A Life Time Experience – The Story of Ishmael Banda
Great privileges come with great responsibility. 2019 has been an amazing year for me, mostly a highlight of a life time experience. Through Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC), I was selected to be part of the young advocates for change program and l had the privilege to travel to different countries around Africa namely Uganda, Kenya and South Africa on the Subject to Citizen (S2C) under Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and ZNFPC peer exchange program. My first stop was at Uganda where we had a 3 days youth camp at one of the most luxurious hotels in Africa.
The purpose of the youth camp was for us to network, engage and share opportunities of the existing youth exchange programs in Africa with youth from different backgrounds and nationals.
During the camp a cultural night was hosted where we celebrated different cultures represented and embraced diversity. l never used to appreciate our African culture, but that was the day I felt proud being an African as it stood up for me in so many ways on what it means to be an African.
It is not a matter of skin color or birth but Africa is born in us. The fire that is generated and pumped through our blood of making Africa a great place.
After the camp we flew to Kenya where we had our second stop with other peers from different nations for our orientation at Mombasa for a month. We were trained on Subject 2 Citizen (S2C) which is a philosophy that talks to the inner man or self- awareness.
The philosophy was unveiled to us on how one is subjected in his own life, family, community, nation at large and also how one becomes a responsible and active citizen. In addition, stereotypes had to be broken and a key message “it’s just different” was drilled in us which really paved a way in preparing us not to complain when things seemed abnormal to us or got tough.
Agenda 2063 (the Africa we want) was shared to us particularly on aspiration 7 of putting youth at the drivers seat in all our youth interventions (CSE/SRHR inclusive). We launched our first power-space at the YMCA Mombasa offices with youth local youth and the event was dignified by the Mayor of Mombasa, Honourable William Kingi.
I was taking the leadership role as the co – director of ceremonies with Felana Razakamahefa, a Peer Educator from Madagascar, who happens to have once visited Zimbabwe (2017) and was trained in ASRH by ZNFPC Mat North.
We were further deployed to our stations after the orientation and l was stationed in South Africa at YMCA Pietermaritzburg branch for duration of six months. Upon my arrival the first few months were a challenge as the settings and programs were different from ours in Zimbabwe and this made it look more thought-provoking in conducting community assessment.
The branch focused on empowering young people for life in life skills, leadership & entrepreneurship skills through signature programs they offered: Youth-justice, Youth-zone, Youth-arts and Youth-fit.
Youth-Justice is a program that reaches to youth who are in conflict with the Law and those whose social circumstances place them at a high risk of potential conflict with the law. It works with young people living in the streets and it also aims to transform young people from subjects to citizens and helps integrating youth back to their homes.
My roles were to facilitate and to coordinate programs. One of the milestone stories l managed to contribute positively to their livelihood skills is creating carpentry recycle project where they had to use old pallets into furniture items such as chairs and spice racks amongst other things so that they will have to be independent.
Another success story was sharing during the Durban International Conference Centre exhibition; we had the Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health session on drug and substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and the social inclusion of youth living in the streets.
Youth-Zone is an after school program where we assisted kids with their homework and other fun activities. Y-Modeling was a modeling for Youth-zone kids and The Economic Entrepreneurship Program (TEEEP) students. This was to boost their self-confidence and integrate them into the YMCA values. Furthermore with Marimba kids club we conducted cultural exchange of arts and talents and we had visitors from Tensing Ronningham Folk School Norway.
Conducted outreaches at the Bessie head library on women’s day to hear different views of people, what they know and think about the women’s day.
Other activities conducted include boot camps, capacity building, power spaces, and surveys for life skills as well as sports for youth.
Upon my arrival back home l had the greatest task of sharing my experiences and knowledge with fellow Peer Educators in Bulawayo and hopefully will get time to cascade the same to Mat North Peers. Now destiny waits for the opportunity of giving back to community as l further my studies in development studies.
The whole program was fascinating, it was my first time to travel by air and that on it’s on was an experience. Amazing food from different cultures, touring different places of Africa, meeting new people, embracing diversity and having a deeper understanding of the meaning of life was a worthy life time changing experience. Thanks to ZNFPC for grooming me through the Peer Education program and thanks for the YMCA partnership that got me selected into the program.
- To think without the box, thinking out of the box limit us, we don’t need the box.
- “It is just different”- it helps to perceive from a different perspective and accept change
- Self-actualization is key: you have to date yourself to understand the inner you better before anything else.
- An eye opener not to be narrow minded but being exposed to variety of things.
- Coming out of own closet and stepping up to success.
- As young people we have the voice, the space and ability to influence.
About the author: Ishmael Banda was born and bred in Njube high density suburb 23 years ago and joined the peer education club at Impande Youth Centre in Bulawayo. He is studying Development Studies at Lupane State University and is actively involved in ASRH programs.