Time is Precious…

A letter from Kevin Ousman, VCTT Volunteer Impact Leader… 


Hard at work for others – Kevin Ousman, VCTT Volunteer Impact Leader and 2017 Volunteer of the Year

Time is precious. It sounds cliché but there is one fundamental thing I’ve learnt while volunteering. Time spent doing something for a cause that you believe in, for no expected reward or gain, just…..feels more precious. Let me expound a little more on what I mean.  At present I don’t have too many long term goals and that can be an extremely unsettling feeling. Of course I know I want to live comfortably and have a family one day, but charting the actual way forward is often challenging. Chasing my original dream of travelling the world and experiencing cultures is a nice ideal but often feels significantly out of reach.  Outside of my professional life, I try to keep active and have my fair share of hobbies; but, where I’m truly at peace is when I can see myself interacting with people and making a positive contribution to someone. Whether that entails assisting an NGO with a specific project or directly aiding someone in distress, I truly love volunteering and wish I did it more often. In fact, sometimes I wish I could do it full time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every time you volunteer you will feel as if you are making a difference. I’m also not saying that you have to volunteer purely out of selflessness. Volunteering can open avenues for a wide variety of meaningful experiences and connections for furthering one’s development (social/professional/health, etc.) and forming relationships with fellow volunteers. Feeling a rush of satisfaction and happiness is a reward in itself. Of course, working with people of different personalities and organizations with different structures can be challenging, especially when you’re dealing with someone else’s passion project. Participating in some projects may seem like you aren’t really making a difference or doing much at all, when in actuality, your service means the world to that organization/person to which you are dedicating your time. So, make sure that when you do decide to volunteer, you choose something that you are passionate about or which falls under your scope of interest (or not – stepping out of your comfort zone can sometimes work wonders). That way, if things don’t go according to plan or you feel a bit jaded, you can refocus on the general goal, or even turn your sights onto other opportunities.

At times when people contact me to volunteer with VCTT they express to me that ‘they don’t have any experience’. There will always be a bit of apprehension as to whether you are suited for the particular assignment, and after volunteering for quite a number of years, I still feel the same apprehension sometimes. However, at VCTT we believe that there is a volunteer in everyone. We may not see the things we do as ‘volunteering’ but, if you operate under my personal definition (that anything you do for someone, without expecting anything in return, which utilizes your own resources, is volunteering), then we have all been or are volunteers in some capacity.

The Volunteer Center of Trinidad and Tobago (VCTT) operates under the mission of connecting people, fueling hope and collaborating for change.  We provide a service which makes volunteering an enjoyable and engaging experience for both our partner organizations and most importantly, our volunteers. 

Our focus has been on intimately supporting partner projects that are in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals; we believe that volunteerism is a key cornerstone of sustainable societies and in bridging societal gaps that can divide us as a people.  In addition to our work linking volunteers to partner NGOs/CBOs, we also have numerous projects of our own all geared towards the upliftment of the spirit of volunteering within Trinidad and Tobago as well as the wider Caribbean.

VCTT aims to ignite the spirit of volunteering in every home.

We believe that volunteering is inherent in humanity and maybe we can help persons realize that in the work we do. It is likely that most homes already have volunteers who simply don’t associate their good deeds with the term. We Trinbagonians saw that recently after the flooding events! And that gives me a warm feeling of hope and assurance that as a global people, we can take care of one another and try to enable each other’s positive ideals for the betterment of a global community.

Maybe volunteering still seems a daunting prospect for a variety of reasons. Everyone has their own challenges and situations and may not be able to give of their time as much as they’d truly like to and that’s okay. I do warmly encourage you to register on our web platform www.vctt.org (and kindly spread the word for others to do so) so that you can be notified of our current and upcoming projects, and who knows, maybe one day you’ll see something that grabs your attention. If you belong to an NGO/CBO and believe that you support a cause that can effect positive change, and require volunteers, register with us also!

Warm Regards,


We launched U-Report Jamaica because the youth told us to!

