The life skills course Operation Mercy runs in schools, colleges and universities is initiating discussions and making students think critically about topics that are very rarely spoken about, i.e. HIV and Aids, anti-human trafficking, suicide prevention, crisis pregnancy and addictions.
Working in partnership with local education institutions, more than 2,000 student go through various parts of this program each year. Approximately 85% of these students have never heard this kind of information before, about the risks that they face, how they can be avoided and the stigma that they carry.
Although Kazakhstan has approximately 23,000 people living with HIV (UNAIDS 2015), it is considered a taboo subject to speak about. The interactive seminars provide a way for students to learn about living with HIV and AIDS, its transmission and prevention. The students learn that it is a disease that can affect anyone and they don't need to be afraid of those that have it.
Anti-Human Trafficking seminars provide an opportunity to challenge common understanding of human trafficking and opens students' eyes to the reality of trafficking in their own neighbourhoods. For some students, attending an Operation Mercy seminar was the first time they realised trafficking wasn’t only something that happened to people far away, but that it was also something that could happen to them.
Operation Mercy also runs seminars on Crisis Pregnancies and Suicide Prevention. These seminars aim to grow the capacity of young people to cope with these difficulties and empower their immediate networks to offer the necessary support.
Often through partnership with the institutions, once the students have been taught lessons, they are then expected to be teaching others what they have learnt so there is a continuation of learning and the knowledge spreads to the families and communities of the students.
Operation Mercy is also involved in working with local government in running seminars and training that is relevant to the social and community work they are involved in. This includes training for social workers on topics such as self-care and caring for those with disabilities.