“She is an absolute delight to work with,” says one of Maxi’s colleagues at the non-governmental organization where they work together to improve Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers in Windhoek, Namibia. In 2021, Maxi joined DREAMS – an HIV prevention program for vulnerable adolescent girls and young women funded by the United States Government.
When Maxi first learned about the DREAMS program, she was in a dire situation. She had left school at grade 10, became pregnant with her first child and, two years later gave birth to her second baby. She was in great need of support to get her life back on track.
A DREAMS mentor supported Maxi to access youth-friendly HIV testing and other health services, such as pregnancy prevention. She then learned that the program also offers young women between the ages of 15 and 24 the opportunity to enroll in an economic strengthening activity.
Maxi was trained in financial literacy, foundational professional skills, and workplace-focused behaviours and norms. Additionally, she enrolled in a six-month certification course in Early Childhood Development through the Katutura Youth Enterprise Center, a vocational training center in Windhoek. These classes focused on child development, child nutrition, and how to care for babies – bringing Maxi closer to her dream of becoming a teacher.
Maxi’s passion for children grew with each day of learning. When she was selected for a paid internship at Development Workshop Namibia (DWN), an early childhood development program, Maxi knew her life had really begun to change.
DWN supports improvement of infrastructure such as buildings and playgrounds, offers child-friendly materials including story books, and develops tools that can be used by both parents and instructors to expand their ability to care for their children. The organization was so impressed with Maxi’s work, they offered her full-time employment.
Living at home with her mom who is a domestic worker, her unemployed uncle and her two small children, Maxi is now able to contribute to the expenses at home. “I managed to buy warm winter clothes for my kids this year and have been saving up to buy a wardrobe and a cupboard for our bedroom,” she tells excitedly.
In her new position at DWN, Maxi helps local Early Childhood Development Centers that are largely located in Windhoek’s informal settlements.
The DREAMS program’s economic strengthening approach helps vulnerable young women, such as Maxi, become more economically independent, which reduces their risk of HIV infection. Maxi says she couldn’t be prouder to be earning her own money and be fully employed. Currently, she is in the process of applying to a local college to further her studies in Early Childhood Development and pursue a career in education.
Other training opportunities that are offered by DREAMS include clothing production, beauty care, catering and agriculture, plumbing, electrical, welding and bricklaying.
DREAMS stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe. The program is funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In Namibia, DREAMS is implemented by Project HOPE and ACHIEVE and cooperates with several ministries.