U-Report Youth Council Horizontal_Horizontal

U-Report Youth Team Council members: Dominic Mcintyre, Hakeem Bryan, Danielle Mullings, Rasheem Martin, Loteshea Hutchinson and Brithney Black (not pictured).

Post by Ross Sheil, UNICEF Digital Media Consultant

U-Report is a social messaging tool, pioneered by UNICEF, that is designed to give Jamaican youth a greater voice on issues of national importance. The tagline for U-Report is actually Voice Matters! In May, Jamaica became the first country in the Caribbean to launch U-Report, joining a movement of over 5 million U-Reporters.

How it works:

U-Reporters sign up voluntarily. There are currently two ways for anyone aged 13-29 to become a U-Reporter:

  • SMS: Thanks to support from FLOW, their customers can sign up free via SMS, no data plan needed. Just message the word “JOIN” to 876-838-4897.
  • Facebook Messenger: simply open the app and search for @ureportmessenger and begin the conversation.

On signing up, only three questions are asked: gender, age and parish. We do not ask for names because the data we collect is anonymous. Once signed up, the new U-Reporter starts receiving polls, which are sent twice a month. Each poll is delivered as a message conversation, i.e. we send a question and the replies prompt auto-generated responses from us until the poll is complete. A U-Report poll sent in the morning currently gains at least 500 replies by the end of the first day.

A team of young people help to run U-Report. This includes sharing their ideas on topics and questions for polls. Organisations are welcome to suggest polls on relevant issues affecting children and youth.

The data from U-Report polls is made available to the public in real-time on our website. We share results with colleagues, the media and partners, including government and NGOs.

Why it matters:

At the heart of U-Report is an acknowledgement that youth need to have a say in decisions about their own lives, and that, typically, decision-makers don’t ask for their perspectives.

Since our launch, more than 3,800 U-Reporters have opted-in. They’ve shared their voices on a range of issues. So far, the poll on Youth Mental Health and Suicide had the biggest response – with 1,090 U-Reporters weighing in – and kicked off a national discussion on the issue.

What’s next?

We are experimenting and learning! We know for a fact that the more we engage youth and stakeholders, the more effective U-Report can become. We’ve run hands-on sessions with youth to do custom/private polling, and done polls on behalf of partner organisations – requests are welcome! We are adding a new channel soon that we hope will significantly expand our pool of U-Reporters. And we are looking at how we can ensure that poll results lead to strong advocacy and tangible results.

Child Rights and Child Protection in Low Resourced Settings: Case studies from Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica

Khadijah PresentationDr. Khadijah Williams, 50/50 Youth Cluster member, presented at the 2018 Caribbean Child Research Conference (CCRC) at UWI, St. Augustine as part of her Village Academy Jamaica Team. Her focus was on child protection in low resourced settings, stemming from an ethnographic study and participatory action research completed in residential child care in Trinidad and Tobago and a social agricultural intervention in rural Jamaica with children and young people (CYP). Key messages to educators, practitioners and policymakers from her presentation included:

  • The importance of focusing on CYP participation, such that they develop skills for self-protection, especially in settings where specialist skills are lacking. Providing opportunities for CYP to take responsibility in their spaces provides great opportunities for developing agency, developing confidence and learning by trial and error in a managed space.
  • The importance of focusing on the quality of training for practitioners working in low resourced settings with emphasis on critical thinking, cultural sensitivity, advocacy, care ethics, innovative thinking, negotiation and networking skills. Practitioners should be equipped to successfully navigate the challenges associated with marginalised groups, thereby reducing the inequity that exists using their skills. The intellectual and caring qualities of practitioners are therefore vital to child protection. Colleges, universities and other training centres need to address the challenges of graduates not being adequately prepared to work in child welfare/protection due to curriculum deficiencies. By this, there needs to be psychological testing of potential candidates as well as training programmes which include critical self-reflection through human skills labs for the duration of training, an enhanced presentation of social work/child protection to candidates who are less inclined to become disillusioned upon beginning practice/training (requires adequate orientation to the profession), specialist training and post qualification training, regulation of practitioners as students and professionals. Students in this field should also be accountable to standards of practice by a local body through registration and licensure.
  • Creative and strategic ways of “indigenizing” practices of child welfare and child protection by interpreting and applying to the culture what are relevant practices. In training, managing practice requires a good understanding of how to interpret the realities of child welfare and protection and how policies and practices can be adapted to ensure that the best interests of children are paramount.
  • A problem exists in how the concept of ‘child rights’ and ‘child protection’ are interpreted. Child rights has not been received well in the Caribbean and is seen as a threat to adult authority. At the same time, people are concerned about the welfare of children but child protection services are not receiving the support they need from the wider public. Similar experiences are seen in other countries such as Canada, the USA and the UK, particularly among minority groups who hold on to their indigenous child care practices. Child protection has been problematised and if not managed well, excludes the majority of children who are out of state care and also require protection and nurturing so that they can enjoy successful lives. While a child rights approach is welcomed, it should be applied with caution, taking into account adults’ perception of it, children’s agency and their everyday experiences. A more positive, balanced and consistent approach to promoting child rights and child protection by policy makers, educators and practitioners is therefore required.

