|© UNICEF Trinidad and Tobago/2009|
|With the picturesque backdrop of Speyside, northern Tobago, in the distance, Kalifa Martin and her colleague Kerlan conduct a UNICEF-supported 'Kicking Aids Out' workshop.|
SPEYSIDE, Trinidad and Tobago, 22 April 2009 – A UNICEF supported programme called 'Kicking AIDS Out' (KAO) was recently initiated in Speyside, northern Tobago, by the Trinidad and Tobago Alliance for Sport and Physical Education (TTASPE). The new programme uses sports and games to teach young people and adolescents about HIV and AIDS.
Speyside is a small community that is best known as a destination for fishermen and divers. In 2007, UNICEF and TTASPE, along with the Red Cross of Trinidad and Tobago, teamed up to conduct a youth-led Vulnerable Community Assessment (VCA). Based on this assessment, Speyside was selected as the first community to initiate 'Kicking AIDS Out'.
Training for adolescents
Soon after the assessment, UNICEF and TTASPE began conducting workshops here to train adolescents to become KAO peer facilitators. Kalifa Martin, 15, was one those young trainees.
"I heard there was an HIV workshop at the community centre and decided to go and learn more about HIV, because I knew it was important to get the right information," Kalifa says. "What I wasn't expecting was that I would learn about it through games and fun activities. I liked this and invited my sisters to attend and we are now all involved in the programme."
Growing up in Speyside, Kalifa saw firsthand how HIV and AIDS can affect a small community.
"When something happens to one person, it affects the whole community," she says. "I want more people to get tested and start making wise choices. I would like Speyside to be an example to other communities."
'I want to help people'
Since her training, Kalifa has conducted many KAO workshops – where lectures are replaced by educational games that resonate with young people. One such game is similar to dodgeball, except that in the KAO version, being hit with the ball symbolizes being infected with HIV. The message is that anyone and everyone is vulnerable to HIV infection.
"It is through projects such as KAO that UNICEF hopes to empower young persons such as Kalifa to actively re-create their communities as places where young persons make informed choices," explains UNICEF Trinidad and Tobago HIV Officer Marlon Thompson.
There are currently about 20 peer educators like Kalifa in the KAO programme. And Kalifa knows that the initiative is having positive results. She has seen her peers in Speyside become more knowledgeable about HIV and AIDS, and then readily share their knowledge with their family members and friends.
The programme has also changed Kalifa, who now dreams of becoming a doctor. "I want to help people living with AIDS and even find a cure for it," she says, smiling.