When 19-year-old Peter Kimemia was selected by local community health workers for a training session on COVID-19 he was excited and looked forward to an opportunity to learn more about the pandemic. Although he was youth activities in his locality in Molo, Nakuru County, this was the first time for him to attend a formal training.
On the appointed day, he joined 23 other participants at the Molo Polytechnic for the session organized by USAID’s Afya Uzazi and the County Department of Health to educate young people on COVID-19 prevention and the role they could play to check its spread.
During the sessions, the local Public Health Officer Joram Angote led lively discussions designed to pass on key messages about COVID-19 and address some of the fears the young people expressed about the disease and how it was affecting their lives, including relationships with their peers.
The session equipped Peter with knowledge and skills to pass on the key messages to his family and friends.
“I learnt a lot about COVID-19 and how to protect myself from the disease and other dangers like drug abuse,” says Peter. ”I realized that we as young people can do a lot to help our communities. You don’t have to be paid for everything.”
Another participant, Virginia Njeri, also said she would pass on what she had learnt to her peers. The 23- year-old nurse is a member of Molo Youth Group, which brings together 40 girls who meet regularly to socialize and discuss issues affecting them.
Since July 2020, USAID’s Afya Uzazi program has been organizing short COVID-19 training sessions in all 11 sub-counties in Nakuru to sensitize community leaders of all ages on how to check the spread of the disease, counter rumours and discuss ways to mitigate its effects, including rising cases of gender-based violence. The sessions also over the basic of home-based care and how to help address stigma against people who have recovered from COVID-19 and their families.
When schools opened, the education sessions were extended to reach teachers and students in schools across all the 11 sub-counties of Nakuru.
Besides youth, the sessions have targeted community health volunteers, village elders, religious leaders, local administrators, water, sanitation and hygiene champions, community-based organization representatives as well as leaders of motorcycle taxi (boda boda) and garbage collection associations.
The training has helped to change attitudes and encourage collective action against COVID-19:
”I used to mock people whenever they washed hands with soap to prevent COVID-19 because I though the disease only affects elderly people, but I now understand that anyone can be affected,” Joseph Wangonya, the Nakuru East Sub-County Bodaboda Union Manager after the training.
“We are the right people to spread this message to our clients, friends and colleagues since we interact with people many people every day in our work,” he said.
Susan Mumbi, leader of a boda boda stage in Nakuru West Sub-County, said rumours about COVID-19 are rife among riders and pledged to educate her coleagues. “We have benefited a lot from the training on how we can protect ourselves from COVID-19 and other diseases.”
On his part said Peter Maina, Chairperson of the Nakuru County Garbage Management Association, said he had learnt how to properly handle used masks. “I will take personal responsibility to protect myself and my clients.”