Nairobi Events – Connecting Parallels

As part of the project: Connecting Parallels (funded by the Swedish Institute), WFAD, Sobelrife, SCAD and Unheard Voices Afrika organised two public events on drug awareness focusing on fostering dialogue sessions between youth and select community members in Kariobangi, a densely populated informal suburb, 15 Kilometers North East of  Nairobi city. It aimed to provide a platform for open discussions, sharing insights and building a collective understanding of the challenges associated with drug use within the slum community. The event comprised two separate discussion groups—one for adult community members and the other for youths.

Session 1: Community Participant Group

The session began with the arrival of participants and registration done by Slum Child Foundation the hosting organization, led by George Odalo, the main facilitator. Together with 4 facilitators, there were 6 Community Health Promoters (CHP) accompanied by 13 select clients from the community, the majority of them being women. Paul, of Soberlife gave a brief base of the forum for a deeper understanding of uniting treatment and prevention for effective drug management in the country, communities and families.  He gave a brief review of the discussion on the role of community-based prevention programs and their effectiveness in curbing drug abuse. The connection between parents and children creates a safe and open space for them to be heard and listened thus lessening the likelihood of drug initiation. He further progressed with expounding on the ways of how to prevent substance abuse

  • Stable families
  • Prevention on youths
  • Recovery on adults
  • Rehab and aftercare

Benjamin from Students Campaign Against Drugs expounded on parents’ role in creating a safe environment for their children and being more open hence keeping them self esteemed; while Jane Mwangi from Unheard Voices referred to the responsibilities of children’s status from the first, mid and last born. She expressed that respectively in order of birth, children are either overworked, overlooked or ‘overgrazed’ by parents. She correlated how each of the categories felt the urge to use drugs as a relief mechanism. Giving this insight, she advised parents to be clear about what their children are doing, look for stress symptoms and talk about their problems be it their kid or not.  She gave the view on how we can prevent rug and substance abuse from getting far and almost accessed by our children.

Jacob, a qualified addictions counsellor presented the effects of drugs on our health, mental, and physical expounding on the role of treatment within the family. Emphasizing treatment being better than cure he clarified the three phases of treatment;

  • Detoxification
  • Therapy
  • Recovery

He also expressed the correlation between HIV and Drugs; and how drugs lead to impaired judgment, dependency, damaged bodily functions and lowered immunity. He encouraged the community workers and the attendees to not only focus on family and related rehab treatment but also aftercare.

Group Discussions

The session involved two discussion groups and a presentation. This aimed at addressing community-wide perspectives on drugs and drug-related issues. Some of the challenges mentioned included: poverty, deteriorating health, broken family relationships, increased HIV spread; dependency and stigmatization. One parent gave a situation where women under the influence of drugs, accompanied by their male partners go to sleep in the woman’s one roomed house which she shares with her daughter(s). Upon sleeping, the male partner sexually abuses young girls; but due to stigmatization, they cannot speak it out.

The forum unanimously agreed that:

  • The family is the core unit for drug prevention and there is need to promote its stability
  • Parents, as the primary caregivers should be sensitized and positively empowered to bring up their children in a safe environment
  • There is a need for enhanced collaboration and communication among community members.
  • Enhance community prevention programs as well as treatment services at community levels
  • Those in recovery are to be given maximum support from the family and community level
  • Economic empowerment strategies should be incorporated into the aftercare continuum

Session 2. Youth Engagement

 In the afternoon sessions for youths from the informal settlement of Kariobangi; 60 young people, 5 teachers and 4 facilitators gathered to share ideas and commitments on how to tackle drugs and related problems at family and community levels. With a youth focused theme of ‘Connecting for a Safe Holiday,’ this session began with a light-up activity from Harrison who created an interactive game amongst the participants “Mingling” that was an ice breaker. This was intended to make the youths embrace the liberty to interact and speak freely with their peers.

The session was graced by WFAD, through Cressida who gave a motivational encouragement to the youths about the need for embracing positive peer influences for effective drug prevention. She noted that the drug challenge was universal and therefore we all need to ‘connect’ and support each other in fighting the habit. The youth were truly inspired and gave a personal invitation to WFAD to visit and interact with them directly. The next planned activity involved an open-question formatting discussion, addressing six challenges children face in today’s society, particularly those that contribute to drug abuse. To enhance collaboration and visual representation, participants attached their responses to sticky notes, creating an interactive display on the wall. Subsequently, led by Child Space coordinator Chris, each group presented their findings on the respective questions, fostering a comprehensive understanding of the youth’s collective thoughts.

Following the group discussions, each team presented their findings on a specific question. The presentations highlighted key insights, innovative ideas and proposed solutions. This format allowed for a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and fostered a sense of collective responsibility in addressing drug problems.

The session ended late in the evening, with the young people requesting it be extended to another day, and possibly for it to be held in a different location such as a green park where it can be more interactive and with more lively actions. The workshop successfully facilitated open dialogue between youth and community members, fostering a deeper understanding of the challenges associated with drug use. The insights gained from both discussion groups will contribute to the development of targeted strategies and initiatives aimed at addressing drug-related issues within the community. Ongoing efforts and collaboration are essential to create a supportive environment for individuals affected by drug abuse and to prevent its occurrence among the youth and our children.

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