Category Archives: Youth Participation

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

Advertisements

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.

Youth – A Lost Economic Generation?

A Lost Economic Generation does not have to become a Caribbean reality

During a recent debate in the Barbadian Parliament, an honourable member of the House spoke of the consequences of Barbados not having a viable economy. By his assessment, if the Barbadian economy is not managed well, the island faces the certain prospect of having a lost economic generation. Earlier this year similar sentiments were echoed at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. During that meeting, income disparity and social unrest were highlighted as major issues likely to affect the world economy in the next decade.  At the centre of this economic tragedy is the world’s youthful population or what the WEF described as a “lost generation”.  According to the WEF this generation consists of several young people thrown on to the job market who lack jobs and skills and are increasingly frustrated. Similar sentiments were echoed by the United Kingdom’s Royal College of General Practitioners, who revealed that they were seeing an alarming number of 15 to 34-year olds suffering from depression, stress and anxiety due to the economic recession in the UK.

The Caribbean is not isolated

Barbados, like the rest of the Caribbean, is in no way isolated from this economic nightmare. Our young people too are facing significant challenges with diminished job prospects and constraints on the former luxuries of being able to switch jobs. Employers have the upper hand as they can reduce wages due to the high demand for jobs and oversupply of labour. With limited experience, many young people are either bypassed or forced to take lower wages.

Even for those who are able to obtain jobs, there is still some difficulty.  A  2009 study by the Economic Policy Institute entitled Economic Scarring, noted that obtaining a job during an economic downturn could have negative psychological effects for years. This is due to the fact that many persons may not be working in their ideal job, coupled with limited prospects for training and advancement. In such circumstances these persons may resign themselves to that single experience as being their fate in life and not grasp other job opportunities which come along.

The Social and Economic impact on youth 

For young people there are other impacts such as delaying marriage or the purchase of a home because the financial stability is simply is not there. In the past, those pursuing tertiary education would have been spared the encumbrance of hefty student loans. However, with Caribbean governments juggling tight budgets, meeting the costs of university fees is simply not a priority like before. This scenario will likely lead to a generation of youth with high debt, this debt coupled with limited job prospects will no doubt cause further social dislocation.

How our youth can overcome 

All, however, is not lost for Caribbean young people facing these challenges. Human resource experts assessing this global situation have recommended that young people remain flexible and be willing to move and try different things. These experts also encourage youth to consider delaying certain material goals until such time as they have stronger job offers. In addition, continuing to upgrade one’s education with important and practical skills is also a sure way to increase one’s job prospects.

Another solution to the unemployment situation is entrepreneurship. The G20 Young Entrepreneurs Summit of 2013 was held under the theme ‘Avoiding a lost Generation’. This summit of young entrepreneurs from some of the world’s most advanced economies reflected on the economic situation affecting youth. Coming out of the summit, entrepreneurship was identified as the main tool to tackle the youth unemployment situation and to increase economic growth for countries across the world. However, some of the barriers cited in achieving this include a lack of entrepreneurship education, tax and regulatory systems which prove extremely prohibitive to potential entrepreneurs and inadequate investment funding.

The G20 Youth Summit made certain recommendations which should be followed by Caribbean countries. These include expanding funding alternatives for young businesses as well as quality mentorship and business support services. In addition, embracing a culture where young entrepreneurs are celebrated, even if their businesses fail, providing incentives and reducing red tape and excessive taxation are all seen as critical to a youth-led economic recovery.

Beyond promoting entrepreneurship as a viable economic solution, both private and public sector entities across the Caribbean need to offer youth quality internship and apprenticeship opportunities. Too often youth are criticised for not having what it takes to enter the workforce. Yet they are offered few practical opportunities to boost their skills and experience. Corporations must realise that employing youth, even within internship programmes, can be a significant investment to a company’s sustainability. Such programmes also benefit the country’s social and economic stability by producing a stronger pool of workers and making it more attractive for potential foreign investors.

Whether or not we wish to admit it, this is a special time in which the Caribbean finds itself. The promise of economic prosperity and an improved standard of living have, to an extent, been realised with the Independence project. Yet, there is a very certain threat of these gains being eroded. The public, private sector and civil society organisations must therefore play their part in helping to overcome this daunting prospect.

Increased consciousness 

Of course, our young people too must also become more cognisant of the issues facing them. Gone are the days of finding a ‘good job’ after completing one’s secondary or tertiary schooling. Our youth must get a greater understanding of the difficult global environment in which they are competing for scarce jobs and even business ventures. They must have a keen eye focused both on the local and international landscape and be willing to work harder and smarter with the aim of exploiting all opportunities.

