of having a point where the youths can access reproductive health services and information freely and anonymously without fear of being stigmatized. It is structurally divided into six rooms: The pharmacy, the waiting bay, the clerk room, the kitchen, the procedure room, the entertainment room: This is a meeting point for youths, to meet, have their discussions and sessions of dancing, singing mentorship and talent expression.”

    “What services does the YFC offer?”

    “The YFC has a series of services being offered, which include: counseling on reproductive rights and sexuality, provision of contraceptives, screening and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV testing and counseling services, screening for Sexual and Gender based violence, treatment and referrals of survivors, ante- & postnatal care and referrals to health facilities.    Peer Educators are youths, educated in reproductive health, who offer various entertaining activities like drama and talent development to attract the adolescents to the YFC.”

    Services being offered at Chiga YFC

    “How many youths were you able to reach with reproductive health information and services yet?”

    “We are currently able to reach 3000 adolescents annually. We hope that stories of the benefits of our good work will spread around and that we will be able to treat even more youths.”

    “What can you say are some of the achievements of the Centre so far?”

    “Through the YFC, he number of teenage pregnancies within the community has reduced significantly. Furthermore, numerous women affected by Sexual and Gender Based Violence have been treated physically & psychologically and referred for legal support by our Paralegals, who are active in this field. Most of these cases would have otherwise not been pursued and due to the good collaboration between all Make Me Smile stakeholders and other organizations, some have already successfully been taken to court. Finally, the youths have been able to identify their talents and are able to meet up during their free times and discuss the issues that have affected them.”

    “What are some of the challenges that the YFC faces in its operations?”

    “We are currently facing issues in acceptance of family planning especially among men in the community and misconception about the Centre to be offering family planning, which is seen as a critical topic, only. However, we have currently developed some measures to curb these challenges. The reproductive health program of Make Me Smile helps us for example by sensitizing opinion &religious leaders. Male champions actively discuss the topic with their peers and the Peer Educators advocate for the topic in schools and in the community and also emphasize on the recreational aspect.”

    Nurse Eunice explaining to one of the youths on family planning options in presence of a Peer Educator

    “For the time you have worked in the YFC, what situation remains indelible to you?”

    “Some time back a lady visited the institution requesting for family planning services. So we took her through a pregnancy test before administering any family planning method.  We found the lady positive (expectant). Through counseling she opened up and stated that she made an attempt to have an abortion, which wasn’t fully done since the person administering the abortion demanded for full payment before he completes the abortion process but the lady was unable to raise the whole funds. We therefore referred the lady to the hospital where she received help.“

    After having this conversation with the nurse in charge, the lady’s situation kept reappearing in my mind with a string of questions: What if the lady would have undergone a family planning before being expectant? What if the lady had a chance of being enlightened about the services being offered at the Centre? What if she had earlier on gotten a platform to interact with other youths or be mentored?

    The nurse later on took me to the other rooms and I met some of the youths having their discussion at the entertainment room. They allowed me to join them in their discussions as they opened up on their meeting session. It was interesting to learn about their aspiration to frequently visit the YFC, and how they are able to make those dance moves, they earlier on were unable to. Later on, they had their dancing practices of the “Boasty’’ song. I joined them in the dance and it was then my time to leave.

    The youths having their dancing practices at the entertainment room

    The Author: I am Joyce Zeddy, for over two years I have been volunteering at Make Me Smile Kenya.  I’m passionate about working for the community since I believe that, if we hope for transformation,we start at the ground level. Having joined Make Me Smile Kenya, I had a one on one encounter with individuals whose light and hope of life were shut down and every visit, any kind of help offered to them gave that glow and a reason to push on. With this in mind, I woke up every single day hoping to be there to work for the community, to serve the community at my own capacity and be part of that smile.