Empowering the youth through media training

Globally, the Salesians of Don Bosco are known for coaching and taking keen interest in the lives of young people.  Though investing in the youth is costly, for the Salesians it is not optional. In Kenya, among other initiatives, the Salesians are empowering the youth through media training. The training is offered to underprivileged youths through the Bosco Eastern Africa Multimedia Services (BEAMS) in Nairobi. Thanks to BEAMS, youths who have gone through the training are now breadwinners in their families.

 By Fr Isaac Maina, Sdb

Schools, workplaces and the immediate environments can have either a negative or positive bearing on Kenyan youths.  This is the reality that Kenyan youths face once they leave their homes. Some risk factors associated with the school environment including low expectations, physical and sexual abuse.

However, focusing on prevention rather than rationalization saves many young people from falling into a life of poverty and suffering. One such preventive solution is education through media training. This is what the Salesians of Don Bosco at Bosco Eastern Africa Multimedia Services (BEAMS) in Karen-Nairobi are doing for the youths.

Bosco Eastern Africa Multimedia Services (BEAMS) is housed in a youth friendly Centre called Don Bosco Youth Educational Services (DBYES). Over the years, the Centre has trained many youths. Today, most of these youths are responsible citizens earning a living as entrepreneurs.  BEAMS was founded in 2003. The aim was to empower underprivileged young men and women.  Once empowered, young people would not only help themselves but also their families. We have been able to produce content in the form of documentaries which address the youth and their challenges.

A beacon of hope

All our trainees at BEAMS come from poor backgrounds.  Some cannot even afford to cater for their training expenses. Others have had traumatized childhoods and this has affected their ability to interrelate with other members of the community. BEAMS desires to impact positively on the youths’ life through the telling of their own stories and helping them come out of their current circumstances. Thus, BEAMS’ training on media use stands out as a confidence builder, showing a consistent advantage in building self-esteem and improved psychological functioning especially of the growing youths.

We have realized that documentaries on true life stories bring individuals and communities together, highlighting commonalities and bridging cultural or ethnic divides. The making of these documentaries provide a forum to learn skills such as discipline, confidence and leadership, and teach core principal values such as tolerance, resilience, collaboration, and respect. These youths learn the value of effort and how to manage victory as well as defeat. This is the Don Bosco way of educating. We have been consistently working on it by empowering the youth to enhance their capabilities in the use of media: computer applications, use of equipment for documentary production and improve on social, cultural, moral and ethical competencies through film making.

Costly but worth it

My joy is seeing youths who came in with low esteem beaming with confidence once they acquire skills. However, training of these young people comes at a cost. Trainers need to be remunerated and there are other running costs. During this hard economic time, it has been a challenge but we thank God for his providence. The moment we feel that we are reaching the end of our financial muscles, God provides in his own mysterious ways. In the last three years, we have seen the hand of God lifting us up and granting us all that we needed. We have learnt that when we work genuinely for the needy in society, God never abandons us.

Our main target group for training is mostly youths from poor areas of Nairobi. We also open doors to all other young people from all over the country. We train them in music production and sound engineering, photography, graphic design and video production. These activities take them away from being involved in social ills such as drug abuse which is rampant in places where they reside.

These media skills also contribute to their acquisition of leadership skills for social development.  They also develop an admirable personality and improved self-esteem. This in turn brings about people’s change of attitude towards them. Thus, people in the society start appreciating young people’s value and potentials. In return, people begin to promote the value of service in the youth depicted through their creativity and acting.

Learning from Mary

Pope Francis has given us the theme for the World Youth Day 2022-2023 as “Mary Arose and Went with Haste”, taken from the Gospel of Luke 1:39. During these hard times, many youths are facing very many challenges. The pandemic has not made it easier either. I recall when the lockdown was announced, we at BEAMS closed for almost three months. It meant locking out so many youths who frequented the Youth Centre. Many jobs were lost and poverty increased even among the parents of these young people.

The country is now open but we are facing many more challenges due to a poor economy which has contributed to the high cost of living. What can we do to help our youth? We have to arise in haste and devise ways of keeping our youth busy. We need to think hard on how we could use the few opportunities that are there in the market to enable our youth earn a living. Let us all arise to this occasion as Mary arose and went in haste to serve her cousin Elizabeth. We cannot be indifferent when the future of our youth is not assured. Each one of us must play his or her part to better the life of the youth.

The power of the media

Media is a very powerful tool for evangelization and if used well it can reach very many people. During my visits to a number of parishes, I remind many people of how powerful media is for evangelization. Let us look at it this way; How many messages do you send or forward through WhatsApp per day? How many WhatsApp groups do you belong to and how many participants are in each group? If you were to send a Sunday Sermon message to all those friends of yours and those participants in the groups, imagine how far and wide that message would go. You will have preached to thousands of people in a second.

We have very powerful gadgets in our hands and yet we rarely use them for evangelization or sending impactful messages that build the society. We at BEAMS are teaching the young people to use this tool called a phone, using platforms like Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok etc to evangelize and to bring a positive change in the society especially among the youth. We can all do the same.

BEAMS is dedicated to uplifting the poor and needy youth who cannot afford training in expensive training institutions. This is our response to the call of the Gospel and our Holy Father who calls us to act, to “arise and go in haste” to support the youth and many people who are waiting for our response to their needs. You can be part of this project by supporting the poor who very much need to showcase their skills, and use media to tell their stories and to earn a living using their own God given talents. Please join us in supporting the youth. Help us help the youth and the needy in our society. BEAMS is open to the youth and to all those who want to develop their media skills.

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