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AHAPPY goes from strength to strength

AJAN has taken significant steps ahead in the rollout of its youth development program AHAPPY with the launch of a new manual and a “training of trainers” workshop in Nairobi.

AHAPPY is a tailor-made program for Catholic educational institutions that draws on Ignatian values, spirituality and pedagogy to reach out to young people, who constitute one of the groups in sub-Saharan Africa that are most at risk of getting HIV.

An evaluation conducted in 2015 concluded that AHAPPY filled a gap in the African educational system by enhancing integral development and that young people who did the program showed marked improvements in life-skills, self-esteem, academic performance and relationships.

The writers’ team that created the AHAPPY manual, the backbone of the program, came together in February this year to finalise an updated version that took into account the experience of the AHAPPY pilot phase and evaluation.

The updated manual was immediately put to the test at a ‘training of trainers’ (TOT) workshop that was held in Nairobi from 1 to 5 February. The workshop targeted teachers and facilitators from Jesuit and other Catholic institutions in eastern Africa, specifically from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan.

The training of trainers is the first key step of the planned scale-up process. Those trained will in turn train young people. The workshop proved to be a creative, informative and energising experience for participants, who went through the five modules in the manual themselves, guided by the expert facilitators.

Intended primarily for young people, the AHAPPY modules take participants on a journey of discovery of self and relationships with one another, with the world around us, and with God. The materials, skilfully developed and laid out in the manual, are a great guide for potential trainers, and the workshop provided a venue for animated discussion about the content.   

The AHAPPY modules are: Awakening to myself; This world I live in; Facing a world with HIV and AIDS; Building myself up; Values and principles of life. Participants are immersed in a sea of insights about a range of startling realities, starting from their intrinsic beauty as beloved children of God, to the paradox of a beautiful world marred by the impact of evil; to scientific factors about HIV and AIDS, including societal, structural and individual risks that make one vulnerable. They learn the life-skills and values needed to not only prevent the risks but to proactively build a world free of injustice and its fruits, among them HIV and AIDS.  

There is also a focus on stigma, which today is arguably a bigger killer than the disease itself. Something helpful to drive home the evils of stigma was a movie called “Stigma” that is based on real-life experiences and that is part of a series of AJAN movies that are based on scripts written by young people. In the evenings of the TOT workshop, the participants watched selected AJAN youth movies in line with the topics covered that day, and then shared their views.

The closing mass was celebrated by the then-outgoing President of JESAM (Jesuit Superiors of Africa and Madagascar), Fr Michael Lewis SJ. The AHAPPY manager, Ms Pauline Wanjau, said: “This was symbolic because Fr Lewis had been there from the inception of AHAPPY and has been very supportive of the program. In his homily, he emphasised the need to accompany youth with love and good listening, especially given all the challenges they are facing today. He lauded the relevance of AHAPPY in that it addresses young persons at a level they can relate to.”