The Caribbean’s youth must find their voice, agitate for change, embrace new ideas and be the leaders of innovation and creativity in Caribbean society. Indeed, if this is done, a lost economic generation will not become our reality.

What do you think are the best strategies for

increasing youth participation in building prosperous economies? 

PROMOTING CHILD RIGHTS – 9 years of the CCRC

November is a special month in Jamaica not only because it is celebrated as Youth Month but also because it is the time of year when SALISES, Mona hosts the annual Caribbean Child Research Conference (CCRC) in Kingston. This year, the conference was convened over two days from 5th -6th November under the theme “Promoting the Rights of Children with Disabilities”.

50/50 Youth Chair, Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts, spent time at the conference engaging in discussion with some 400 participants on various aspects of the context of policies and programmes for children with disabilities. The CCRC is a unique forum for child participation in research and so we sat down with Dr. Aldrie Henry Lee who is a Senior Fellow at SALISES Mona and the Chair of the annual conference to find out more about the CCRC. Dr. Henry Lee is also Chair of the SALISES Social Policy Cluster and an associated of 50/50 Youth.

Calling all primary and secondary school students! Click to Like the CCRC Facebook Page and learn more about attending next year – maybe you will be the next Outstanding Child Researcher!  🙂

…STAY TUNED for clips from interviews with the top researchers seen here posing with their prizes

Young Leaders in Research - the 2014 Top Child Researchers

Young Leaders in Research – the 2014 outstanding Child Researchers posing with their prizes.

SPOTLIGHT on Youth Participation through Volunteerism

Onyka Barrett – a partner in youth development and contributor to 50/50 Youth –  shares a perspective in the following SPOTLIGHT on the nexus between volunteerism and youth participation. Onyka Barrett is  the Regional Advisor/Programme Manager for National Volunteering (Caribbean) at Cuso International

Volunteerism: A vehicle for Mobilizing Youth Participation

Social integration, poverty alleviation and employment are at the heart of people’s participation in their societies (UNV 2011). As such a key dimension of poverty is a lack of voice and participation.

In the Caribbean, the voices of young women and men, especially those living in poverty, are often excluded from their society’s development agenda and this exclusion serves to foster a cycle of poverty, disenfranchising their ability to make positive decisions for themselves, families & communities.

The process of inclusion is especially important for youth to help them experience the sense of belonging and responsibility to become productive citizens and active participants in their society. Moreover, it influences young people’s perception of their ability to achieve their dreams and aspirations. Research conducted by CIVICUS, IAVE and UNV concludes that volunteerism is an important strategy for fostering people’s participation in social change and shaping development[1].

The fourth action point of the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (PAYE) speaks to “Promoting the participation of young people in decision-making”. Volunteerism has been identified as a critical tool to support youth involvement in Decision Making.

Cuso International is an international development organization that works to reduce poverty and inequality through the efforts of skilled volunteers. As practitioners in the field of development through volunteerism, we believe that volunteers can share expertise and perspectives, and help to unlock potential wherever they are. For over fifty (50) years, Cuso International volunteers have worked with local partner organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, creating lasting impact on projects within the following sectors: Health, Education, Participation & Governance, Secure Livelihoods & Natural Resource Management, Gender & Climate Change.

At a time in the Caribbean region when young men and women are disproportionately affected by poverty, inequality, unemployment and crime, we see volunteerism as an effective vehicle for allowing these young persons to also input to the decision-making processes, policies and practices that influence these social conditions. As an organisation we see our role as one to strengthen the capacity of relevant institutions to ensure they are better able to create a space for continued input of the youth voice, through the fulfilment of their organisational mandates.

Image

The RISE Youth group delivers a dramatic presentation on the importance of volunteerism during Cuso International’s Caribbean Regional Symposium on National Volunteerism held on 25th October, 2013, held in Kingston, Jamaica.

Volunteerism is also a valuable tool for increasing employability skills, improving livelihoods and demonstrating active citizenship.

As such, alongside our international volunteering programme, we work with local partners to help them create or co-ordinate their own volunteering programmes. In this way, we have contributed to creating opportunities for young Jamaicans and Guyanese to engage in volunteerism as a way to own the process of development and influence decision-making processes. Over the past 50 years we have built an approach to improving participation & governance through volunteerism. This includes:

  • Working in partnership – We do not recruit local volunteers, but rather use our expertise to help our partner organisations create and run their own volunteering programmes.
  • Promoting active citizenship, learning, innovation and networking through volunteerism.
  • Advocating for enabling policy and legal environments conducive to the growth of in-country volunteering initiatives.
  • Engaging in reflective learning and knowledge sharing processes.
  • Working with the private sector –  increasing knowledge and awareness of the mechanisms for and value of supporting volunteering as an effective and sustainable tool to fight poverty and disadvantage
  • Promoting effective gender equality programming

As a part of Cuso’s strategy for youth empowerment across the region, we will expand our efforts for the empowerment of youth socially and economically to include five countries – Grenada, Dominica, Jamaica, Guyana and Belize. Apart from youth Participation, voice & volunteerism, we will also focus on Access to Justice and Entrepreneurship/Employment.

