Opportunities favour the determined
After high school, Lencer did not have much of a plan. She had done well in her exams, but her results were not good enough for the competitive government-sponsorship she required to attend university. This, coupled with the fact that she also had younger siblings meant that Lencer’s educational journey halted prematurely.
Lencer idled around Kibera, trying to figure out her next move. She often saw LVCT Health outreach team conducting HIV testing and providing the latest information on HIV prevention, treatment, and care. She gave them a wide berth. “I did not want to be associated with matters HIV,” proclaims Lencer.
One day, however, an LVCT Health mentor, Erika, managed to speak to Lencer about the benefits of joining the PEPFAR funded DREAMS program. (DREAMS is an acronym for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe. It’s a HIV prevention program that targets adolescent girls and young women between 15 and 24 years of age. DREAMS tackles the correlating factors that predispose one to HIV infection; some of which include poverty, lack of education, and sexual violence).
As time went on, the DREAMS program started appealing to Lencer due to the fact that it addressed the challenges she was currently facing. On her part, Erika persistently followed up on Lencer’s enrolment until the day she registered as a DREAM girl.
Lencer attended the Safe Space classes, where she was trained on how to protect herself from HIV infection, violent relationships, unintended pregnancies, and the cyclical tragedies that befall many young girls living in the informal settlements of Nairobi. “The classes were very insightful, and without them, I do not think I would be where I am today,” affirms Lencer. “I probably would have gotten married. I held off because of the hope of joining a DREAMS-sponsored vocational school.”
Her interaction with the DREAMS program transformed her into a go-getter, becoming involved in all the activities and never missing her classes. After eight months, Lencer’s positive attitude saw her get selected to become a mentor, a role she took on devotedly in appreciation of the skills the classes instilled in her.
Soon afterwards and as fate would have it, Lencer got a one-year scholarship to a catering school. Part of the course involved taking up an industrial attachment at a busy restaurant. Lencer enthusiastically grabbed this opportunity with both hands, serving the customers to the best of her ability, and the tips came rolling in.
However, after three months, the internship came to an end. Lencer then sent out applications to various establishments. Unfortunately, no one seemed to be hiring. She, however, was not deterred and her patience paid off when a DREAMS facilitator Inviolata, linked her to a one-week employability training. At the end of the training, a leading insurance company offered Lencer a commission-based sales job. That was the beginning of a new life and chapter for her.
“I have been able to help my parents move out of Kibera slums. I recently joined the university as a self-sponsored student, and I’m looking forward to purchasing my first car,” Lencer proclaims. She is a little modest about how much she earns, but her current circumstances tell it all.
Lencer is a shining example of the impact of the DREAMS project. Her transformation has not only changed her family’s fortunes but that of future children. She has managed to beat the HIV statistics of young African women living in slums. Within her busy schedule, Lencer still finds time to mentor young women in her former neighbourhood