Founded in 2001 & still Growing

Africa Directions (AD) is a focused, national, non-governmental, non-profit making organization t that’s was established in 2000 and registered with the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) as a Limited Company by Guarantee. Africa Direction (AD) was conceptualized by four Zambian young people in 2001, as part of the response to the growing HIV epidemic in Mtendere, a high-density area in the eastern part of Lusaka the capital city of Zambia. Since then, AD has evolved from a community-based organization to a renowned national and regional youth organization advancing children and young people’s rights. AD currently runs national programmes with an annual reach of over 75,000 children and young people and is operating from Lusaka, Copperbelt, North-western and Luapula provinces of Zambia.

The founders initially set out to establish a consortium of theatre groups and to utilize the arts to create awareness about HIV and AIDS. At that time, it was estimated through sentinel surveillance that the national prevalence rate of HIV was 15.1%. It was also estimated that prevalence in urban districts was twice as high as rural areas and that girls and young women were disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic. The HIV and AIDS epidemic led to the disintegration of the nuclear family. This resulted in many children and youth finding themselves deprived of guidance and counseling at a vulnerable time in their lives. Therefore, the establishment of AD came at an opportune time. AD has continued to grow and expand since it was established in 2000.

We strive to bring out the best in you.

Our programs have evolved with the needs of our young people, but our goal remains the same — giving youth a chance to reach their potential.

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GIVING YOUTHS A CHANCE

Through community outreaches, collaborations with schools, stakeholder meetings, and partnerships with other local organizations, AD works to create an integrated and cohesive response to the needs and challenges youth face in the community.

Every day over 500 youths, aged 4-26, pass through Africa Direction’s 3 community centers, assessing a wide range of services including sports, peer education, drama, sexual reproductive health services and information, voluntary counseling and testing, legal advice, life skills trainings and a host of other clubs and recreation activities aimed to build the capacity, skills, and confidence of the individuals we serve.

Most young people who come to Africa Directions come from disadvantaged homes and face many barriers to success. Many youth are coming from HIV affected families, are single or double orphans, and struggle financially. Often youth are forced to drop out of school due to lack of money or support and are left to loiter in the streets. Girls are especially at-risk due to a host of cultural and social issues that leave them out of receiving vital information needed to equip one to make decisions about their life.

At AD we reach out to those who are most at-risk and often slip through the cracks of our schools and social welfare systems. We offer an encouraging environment, in which we inspire, build up and support young people in the community. To instill behavior change in youth, information is given in combination with a range of life skills within a fun and conducive environment. Theatre, games, and other forms of positive recreation are used to educate and encourage children and youth, contributing to their positive mental, psychosocial, and physical development. AD provides equal opportunities for both girls and boys by mainstreaming sexual reproductive health and gender issues in all programs and activities

The same young people who live within the community run each center; they are mentored into positions as peer educators and program officers to give them the skills and knowledge necessary for future employment. Whenever possible AD looks for employment and/or income generating activities for youth so that they can pay school fees and to reduce their burden. They also look for opportunities to partner with other organizations, exposing young people to a diverse group of people and possibilities.

Through community outreaches, collaborations with schools, stakeholder meetings, and partnerships with other local organizations, AD works to create an integrated and cohesive response to the needs and challenges youth face in the community.

Our programs have evolved with the needs of our young people, but our goal remains the same — giving youth a chance to reach their potential.

In 2000 Zambia had an HIV prevalence rate of 15.1 % among those aged 15-49 years. Women being more susceptible than men for various biological and social/cultural reasons, had a prevalence rate nearly four times that of men in the same age category. The Zambian Ministry of Health reported that prevalence in urban districts was about twice as high as rural areas, and Lusaka, with a particularly concentrated population, had a particularly concentrated HIV/AIDS problem.

