“I strive to create positive change in social justice issues that affect the health of children and youth.”
For Nadha Hassen, volunteering with children living with cancer in Toronto was a pivotal experience that introduced her to local community initiatives and sparked her passion for working with youth. This passion, combined with the diversity of her experience as a Sri Lankan Canadian who grew up in the United Arab Emirates, motivated her to translate her local work with youth to an international level.
Nadha began an internship with Africa’s Children-Africa’s Future (AC-AF) after their Orphan and Vulnerable Children Support Programme caught her interest. She was excited by the innovative project that was the first known of its kind to provide micro-credit loans to people under the age of 18 as part of a sustainable solution to help children affected by HIV and AIDS become successful adults. She knew she wanted to become involved and wanted to learn more.
Through her work in the AC-AF Toronto office, Nadha contributes to the organization’s programmes in both Canada and Tanzania. She co-developed a pilot youth-oriented workshop on abuse in response to issues raised by UNICEF in Tanzania in a recent report. She facilitated arts-based workshops for youth in Toronto to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, which included activities on myth-busting and overcoming stigma.
Her work also includes developing AC-AF’s social media strategy. “Youth spend a lot of time online and are constantly interacting, sharing and learning on a variety of social media platforms,” says Nadha. “Social media presents a big opportunity to engage this target audience.”
As part of the AC-AF team, Nadha attended the 2012 International AIDs conference in Washington DC. She also received a scholarship and was selected as one of 200 youth from around the world to attend the YouthForce Pre-Conference, which connected her with other youth and enabled them to share and learn from each other’s experience. “The young people I met at the YouthForce Pre-Conference confirmed my views that youth are among the most dedicated and passionate people with respect to social justice, international development and public health issues,” says Nadha.
She credits AC-AF with her ability to engage her peers and speak confidently and knowledgeably about HIV and AIDs to continue to break down stigma and discrimination. Nadha is currently undertaking a graduate degree in Public Health and is a research assistant for a community based project on HIV health literacy for immigrant, refugee and non-status women.
“I’ve learned that every little bit counts,” says Nadha. “Change doesn’t happen overnight but I have seen what a dedicated team can accomplish.”
Africa’s Children –Africa’s Future is a volunteer-based organization that works in Canada and Tanzania to create sustainable approaches to development issues locally and internationally. By providing a range of programming which encourages empowerment and involvement, AC-AF gives youth the tools they need to help in the fight against HIV and AIDS and resulting effects associated with it.
Read more about the other 2013 Global Changemakers here.
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