In many ways, Dia* is just like any other fifteen-year-old girl. She enjoys dancing, drawing artwork, and making crafts to decorate her family’s home. But while most 10th grade girls are shopping for new outfits or hanging out with their friends, Dia is working hard to help earn money for her family. Dia’s father passed away a few years ago. His HIV diagnosis and eventual death thrust Dia’s family into a chaotic struggle for survival. Although she is also living with HIV, Dia’s mother has continued to work hard and make tremendous sacrifices for her family.
Dia recognizes the pressure that her mother feels and wants to do what she can to ease the burden. “My mother has a lot of anxiety for our family. I want to learn and work hard so that I can help her take care of our family.”
Dia is quick to give credit to Shalom for nurturing her intellectual curiosity and commitment to work hard. “I learned so many things at Shalom. Like, how to work hard, manage my time, and use my mind to think correctly. I also learned to speak kindly to others and be honest.” Dia is intentional about taking the things she has learned and making them a practical part of her life. “If I don’t use it in my life, it doesn’t mean anything. Why did I learn it? I should apply it to my life.” These are wise words for someone who is so young.
Dia’s strong work ethic and commitment to her family prompted Shalom’s staff to make her a peer educator in their adolescent program. Dia vividly remembers the first lesson she gave for the Character Development class. “I really liked when I taught children for the first time. It’s my dream to teach children and now I’ve had an opportunity to do it.” Prior to becoming a peer educator, Dia was herself enrolled in the Character Development program. Now, she is able to take the things she learned and teach them to others. Dia says that being a peer educator has taught her how to keep children interested in her lessons. “I give eye contact, stand up, speak kindly, and include games for the children.” She also says that her experience as a peer educator has inspired her to continue teaching others when she is older.
Dia makes the most of the opportunities she has to learn. She has been working hard to speak English and recently even managed to win an English competition. She is diligent in her school work and in preparing her teaching lessons for Shalom. The way Dia has blossomed at Shalom is a testament to her natural curiosity, intelligence, and hard work. It also illustrates the immense value of Shalom’s adolescent program: giving children the opportunity to make wise decisions. A child like Dia is capable of accomplishing so much, but her potential could easily go unrecognized if no one was willing to give her a chance.
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Originally published in Shalom – August 2019 Newsletter