Bahai News - In Buryatia, a struggle against AIDS and substance abuse
In Buryatia, a struggle against AIDS and substance abuse
BURYATIA, Russian Federation, 29 November 2000 (BWNS) -- In response to
rising rates of alcoholism, drug use and AIDS among youth in this Siberian
republic, Baha'is here have created a "Youth Center for Social Initiatives"
to promote a healthy lifestyle among youth and teenagers and to train
teachers and other specialists to do prevention work with youth. Deaths
from AIDS have increased 33-fold in Buryatia since the beginning of the
year, a symptom of the general moral crisis afflicting much of the region.
"No prevention work is effective without the development of a
sustainable system of moral values among the youth and offering them
channels for individual growth and self-fulfillment through community
service," said Oxanna Dorzhieva, director of the Youth Centre. "Our
principal tasks are the development of young people's awareness of their
personal dignity and the need for spiritual independence, development of
a volunteer movement for prevention work, training of teachers and other
specialists in prevention education, and cultivation of a positive
lifestyle among youth and teenagers."
The Youth Center is an outgrowth of a Baha'i project for youth in
Ulan-Ude known as the "Young Lions" social project, which provided
alternative youth activities, training in moral leadership, and popular
social activities for the youth of the Ulan-Ude region.
"Many prevention projects organized by Young Lions, such as "Youth
Against Drugs," "Be Sober in the New Millennium," "Our City," and
seminars on AIDS, have won serious attention from the government of
Buryatia and popularity among youth in Ulan-Ude and neighboring
communities," said Ms. Dorzhieva.
The local administration of Ivolga, a region with the highest rates of
drug use among youth and of alcohol and drug-related crime in recent
years, approached the Young Lions for assistance in organizing
prevention activities for the whole region.
"We wanted to extend our work with this key segment of the population
and assist them in addressing these problems through the creation of the
Youth Center for Social Initiatives," said Ms. Dorzhieva. "We are trying
to build a network together with teachers and other specialists,
parents, administration, the police, media and possibly other
institutions, to protect youth from alcohol and drug use. The experience
gained from this project will start spreading all over the Republic
within a year."
The Youth Centre also works to develop regional, national and
international collaboration in prevention work, and courses, seminars
and workshops on moral leadership and prevention of AIDS and substance
abuse. The Centre is working with specialists from the AIDS Centre of
Buryatia to create a youth and teen prevention program that will include
materials on moral education. The program will be submitted to the
Ministry of Education of Buryatia for inclusion in the school curriculum
for children aged 12 to 15.
©Copyright 2000, Baha'i World News Service
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