Young people, who constitute over 50 % of Zambia’s population, were most at-risk. Those youth living in the compounds of Lusaka, like Kalingalinga, Kalikiliki and Mtendere, had virtually no ‘healthy’ entertainment or recreation amenities. The only place pool tables, tvs, etc. were found was at bars, often enticing and misleading young people to start drinking, smoking, and engaging in other high risk activities. Given this basic lack, the Ministry/Central Board of Health found sex to be a principle form of recreation. Most young people were not motivated to protect themselves from HIV and therefore the vast majority of sex was ‘unsafe.’ These factors combined with little or no sexual reproductive health education, traditional gender roles, and strong peer pressure from a very young age, caused HIV/AIDS to be a particularly acute problem for young people.

In addition to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, youth living in these socially and economically deprived high-density urban compounds were surrounded by barriers/hindrances/a sense of hopelessness.
High levels of poverty and unemployment lead to many young people dropping out of school for lack of funds or to help their families make ends meet. With little knowledge about or access to family planning, teenage pregnancy and STIs were becoming rampant. Also, as many young people began abusing drugs and alcohol, crime rates were rising.

Africa Directions was the collaborative dream of four young and enthusiastic Zambians ( namely Evans G. Banda, Mark Chilongu, Boyd K. Nyirenda and Victor Mawere). At the time of their first meeting, Evans was a determined and innovative journalist with a youth magazine he helped start, called Trendsetters. Mark, Boyd, and Victor were spirited dramatists using their talents to educate communities about HIV/AIDS with the Theatre group they belonged to, called SWAAZ Arts.

In 2000, Dr. Tobias Rink de Wit, from the Netherlands, visited Zambia for an Africa-wide HIV/AIDS conference, ICASA, which was being hosted in Lusaka. Dr. Rink de Wit had the opportunity to watch SWAAZ Arts group performing at the conference and was impressed by the caliber of the actors. After the show, the doctor enquired about how the group had so much talent, and what the future was for these Zambian youths

Dr. Rink de Wit, who was working in Addis Ababa at the time, returned to Ethiopia excited by the young talent he had seen and the potential he believed they had. He organized for the SWAAZ members to participate in a cultural exchange festival being held in Addis Ababa and recommended them to the Royal Netherlands Embassy of Lusaka for sponsorship. The Embassy granted the request with the stipulation that the young artists be accompanied by a journalist to cover the events.

The group opted to bring along another youth for this opportunity and were, as if by providence, connected with Evans Banda. Evans was already building a reputation as a rising star in the journalism world for his articles encouraging youth and providing them with life-saving reproductive health information.

Being in Addis opened their eyes to the ways in which young people, from all walks of life, were making a difference in their communities. They were particularly inspired by what the Ethiopians were doing to change young people’s behaviors. Every day, after performances, the group would sit and discuss the challenges faced by Zambian youth and their own future plans. It was from these social gatherings that the idea of Africa Directions was born.

The initial plan was to have an art centre where people could come to watch performances and be taught artistry skills since the SWAAZ members saw the educative power of theatre. Evans, who had the opportunity of visiting several places in the US, including some community centers in impoverished cities, envisioned a centre where young people could access positive recreation and health information. The two parties merged their ideas and started networking with other organizations for support. In 2001, The Royal Netherlands Embassy gave them a small grant to open the first-of-its-kind youth recreation center in Mtendere, a rough and unplanned settlement within Lusaka.

The team got right to work, conducting educational outreaches & carrying out a baseline survey to access the needs and knowledge levels about HIV/AIDS of young people in the area. Children and youth began flocking to the center in much larger numbers than anticipated giving witness to the void which had existed for young people. After two years of observing what these young people were able to accomplish with little resources, the Embassy gained confidence in the project and extended its sponsorship for four years. The organization received a lot of technical support and training from the then chief of party Zambia Integrated Health Programs (ZHIP), and current board chairperson of AD, Mrs. Elizabeth Thomson Selemetos. Africa Directions quickly gained recognition for their innovative programs and the effectiveness their theater group had in information dissemination.

