Jessica Hasslen Steyn, the author of the Maarifa curriculum, 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, how discrimination and stigma made them hesitant to disclose their status to anyone, and how some were not accepted by their own relatives. 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 adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV). Lots of organizations and the government programs target prevention but don’t address the needs of adolescents 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 curriculum, which is called the Armor of Positive Living.
The Maarifa curriculum was completed in March of 2015 and the first Maarifa class for ALHIV was taught in April of 2015. By December 2016, 4 pilot sites were offering classes three times a year to approximately 80 ALHIV.
In 2020, Joshua Muhia took on the role of Maarifa Representative in Kenya and lead the charge to extend the reach of the curriculum within Kenya. To that end he was able to partner with Care for AIDS in 2021 as they adopted the Maarifa curriculum for their newly minted adolescent HIV program.
As Joshua continues to gather partners in Kenya who would benefit from the Maarifa curriculum, Jessica is stepping up efforts from her home in North Carolina to reach out globally to anyone wishing to provide psychosocial support to ALHIV, by offering the use of the Maarifa curriculum for free through this website.
"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 can engage in living positively 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).
Empower communities to embrace ALHIV and value them in society.
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.
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. We hope to encourage ALHIV who have taken the Maarifa course to become peer mentors/facilitators.
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 classes on youth clinic days as well as provide space for the program and if needed, answers to medical questions the adolescents may have. This model may need to be adapted in other countries or if it is used by organizations with existing infrasturctures.
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. It also models the kinds of healthy, nutritious food should be consumed.
Partnerships are required to fill resource and operational gaps.
The Maarifa curriculum can be downloaded for free from the file share page on this site, however, the curriculum is most effective in a printed format. That is why Maarifa partners with Publish4All, a Christian publisher that operates in 62 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. Jessica Hasslen Steyn joined Globe in the fall of 2013. They have offered invaluable organizational, financial and personal support as well as accountability. Donations to facilitate the spread of the Maarifa curriculum can be made on the Globe website. To learn more about Globe check out their website at www.globeintl.org
Care for AIDS
Our newest partner in Kenya is Care For AIDS, an Atlanta-based NGO that works through churches to support people living with HIV. They have recently adopted the Maarifa curriculum to use with their adolescent population.
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 curriculum.
Local churches are often willing to have free will offerings to help with food costs or prepare meals for Maarifa classes.