Last week, Youth RISE had the privilege of working with Rumah Cemara, an organisation based in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. Staying true to their values of respect and humanity, the organisation was founded by 5 people affected by drug use and HIV in 2003 and has now grown to be strong and well-respected, providing peer-to-peer interventions for people living with HIV and those who use drugs in Indonesia. Youth RISE Executive Director together with Youth RISE member based in Indonesia Eka Prahadian travelled to Bandung to help develop their Youth Program, which is supported by the Alliance and which aims to reach young people who use drugs.
The need to develop a Youth Program grew out of a concern among the Rumah Cemara team that young people are not well reached with their current program, particularly those that were not yet injecting their drugs yet still experiencing significant harms from their drug use. There was also an identified need to address the issues that young people who use drugs are experiencing before they progress into injecting drug use.
Focus group discussions held last week with young people in their community gave them an opportunity to share their experiences, issues and needs. Many of the youth are living on the streets, feel excluded, and face significant stigma in their communities. Knowledge about drugs, their effects, addiction and harms associated with drug use including HIV is low. They lack access to health services and support, and lack opportunities to develop their creative and life skills.
The Rumah Cemara Youth Program is initiated to address some of these issues, and will provide information and support to young people who use drugs in a non-judgemental environment with high participation of the young people in the program.
‘We want to show people that even though we are taking drugs, we have skills, we are capable’ says Irfan, a 17 year old boy living on the streets in Bandung. When asked what his dreams are, he says ‘I want to help my friends in the same situation as me, who are using drugs and surviving on the streets. I want to learn so I can also teach my friends how to be healthy and safe’.
Rumah Cemara is an excellent example of an organisation truly committed to the needs of the community and to participation and leadership of those most affected. The Youth Program will build on this experience and dedication to ensure young people are also supported, valued, and have a safe place within the community.