LaraIn 2013 social networks and the internet are at the fingertips of most people. Movies and DVD’s are ordered online. Shopping is done online. Even socializing happens online! As a matter of fact, the majority of our lives are encapsulated in a cell phone or computer.

More than ever before, technology influences young people, how they communicate, how they learn, how they spend their time, it even contributes to shaping their identities. We cannot afford to underestimate the major impact that technology has on the lives of the youth. Therefore it is important that we use the marvel that is technology to reach the young people out there. This is why FAMSA has started to create a presence online. We have to stay relevant and meet our clients at their level.

We are in the process of developing a platform for emotional support where the youth can feel free to safely chat to a professional counsellor online.

Mxit was selected as a partner for this initiative, because it is a free instant messenger service that allows its users to stay anonymous. With 50 million users, it is considered to be Africa’s biggest social network so FAMSA is able to reach more people than ever before. Because Mxit users can stay anonymous while chatting to counsellors online, we believe that users will feel comfortable to share their emotional difficulties with. Once trust is established the user can be encouraged to go for face to face counselling.

The online programme was initiated in 2011. It was then called JamiiX.  JamiiX served as a platform for Mxit users to chat to professional counsellors.

Unfortunately JamiiX was discontinued. A new programme called Reach Live is being developed which will assist us in giving online emotional support to users.

The online chat programme will allow us to reach a large number of people in a qualitative and cost-effective way. We will be able to give emotional support, advice and referrals to members of communities who do not have other means of  accessing  FAMSA services  or do not have the motivation to approach FAMSA. The programme will assist us in our quest to build and sustain positive and functional relationships in our society.

In the meantime, Mxit made it possible for FAMSA to build our own App. The FAMSA PE App is very exciting as it allows thousands of people access to valuable information and serves as a medium of social education and awareness about many relevant topics.

The app is growing every day – currently we have 2650 members, which means 2650 people have downloaded the app to their phones.

We try to keep the app relevant and up to date by regularly uploading articles and blogs. We have a weekly poll which gives us the opportunity to learn more about the needs of the users and we respond appropriately. The app also has fun and motivational content such as pictures and quotes. Who doesn’t APP-reciate a motivational quote on your phone during a rough day?

Search for FAMSA PE on Mxit or go to http://render.launch.mxit.com/famsape to download the App.

This tool is only in the beginning phase, yet it has already enabled us to add value to many people’s lives. We believe that the tool will open doors for FAMSA and has the potential to revolutionise the helping profession.

By Lara Hayward

Counselor and Youth Development facilitator  at FAMSA.