Doctors Without Borders establishes youth corner in Indonesia

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) also called as (Doctors Without Borders) has supported the Indonesian Ministry of Health to improve access to health care for adolescents in the country since 2017. This program is developed, like other projects (such as capacity building in response to emergencies for natural disasters and emergencies and COVID-19 response activities) in two sub-districts of Banten Province, Labuan and Carita.

In 2019, MSF opened a youth corner in Labuan – a place where adolescents could go after school to engage in a variety of activities such as drawing and crafts while receiving information on good hygiene practices, healthy life and sexual and reproductive health, by the MSF health promotion team ; which also carries out activities in schools and community groups.

Tembong village is about a 25-minute drive from the MSF project office in Labuan sub-district – one of 19 villages assisted by MSF teams in Banten province, on the western tip of the island of Tembong. Java, in Indonesia.

Not far from the local town authority office in Tembong, Carita sub-district, there is a pavilion that has a hand-washing tank. Some boys and girls are seen in the courtyard of the building. There is a sign that reads “Posyandu Remaja” – which in Spanish translates as “integrated health post for adolescents”.

But that afternoon, when the MSF team visits the facility, it is not an activity integrated into the health post. Instead, the young people running the stall are preparing the youth corner activities for their younger peers in the village. It is a safe place for young people to meet, where they can do activities and receive health information.

In 2019, in cooperation with the local community and the health center, the MSF team opened a youth corner in the building. “Unfortunately, in 2020 MSF had to close the youth corner due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ” says Jonny, the MSF project coordinator in Banten. “But the team continued online health promotion activities. We also support community health staff and village elders to renovate public facilities and run adolescent health centers. We have now integrated the youth corner program into these facilities.”

How it started?

After a discussion between the Carita sub-district health office, the Carita Puskesmas (public health center) and MSF, they agreed that an integrated health post for adolescents should be formed at the village level. The MSF and Puskesmas teams identified the best villages for the pilot program, and the villages of Tembong and Teluk, in Carita and Labun, respectively, were chosen.

The process continued with the participation of more parties such as village authorities, health bureaus, education bureaus, sub-district bureaus, state and Islamic boarding school communities, the Rukun Tetangga (neighborhood association), the Rukun Warga (citizens’ association), the village governments and the people of Posyandu, as well as the “executives” – a small group of adults and youth organized to instruct or guide others – who run the programme.

In Tembong, the MSF team approached Adang Kosasih, the village chief, to offer to pilot the adolescent health post program in the village. He was excited as the village has a forum for boys and girls and they wanted to add more activities for the young members of the community.

“We have collaborated with Islamic primary schools and boarding schools,” says Kosasih. “Furthermore, we encourage school management to ensure that students visit the health post, which takes place once a month, so that they can benefit from basic health screenings on a regular basis.”

The youth corners in the neighborhood

For Tini Pebrianti, head of Tembong’s services division, having the youth corner in her village is a good thing.

“Teenagers can spend their time doing positive things,” says Pebrianti. “They don’t play too much with their cell phones and they don’t need to travel far to access the facilities. So they have a lot of benefits.”

In the afternoons after school, young members of the community can do activities in the youth corner, which is open from Monday to Friday. They can learn art, drawing, calligraphy and crafts. Importantly, they also learn about health.

Uul Mardiyah, one of the youth center executives, said she has benefited from being involved with MSF and health executives in these activities. MSF staff trained junior executives to carry out essential health screenings, undertake health promotion activities, speak in public and teach English.

“At first, I didn’t have the confidence to speak in front of people,” says Mardiyah. “After I joined the training and activities at the health post and the youth corner, I learned how to speak in public and I know more about health.”

The activities of the youth corner in Tembong started in mid-September 2021 and at that time with the participation of between 10 and 20 teenagers. By October 2021, the youth corner had received nearly 600 visits. Both Pebrianti and Mardiyah believed that the health post and youth corner would continue to function without MSF, as the village government supports its funding by including it in the village’s annual budget.

There are challenges, such as a high turnover of young executives as they leave for school or work, but the program continues. And the commitment and continuous training with new young executives is essential to guarantee the youth corner program in their neighborhoods. A high sense of community ownership is essential to help this program continue.

The way to follow

The pandemic has hampered the program, as people were unable to gather in public facilities. But, as the second wave of COVID-19 died down, young people have returned to visit the stalls and enjoy the youth corners.

In 2022, MSF will hand over the youth corners in Labuan and Carita to the village authorities, as they are now functioning well. And the MSF support team will move to a new site with all the lessons learned so far.

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