Huda Moos Mason (15) and Ameer McCallum (16) from Rylands have been dating for a year and a half and they tell us about how Salesian Life Choices has assisted them to pursue their goals and make more positive choices in their relationship.
They started dating in grade 8, Ameer noticed Huda at school and found her interesting. He asked a mutual friend for her number and started talking with her via WhatsApp. After a few days of chatting, he asked her out and they became a couple. Ameer says, “after our first date, we found out we could talk about anything, we laughed a lot. We also realised that we go to the same gym and love to play PlayStation.”
“At the beginning, our parents were worried about our relationship because we are so young and they were afraid we would do wrong things. If other family members asked, they would say we are only friends so that people won't think wrong. It is a Muslim thing. As they got to know Ameer they relaxed because they can see we are responsible.”
In Grade 9, Salesian Life Choices runs four Straight Talks sessions during life orientation periods. These sessions deal with issues such as gender roles, healthy and unhealthy relationships, sexual risk behaviour and prevention. The exposure to these topics ignited some changes in their relationship.
Ameer explains, “we used to fight a lot, but after the Straight Talks sessions, it became less. We learnt how to have a healthy relationship and communicate better. We decided that when we have a disagreement, we would go to a private place to sort it out quietly and not in front of people. I also used to be a player, I flirted a lot. Straight Talks taught me about being true to one girl and how to respect her.”
This in turn, gave Huda more confidence and she felt more secure in their relationship. Huda says, “I started to trust him more and we didn't fight that much. I was surprised when we did the session about gender roles.”
The gender roles session empowers youth to challenge traditional stereotypes in society and their relationships.
“I always thought it is the boy's job to take the lead and plan everything. I began to understand that I could also take the lead and suggest things to do, so I organised a surprise for our anniversary at the mall.”
“It made me very happy and brought us closer,” Ameer says with a huge grin.
Ameer continued, “we did talk about sex after the Straight Talk sessions and we re-committed to abstain. We want to wait until we are older and know that our relationship is permanent."
Besides Straight Talks, Health4Life offers in-school HIV counselling and testing (HCT) and psychosocial support on a weekly basis. Through attending the Straight Talk sessions Huda and Ameer developed a good relationship with the counsellor and decided to go for individual counselling. During HCT sessions, Health4Life staff assists learners to draw risk reduction plans where dreams and goals are discussed. In addition, they also help with practical advice to deal with life and its challenges.
Huda says, “our choice about sex made other people uncomfortable. My friends and cousins are always asking me when are we going to have sex, I feel they are pushing us to do it. The counsellor told me to ignore them. ‘Be yourself. If you do not want to do it, then you don't have to.’ They still tease me and I get angry sometimes, but I no longer fight with them.”
During the counselling session Ameer was asked about his life goals, he dreams of being either a professional cricketer or a mechanical engineer. “Sometimes I want to give up on my goals when I do not get good marks. I feel I am not worthy, but the counsellor told me not to give up and that nothing can stop me from achieving what I want. I believed in what he said, completely.”
Huda's dream is to become a doctor. “I told the counsellor I don't think I will achieve it; my marks were not good enough. He said that I should focus on the positives and suggested that I do volunteering at the Sarah Fox hospital to get experience. He also motivated me to try my best academically.'
Both believe their marks have improved due to these sessions. “I have learnt that nothing is impossible and that I can achieve what I want in life. I can see that already; I've worked harder and all my marks have improved from June to December,” says Ameer.
Huda's progress has been similar. “The counsellor told me that with a positive attitude, confidence and hard work I can achieve better results. I started to focus and listen more in class and I found that I could actually do Physics. My maths marks also improved.”
Huda and Ameer are testament that a holistic health intervention that not only deals with the physical aspects but also with youth’s mental and emotional welfare, does work.