For 15-year-old Claudia, it was a day like any other when she went to the library to pick up her cousin who was attending the DREAMS mentoring program at the Lubuto Ngwerere Model Library.
“My cousin was always spending time at the library attending the DREAMS mentoring program. I didn’t understand what the fuss was about; the idea of having a bunch of girls meeting once a week to learn about HIV did not fascinate me and moreover most girls my age are mean to each other. I didn’t want to be part of it at first, but I kept hearing about the DREAMS program everywhere I went. All my friends were enrolled in the mentoring program and talked about all the exciting places they went to on fieldtrips and the amazing women they met.
I finally visited the library on a Thursday afternoon and found the DREAMS mentoring session in progress. What caught my attention were the quotes the facilitator posted in the library. My favorite quote was: “If someone tells you, you can’t turn around and say watch me!” Not only was the quote powerful, but it spoke to the situation I was facing at that moment. All the girls seemed to get along, even when they had different viewpoints. They corrected each other without malice. I immediately made up my mind to join DREAMS.
Since joining the program I have never missed a single DREAMS session. I honestly see no reason to miss; the sessions are so educational and entertaining. I enjoy attending the DREAMS program because it keeps us busy and occupied. I come from a community where cases of teenage pregnancy are rampant, but because of DREAMS I now know how to delay my sexual debut, how to practice safer sex, and the effects of HIV/AIDS not only on me but on the entire society.
Apart from the mentoring sessions, through the DREAMS book club my reading skills have tremendously improved. Before joining the program, I struggled with reading, but through the different stories we read, I can confidently say my reading skills have improved.
My favorite book is ‘Haamba Sugar Daddy.’ Every time an older man in my community catcalls me, I quote the book saying, ‘You don’t need me; you need Jesus!’ Older men don’t need young girls; they need Jesus! We are young enough to be their daughters, and they need to give us respect.”
Claudia has since written her seventh grade examination and qualified for eighth grade. She is determined to be a medical doctor and help her parents once she is done with her studies.