Jessica Hasslen Steyn, the creator of Maaifa, first went to Kenya in 2001 as a volunteer with a Minnesota based non-profit organization. In December of 2012, she was asked to write the stories of youth who attended the Positive Teen Camp in Kijabe, Kenya. She interviewed 14 youth living with HIV. They all talked about how alone they felt without anyone to talk to and not being loved by their family, how discrimination and stigma made them hesitant to disclose their status to anyone, further alienating them from the world around them. Some wanted to know why God allowed this virus to infect them and often kill their parents.
It was clear that these young people needed more than ARVs, but there were very few ongoing psychosocial support programs in Kenya for youth living with HIV. Lots of organizations and the government programs target prevention but don’t address the needs of youth already living with the virus.
Steyn attended training for church leaders facilitated by Duane Crumb, founder of HIV Hope International. During that training, God provided Steyn with the framework of the Maarifa program, which is called the Armor of Positive Living.
The Maarifa curriculum was completed in March of 2015 and the first Maarifa class for adolescents living with HIV was taught in April of 2015. By December 2016, 4 pilot sites were offering classes three times a year to approximately 80 ALHIV. Maarifa is currently awaiting approval from the Kenyan government through NASCOP (National AIDS & STI Control Programme) for the Maarifa curriculum to be made available nationwide.
The next phase of Maarifa is to reach out globally to anyone wishing to provide psychosocial support to youth living with HIV, by offering the use of the Maarifa curriculum for free.
"If you judge people you have no time to love them."
The goal of Maarifa is to reach every young person living with HIV who is not presently receiving adequate psychosocial support. It is our belief that if this gap is filled and adolescents and youth can engage in living positively, that the spread of HIV among this generation and generations to come can be greatly reduced.
We believe we can achieve this together when we:
Bring psychosocial support to adolescents living with HIV/AIDS (ALHIV) who are not already receiving support.
Empower communities to embrace ALHIV and value them in society.
Provide a safe place for ALHIV within their community where they can express themselves and discuss the obstacles they face.
Provide ALHIV with the tools to construct an armor of positive living.
Influence the decline of new HIV infections through the positive living of the ALHIV.
Help facilitate local income-generating initiatives that will sustain Maarifa classes.
Facilitate translation and editing of the cultural context of the Maarifa curriculum so that it can be used all over the world.
To achieve ownership and sustainability, Maarifa was designed to be adopted and deployed by volunteers in local communities.
The idea is to work within the community health structure and through community churches to reach ALHIV. In Kenya, that meant partnering with the clinics where the ALHIV received their ARVs. Participating clinics are responsible to recruit ALHIV to attend Maarifa on youth clinic days as well as provide space for the program and if needed, answers to medical questions the adolescents may have.
Maarifa is NOT grant-funded. Individual communities/clinics/adolescents will undertake their own income generating projects to support doing the Maarifa curriculum.
The largest ongoing cost of holding Maarifa classes is feeding the ALHIV who attend. In our experience in Kenya, feeding the participants tea and lunch really boosted their willingness to attend and their ability to engage in the classes.
Partnerships are required to:
Fill resource and operational gaps
Help support income-generating initiatives
The Maarifa program can be downloaded for free, however, they are most effective in a printed format. That is why Maarifa partners with Publish4All, a Christian publisher that operates in 60 locations across the world. They offer printing services at a fraction of the cost. Click here to be connected to Publish4All.
Globe International is a missionary sending agency with members and partnering ministries in over 70 countries around the world. I joined Globe in the fall of 2013. They have offered invaluable organizational and financial and personal support. Without them Maarifa would not exist. To learn more about Globe check out their website at www.globeintl.org
For Maarifa to become self-sustainable in your community, we highly recommend that you create local partnerships to support community income-generating projects that could fund the deployment of the program.
Local churches are often willing to have free will offerings to help with food costs or prepare meals for Maarifa classes.