We envision a Caribbean region in which all young women and men, particularly the most marginalized and disadvantaged are active and responsible citizens within their societies and are valued as partners in the development process. We see volunteerism as a very effective tool for achieving this.

For more information on CUSO International initiatives, please contact:

Ms. Onyka Barrett – Regional Advisor/ Programme Manager, Cuso International in the Caribbean

onyka.barrett@cuso-lac.org; 1-876-929-8774


[1] CIVICUS, IAVE, UNV: Volunteering & Social Activitsm: Pathways for participation in human development, World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) and United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, 2007/8.

SPOTLIGHT: New Study on Youth Political Participation

Gerardo Berthin shares a new study he has prepared on youth political participation at local levels in Latin America which has been published by the UNDP Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean.

EXPLORING THE DYNAMICS OF YOUTH POLITICAL PARTICIPATION IN LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA

Image
(click on the image above to download study)

This study systematizes and documents the practices and experiences of youth political
participation at the local level in four municipalities of four countries in Latin America: Cartagena in Colombia; San Carlos in Nicaragua; Alajuelita in Costa Rica; and El Cercado, in the Dominican Republic. It analyses the main trends, opportunities and challenges facing youth participation at the local level, from the perspectives of the stakeholders themselves of these 4 localities, which comprise a group of young men and women between the ages of 18 and 28.

The study shows that in respect of opportunities and challenges for youth political participation, it is equally important to focus on inputs from individuals as it is to focus on social organizations. This may be important in understanding how young people provide inputs and under what conditions. That is, it is important to analyse the virtuous circle of firstly, how and why young people perceive the openness of organizations in their context (whether political, social, international, educational or religious) to their demands, concerns, interest and participation; secondly, how this generates commitment and participation; and finally how this translates into the youth seeing their voice reflected in political processes and their results. The study supports the approach taken in the UN System Wide Action Plan on Youth (SWAP).

For more information contact gerardo.berthin@undp.org or luis.ruiz@undp.org, and visit the UNDP Regional Bureau’s Democratic Governance Knowledge and Service Platform.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Children and Young People’s Participation Rights in Residential Care

Khadijah Williams-Peters – a member of the 50/50 Youth Cluster – shares with us a little about her current research…

Hi,

I am currently completing doctoral studies on children and young people’s (CYP) participation rights in Trinidad and Tobago. I have spent over two years observing decision making processes related to the day-to-day lives of children in care. My study also involves reviews of policy making processes affecting them and participation models in several countries including the UK, Sweden, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, South and West Africa, the US and Ireland so that a broad, cultural understanding can be achieved. Hopefully, an indigenous approach to operationalising children’s participation rights can be understood and applied, starting with the most vulnerable group of CYP.

In addition to being a student and lecturer, I am also a practitioner as you might have read on my profile, which means that I am constantly working to integrate theory and practice. My most recent project has been with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Trinidad and Tobago (an NGO), where I have developed a training model for mentors working with children in care. The model integrates social pedagogy and children’s participation to build positive adult-child interactions. The children have been instrumental is shaping the mentorship experience by providing feedback on policies and procedures which affect their lives. I have also recently completed work with CYP in care, preparing them to transition from a large-scale institutional setting to a small-scale family environment. The participatory approach I used was useful in helping the CYP to contribute to the living arrangements and organisation of their new space. This is work in progress… In fact, participation work with CYP is always work in progress.

In June 2013, I visited Investing in Children in Durham, UK, one of the leading agencies in the UK which promotes CYP participation, where I was able to get a feel of how CYP participation rights is operationalised. This organisation provides some useful examples of what is needed to make CYP participation really work. For instance, the experience of that organisation demonstrates that the following are needed to support participation work:

  • a good understanding of power relations;
  • adult willingness and preparedness to share power with children and to discard unhealthy assumptions about children and young people being incompetent;  and
  • adequate human and financial resources.

Against the background of my ongoing research, I wonder  how others view children and youth participation (CYP). So, let me end with a question for reflection:

When we talk about CYP participation, as adults, are we really ready to listen to children and young people, ready to take their views seriously by incorporating their ideas into plans, and to invest the necessary time to ensure that their participation is meaningful and share power with them?