Khadijah Presentation 2In general, an argument for a less paternalistic approach to child rights/child protection/child welfare is being proposed in order for innovation and adaptability to take place in low resourced settings. However, this must be supported by robust safeguarding policies and practices, which are monitored by both practitioners, managers and CYP themselves.

Khadijah Williams is an educator, sociologist and social work practitioner, specialising in the welfare and protection of children and young people.

What’s in a Celebration?

How important do you think it is to dedicate specific days, weeks or months to commemorating an event or celebrating a person, idea or goal? Throughout the year we are all encouraged to participate in activities to mark various national or international days of awareness, commemoration or celebration for various causes. Among them, are several times to celebrate the contribution of young people and pay attention to the diversity of concerns they have.

In August, we celebrated International Youth Day and in September, we celebrated Caribbean Youth Day, and each Caribbean country has organised, throughout the year, special events for youth during their own dedicated national youth month observations.

Do these celebrations make a difference? At 50/50 Youth we believe that everyday is a day to acknowledge and share good practice; to create spaces for people to speak up for their causes; and to speak up for those who need help sharing their ideas.

This November – celebrated as Youth Month in several Caribbean countries like Jamaica and St. Kitts and Nevis – SALISES will pay tribute to youth-led organisations and youth-serving organisations doing great things to improve lives. They are examples of groups which #LevelUp for young people everyday.

Level Up Jamaica Youth Month 2018

We hope you will join in the celebration and post your own tributes to people and groups who #LevelUp in Youth Development.

Happy International Youth Day 2018!

Happy International Youth Day from all members of SALISES 50/50 Youth!

Today we celebrate the positive energies and contributions of young people and thank all who create #SafeSpaces4Youth – whether physical, virtual, spiritual, emotional – so that they can continue to transform our world for the better.

Special blessings to young people across the Caribbean working for positive political, social, economic and environmental development.

The Caribbean Forum on Population, Youth and Development, 24-26 July, 2018


A technical forum is now underway in Georgetown, Guyana to discuss strategic directions for youth development issues in the Caribbean region. Follow the details HERE.

20180724_094018The Forum of youth leaders and youth development practitioners in government and civil society from 14 countries has been convened by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Guyana.

Sessions include discussions on effective implementation of youth policies; progress on key population and development issues; mobilizing youth to advance the 2030 Agenda; and exchanges of best practices in youth development.

The opening discussion on “The Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes +20: A Progress Report on the Caribbean” provided an opportunity for stakeholders to comment on a very useful synthesis report on the state of youth policies in the region. The report was prepared by Catarina Camarinhas of ECLAC and Dwynette Eversley, International Youth Development Specialist and member of 50/50 Youth!!

Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts offered the following remarks on the report and suggestions for discussion during the Forum:

Remarks on “The Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes +20: A Progress Report on the Caribbean”

I come to this discussion from the perspective of a politician – that is, of a political scientist. 🙂 So my interest is in the elements of the report which relate to the governance and institutional framework for implementation and monitoring of youth policies.

