Monthly Archives: November 2018

Time is Precious…

A letter from Kevin Ousman, VCTT Volunteer Impact Leader… 

vctt

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,

Kevin

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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.