Geoffrey Kamwendo, a 20-year-old Chancellor College student, may be pursuing his degree in Computer Sciences, but his personal passions lie in the arts. He sings; he acts; he performs poetry. That's part of why he joined the Make Art / Stop AIDS (MASA) Squad: to achieve social change using his artistic skills.
“I am a science student but I do art. For example, I do music and drama. I was just curious on how I can use my skills to communicate messages towards youth empowerment and HIV/AIDS,” he said.
Before joining, Geoffrey was a stage actor with Solomon Theatre International, where he gained quite a bit of exposure. The MASA: Youth training shaped him further and equipped him with key skills needed for social transformation, particularly with young people.
“I have improved my artistic skills and learned new art forms like miming, forum theatre, role plays, and many others. I am very thrilled that I am not only performing for entertainment purposes but mainly to address issues of sexual and reproductive health among fellow youth.”
Soon after completing their training, the MASA Squads engaged students at Chancellor College. Through performances, poetry, and drama, Geoffrey, with the rest of the MASA Squad, engaged fellow students, communicated messages for change, and provoked a discussion on sexual rights. Geoffrey was among the MASA Squad's members who offered counseling on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and distributed condoms to interested students on campus.
These MASA Squads then went on to facilitate the MASA: Youth project at local secondary schools. Through workshops, the MASA Squads engaged secondary school students on SRH and HIV/AIDS. Geoffrey noted a serious lack of discussion on SRH issues among the targeted students, despite their hidden interest to talk about them.
“The youth were very hesitant to discuss about SRH issues with their teachers and parents. But, they became so open to talk about these issues to us, their fellow youth,” he said.
Geoffrey was inspired by the impact he had with the students and plans to continue using the arts to effect social change.
“I see myself [more] as an actor or artist than a scientist. In fact I am taking a drama courses which is rare for science students. [The] Make Art / Stop AIDS programme from ArtGlo has increased my passion for arts for social change. I truly believe that the use of participatory art to address SRH issues is very unique and therefore very effective. It is my wish to continue participating in such initiatives,” Geoffrey said.
The MASA Youth Project is supported by the National AIDS Commission, and delivered in partnership with Dignitas International.