Over the years, Africa Directions has evolved in line with the needs and desires of the youth within the communities we serve. AD’s success in reaching out and gaining the trust and affections of so many youth is largely due to our consistent consultations and engagement of youth in strategic development and assessment of programs. While the initial emphasis was on HIV/AIDS prevention and SRH awareness through theater for community action, AD now incorporates gender issues, life skills, and more recreation and sports facilities to attract a wider demographic and address the social, economic, and cultural issues that hinder behavior change. In developing a strong and comprehensive foundation in our young people, we enable them to take the information they receive and use it to overcome obstacles and make right decisions. AD reduced the target age group from 8 to 25 years to 3 to 25 years to cater for the ever-increasing number of children accessing the centre and has developed programs and activities exclusively for them.

Valuing the concerns and voices of community leaders and other stakeholders, AD has tried to develop a more holistic approach to youth development, not only giving information, but care and support. The foremost example of this is our newest venture done in collaboration with Elizabeth Glacier Pediatric AIDS Fund (EGPAF) that looks at the social, psychological and physical wellbeing of children living with HIV through the formation of a child support group.

Additionally, we actively work to form partnerships with other organizations to collaborate and learn best practices, as well as, link people in the community to existing services. Our partnership with Marie Stopes now allows women and men in the community to make informed and safe decisions about when and how many children to have and access free to low-cost services at their convenience. Similarly, our peer educators have linked with area schools in order to start school clubs to better equip pupils with life skills and recruit them to the center. Since it’s beginnings, AD has partnered and been supported by many organizations including SIDA, the Swedish Embassy, the British High Commission, VSO, Peace Corps, International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ZNAN, UNICEF, UNFPA, John Hopkins University, KNH, Elizabeth Glacier, Youth Alive Zambia, AATAZ, Marie Stopes, Youth Vision, PPAZ, NAC, the Zambian Ministries of Youth, Health, and Education, as well as, many more community based organizations.

In 2004, after several outreaches in schools and the general community of Chilenje, civic leaders recognized the great effort that AD was doing to promote positive development among youth in their constituency and invited AD to replicate the work they were doing in Mtendere by opening another center within Chilenje. This first expansion of AD activities was done with the rehabilitation of the then dilapidated Chilenje community hall, into “Pamo youth centre,” with the help of Norwegian Church AID and UNICEF.

In similar lines of recognition of AD’s successful work, UNICEF asked AD to partner with them in a child and youth development program focusing on HIV/AIDS in Luapula Province. As such, AD opened its first rural youth centre in Mansa in 2008, replicating its positive youth friendly programmes, services and activities. Additionally, with the support of UNICEF, the Government of Zambia has replicated the AD’s programming design in all their provincial youth centers in Zambia.

AD’s future endeavors include designing programmes and services that will strengthen youth’s skills and knowledge in information technology, entrepreneurship, girl’s negotiation skills and knowledge in relation to their reproductive health and rights. Additionally, we hope to invest in research on the relation between socio-economic status and culture in youth behavioral change, using the findings to help young people breach the gap between information and action.

Many young people who have graduated from AD programmes, have been able to break the bondage of poverty, contribute to their communities, and fulfill personal goals they would not have dreamed of had they not been influenced by the programs they were exposed to at AD.

Meet the People Behind AD

ADVISORY BOARD

Chair

Dr. Rueben Kamoto Public Health Exepert and Consultant At Levy Mwanawasa Teaching Hosiptal – Ministry of Health

Deputy Chair

Mr. Clement Bwalya FHI 360 – Deputy Chief of Party

Finance

Mr. Timothy Dingani Chiyende
Senior Grants and Contracts Manager – Right to Care

Secretary

Dr. Emmanuel Makasa
Health Proffessionals of Zambia – Deputy Registrar

Board Member

(Resource Mobilization)

Dr. Caroline Phiri
Ministry of Community Development Mother and Child Health – Director SRHR

Board Member

(Media and Publicity)

Mr. Evans Ganaizani Banda
Chief Executive Officer – Beats FM

YOUTH REPRESENTATIVE

Ms. Bwalya Mushiki Population Council of Zambia – Cordinator

MANAGEMENT STAFF

Programs Manager

Nelson Mumbi 

Human Resource Manager

Melinda K Banda

Senior technical Officer,

Hamaundu Hachonda

Current partners

PREVIOUS partners