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UNICEF Supports Lesotho Youth Centers
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UNICEF Supports Lesotho Youth Centers

An energetic group of young people in Southern Africa, who first banded together to fight AIDS through education and performance, are now branching out into other areas, such as protecting the environment and even sports. Their ongoing project is an inspiring example to youths everywhere. 

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Segment 1

VOICEOVER
The Gum Boot dance is a popular tradition in Lesotho in Southern Africa. These young people are performing it for a crucial cause: combating HIV/AIDS. The kingdom of Lesotho is one of the African countries hard-hit by the AIDS pandemic. More than 25 percent of its one million adult population are HIV positive. Most of them are relatively young. Five years ago, a group of youths in the city of Mohale's Hoek, 100 kilometers south of the capital Maseru, decided to organize themselves to fight against the disease. With support from the local community, the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, helped the group set up the Selibeng Youth Center. Combating AIDS was not the only motive, says coordinator Seipati Maphatsoe.
SEIPATI MAPHATSOE
We established this group because we didn't want the youth from Mohale's Hoek to go on with crime. We want them to go on with their different activities.
VOICEOVER
An old church is the base for their activities. The small library is a major source of information on AIDS and other subjects of interest to young people. The center also organizes English lessons. International organizations are providing significant support. On this day, UNICEF officials bring up-to-date information material on HIV/AIDS for members of the group to distribute. The UNICEF Representative in Lesotho is Bertrand Desmoulins.
BERTRAND DESMOULINS
They are very good also in sensitizing their own peers and the adults of the community by having young actors among them and developing drama which highlights the issues of HIV/AIDS.
VOICEOVER
In addition to talking to people and handing out information on the dangers of AIDS, the group employs the artistic talents of its members to highlight the evils of the disease. The main bus station in town is one of the venues for their performances. The group is also aware of the need to preserve the environment. A German volunteer teaches them how to use empty tin cans as construction material. They built this room to be used by HIV-positive teenage mothers and their babies. They are also shown how to harness solar energy. Making solar cookers from simple materials can replace firewood and save some of the trees, which have been disappearing fast in Lesotho. The group's proud of its activities and has a message for the country's younger generation.
SEIPATI MAPHATSOE
We can say to the youth who are not doing anything, they just don't have to stay there and fold up their arms. They have to stand up as they are youth. They have to work hard to see to their future.
VOICEOVER
Sport is another activity popular locally. UNICEF built this basketball court for members of the center, as well as for other youth groups. To generate income to support their activities, the group makes T-shirts. They sell them to local people and tourists. The prestigious Hotel Mount Maluti is one of their customers. The need for youth-friendly services in Lesotho is growing rapidly. The success of the Selibeng Youth Center in Mohale's Hoek is serving as a model for the rest of the country. This report was prepared by Kamil Taha for the United Nations.