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Meet a VSO Zambia Health Champion: Bartholomew Sunga [Cross-post]

Bartholomew Sunga, a VSO peer educator in Samfya District, Zambia.

From 2020 to 2022, Amplio partnered with VSO on a project to engage and inform youth in the remote island communities of Samfa and Chongwe districts, Zambia, about sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The Adolescent Training and Local Knowledge (TALK) project focused on challenging existing taboos and empowering young people to make informed decisions about sexual and reproductive health.

Volunteers like Bartholomew Sunga used Amplio Talking Books to facilitate learning in peer-to-peer discussion groups. The following profile was originally published on the VSO International blog and is cross-posted here by permission.

Meet community health champion, Bartholomew Sunga

My name is Bartholomew Sunga, and I am 25 years old. I have lived on Mbabala Island for nine years now. I started working with VSO in 2016 as a peer educator for the Adolescent Training and Local Knowledge (TALK) project.

My work on the Adolescent TALK project

VSO have taught us many things that have helped us here on the island. They taught us on various topics and have given us training on things like sexual reproductive health. As community volunteers we agree which area we'd like to go to and then speak to the headman of the village to mobilize the people their and conduct a meeting with the community. These meetings aim to help our communities change from their old ways, change their habits and learn about sexual reproductive health.

Helping young people in my community

For youth, we have sessions at their schools with permission from the head teacher, and give classes about the problems that affect them. We speak about topics like about sexual health, drug and substance abuse, puberty, and adolescence, and what they need to know before they come of age.

In cases where we have shortages of pills or injections, youth can come to us, and we give them condoms and teach them how to use them. We teach them that in the absence of the pill or injection contraceptives, it’s better to use condoms, because condoms protect you from pregnancy as well as diseases. We have a youth friendly space provided by the clinic and they are welcome there with any questions. I have taught over 50 people how to use condoms.

The change I'm making

The situation for young people in Mbabala is much better now than it was, thanks to VSO. In the past, early marriages were a common thing but have now been reduced. Teenage pregnancies have also reduced, compared to before the VSO project. There is a huge difference that I have seen in this village since joining the project. Before VSO and the Adolescent TALK, people didn't know about family planning. Now they know and they come to get contraceptives, such that we even run out of stock!

In Zambia, VSO peer volunteer Bartholomew Sunga conducts a Talking Book discussion group to engage and inform youth about sexual health and rights.
VSO volunteer Bartholomew Sunga conducts a Talking Book youth discussion group.

‘Being the Change’ through volunteering for development

I think what makes us different is that, unlike other volunteers, we have good training from VSO. We target youth and transform them from their old ways into a better life. We use the Amplio Talking Book to teach ourselves and youth about sexual and reproductive health. After listening to the Talking Book, we have a question and answer session to clarify anything that was not understood and to reinforce the lessons.

Through the training that we offer, we want our communities to change from their old ways, we don't want them to go back to their old ways. We teach youth about sexual and reproductive health and puberty while they're still in adolescence, because when they become teenagers they'll experience a lot of difficulties. This is why before they become adults, we need to change their attitudes.


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