From the valuable review presented – it appears that we have made some commendable progress in the region, in respect of the types of youth policies developed. There is at least an understanding of the importance of participatory, evidence-informed, results-oriented policy formulation processes. There has also been an increase in the profile of youth policies – though not sufficient – with evidence of effective national championing of youth policy. The 50/50 Youth Cluster at the University of the West Indies – which I represent is pleased by these developments and congratulates all governments and citizens.

However, the report has highlighted some challenges reported by member countries in relation to implementation and monitoring and evaluation – which I would like to suggest are priorities for discussion at the Forum.

Before I propose the priorities for discussion, permit me to just make a brief comment on the matter of conceptualisation of youth policies. I believe that the foundational ideas that inform our understanding of the nature and purpose of policy, ultimately affect implementation processes. Therefore, we must ask, what is a youth policy? The report notes that (p.66) “A national youth policy may be defined in simplest terms as the sum of all the initiatives aimed at young citizens….” (p.66). The report then goes on to give a more sophisticated qualification of that definition pointing to the essential features of an effective youth policy. However, many of us are still stuck on that first definition – youth policy as merely the collation of a list of activities targeting youth. But, if that were true, it would include some of the negative activities targeted at youth – gang recruitment etc 🙂

If we really wish to change the way we work towards positive development outcomes for young people, we need to view youth policy as more than a sum of activities. Youth policy must be seen as a political statement of the national consensus around the desired role of young people in society; a commitment to investment in their development as an imperative for sustainability; and as technical guidance to all government entities (as well as other stakeholders) on how to maximise that role. It is not a preventative measure, but rather, a catalyst for national development. When viewed in this way, youth policy directs us to look at Implementation and Monitoring and Evaluation differently. My broad priorities for discussion in this forum are:

1. Implementation

a. What is the status of the “Partnership Commitments” required by the WPAY for youth mainstreaming? Who are the partners and how are these partnerships being coordinated? How would the Caribbean Youth Platform play a role in coordinating inter-agency partnerships for development involving youth?

a. How are youth policies seeking to give direction to national development more broadly?We must now focus on building the professional and technical capacity of Departments of Youth Affairs to play that role of guiding development policy in a wide range of sectors and contributing to operational plans of other Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The Youth Officer may not necessarily engage as a sector specialist but as a youth worker with an understanding of the heterogeneity of young people; the best practices in engaging them; and the intersectional approaches required for positive youth development. In the areas of Environment and Climate Change, Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Legislation – which the review report highlights are not adequately covered in national youth policies –  how are youth Departments influencing policy-making in those areas? Do they have the capacity?

b. Coordinated and Sustainable Financing of Youth Development – Should we speak more about the Regional Youth Development Fund? Should we ask that national allocations from each line Ministry, Department or Agency be earmarked for young people, since everything is a youth issue?

2. Monitoring and Evaluation

a. Public Accountability Measures – how do we (and young people) access information about youth policy frameworks? And how accessible is that information to youth from a variety of linguistic, cultural and intellectual backgrounds? Public monitoring of policy implementation is as important as technical monitoring conducted by governments and other stakeholders in implementation. What role can various youth networks play in translating policy contents and progress updates for youth in a variety of contexts? What development communication tools should be used?

b. What role do the regional universities play in supporting M&E of youth policies and providing public information on the status of implementation? Is it time for a formal partnership on this?

Closing: As our populations age, as projected in the next two to three decades, we risk losing commitment to youth policy, if we do not establish its relevance through properly coordinated and integrated implementation.

NEW RESOURCE: The Missing Peace: Independent Progress Study on Youth and peace and security

The highly anticipated official Report of the Progress Study on Youth Peace and Security, called for under UN Security Resolution 2250 has been released. The report is entitled “The Missing Peace: Independent Progress Study on Youth and Peace and Security”

Drawing on a wide range of consultations around the word, including in the Caribbean, the study outlines the variety of ways in which young people contribute to peace and violence prevention and makes recommendations for sustaining peace through partnerships among citizens, governments and international and regional organisations.

Please read it here; share it widely; discuss and debate the findings and recommendations. Then, let’s advocate for the changes we want to make to the ways we work on “security” and “safety” in our communities, countries and regions. We can contribute the report’s recommended “seismic shift” in thinking and practice so as to recognise young people as the “missing peace” – an imperative to reaping a global peace dividend.

A longer version of the study will be released later this year which will offer more detailed findings and outline strategies for all stakeholders to engage with the agenda on youth peace and security (#Youth4Peace).

50/50 Youth is particularly pleased to share this report since our cluster Chair, Dr. Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts contributed to the research process as a member of the Advisory Group of Experts for the Study.

A Youth-Focused Commentary on “The Golding Report”

On Friday 16th February 2018, the UWI hosted a Vice-Chancellor’s Forum on “The Golding Report on CARICOM-Jamaica Relations”. The Forum provided an opportunity for a range of experts and commentators to outline their views on the recommendations made by the Commission and the implications for future engagement in CARICOM.

Chair of the 50/50 Youth Cluster Dr. Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts was one of the panellists and delivered remarks focused on the issues related to the the engagement of CARICOM citizens in the integration process, especially young people. Watch her presentation here:

Celebrating and Learning with Caribbean Youth Leaders #CYLS2017 #Yute4GPS






#CYLS2017 Participants with Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson-Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Jamaica; The Honourable Travis Robinson, Parliamentary Secretary in Ministry of Tourism and Aviation of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and Professor Trevor Munroe, Executive Director of the National Integrity Action. Photo Credit: National Integrity Action 

Members of the 50/50 Youth Cluster had the honour to support the 5th Caribbean Youth Leaders’ Summit #CYLS2017 in Runaway Bay, Jamaica from 30th September to 2nd October 2017.  The theme of the Summit was “Rerouting our GPS: Governance, Peace and Security”. #Yute4GPS

The Summit involved two tracks – one for youth capacity-building and strategy development (Youth Leaders’ Forum) and another for deliberation among key policy and financing stakeholders about how to support the youth development sector (Stakeholders Forum). 50/50 Youth provided technical and training support to both tracks, facilitating workshop sessions on Social Auditing, Youth Leadership in the Global South, Youth Mainstreaming to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the Contextual Realities of Youth Empowerment. 

Director of SALISES Mona, Professor Aldrie Henry Lee also engaged participants via a plenary plenary presentation on “Reaping the Demographic Dividend: Child Poverty (Un)Employment and Social Inclusion”.

The summit was hosted by the Government of Jamaica through the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and received additional support from the UNFPA, USAID, National Integrity Action and SALISES, University of the West Indies. This is the second year of partnership between SALISES and the Caribbean Regional Youth Council convene the regional summit. As Chair of the 50/50 Youth Cluster, Dr. Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts, indicated in her Welcoming Remarks, the partnership with CRYC is an important element of SALISES’ work to support the formulation of evidence-based solutions to development challenges facing small countries.

We look forward to future collaborations with CRYC and wish the new executive, elected parallel to the Summit at the General Assembly, great success in supporting National Youth Councils across the region.

Measuring Development, Again…the Global Youth Well-Being Index

The International Youth Foundation has launched its Global Youth Well-being Index covering 29 countries. Sorry, no SIDS included in this one . However, have a look at it here: http://www.youthindex.org/

There is increasing interest in producing quantitative indices to help measure the situation of young people and compare progress made across countries. This well-being index uses existing data from international sources (perhaps other youth indices) as well as data from a direct survey of youth. Indices can be powerful tools for policy dialogue and reflection on practice.

However, they don’t always help young people understand the local context of where they live. The SALISES #5050Youth Cluster has partnered with Ollin Jovenes en Movimiento, Mexico to localise the measurement of youth participation in the Caribbean region by creating an index which measures where and how young people participate in different sectors of society by surveying key institutions. In partnership with the Caribbean Regional Youth Council (CRYC) we have trained young people who will participate in compiling the index. Fundraising has been challenging #SmallStatesChallenges#FinancingDevelopmentResearch but partners like National Integrity Action in Jamaica are coming alongside and we hope to begin working on the Jamaica index soon.