Category Archives: Youth Work

Time is Precious…

A letter from Kevin Ousman, VCTT Volunteer Impact Leader… 

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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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Professionalisation of Youth Work in the Caribbean

Do you think of youth work as a profession?

I imagine many people still view working with young people, especially in communities, clubs and associations, as an informal and voluntary activity undertaken by unskilled but kind-hearted people who want to support wayward teens. On the other hand, police officers, teachers, social workers, nurses and doctors who work exclusively with children and young people are regarded as professionals, by virtue of the training they have received in their respective skill areas. Yet, these professionals have recognised the need for support from a separate cadre of workers who have specialised skills in promoting the holistic empowerment and development of young people. There are therefore unique areas of knowledge, skills and attitudes which support the role of a youth worker in:

  • Working directly with youth, individually and in groups;
  • Managing projects and programmes as well as human and financial resources, and
  • Developing, implementing and evaluating policies and plans on behalf of youth to ensure responsiveness to youth needs.

Youth work is therefore a profession. This was the premise of the recently convened Commonwealth Conference on Education and Training of Youth Workers (CCETYW) in South Africa, 18th -20th March, 2013. Under the patronage of the Presidency of South Africa and in partnership with the South African National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), the University of South Africa (UNISA) and the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP), youth workers, academics, young people and representatives of governmental and non-governmental agencies met to discuss strategies for promoting the professionalisation of youth work across the Commonwealth.

The Caribbean has been making good progress on the professionalisation agenda. With the support of the CYP Caribbean Centre and in particular, Programme Manager, Mrs. Glenyss James, three delegates from Jamaica, were able to join other Caribbean delegates from Barbados and Nevis at the CCETYW to share our experiences of advocacy for youth development work professionalisation.

Paulette Dunn-Smith of the Caribbean Career and Professional Development Institute shared the participatory process of codifying the specific competencies – that, is the specialist knowledge, skills and attitudes of the professional youth development worker – to produce a set of regionally and nationally-endorsed Competency Standards for Youth Development Work in the Caribbean. 

Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts reflected on the professionalisation agenda by outlining how the University of the West Indies, used the standards to develop the curriculum for the first degree-level training programme for youth development work – the BSc in Youth Development Work offered across the Caribbean through the UWI Open Campus. The new degree programme supplements professional training programmes at certificate and diploma levels by enhancing the opportunities for developing the leadership and management cadres in youth development work.

Tanya Merrick Powell of the Jamaica Professional Youth Workers Association (JPYWA) shared on the role of youth work professionals in developing the competency standards and their application to the degree programme and the work of the JPYWA in supporting professional development of its members towards improved youth development outcomes.

Were you aware of all that has been done, and is being done, in the Caribbean to ensure that youth workers are more effective in supporting youth development and youth empowerment?

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The professionalisation agenda in the Caribbean continues as we seek to raise awareness of the profession and build the competencies of those who work with youth.

In her presentation in the Opening Plenary CCETYW, Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts reflected on the way in which the synergies among the standardisation, curriculum development and professionalisation activities have supported three positive approaches to connecting youth workers, promoting growth of youth workers and promoting excellence in youth work.

Connect, Grow Excel Approaches and Outcomes

Those approaches have produced positive outcomes in regional youth development  including supporting regional cooperation and partnership; capacity-building of higher education institutions; strengthening of the professional competencies of current and future leaders in youth development work by emphasising praxis and reflective practice in the training professionals who think AND do; and finally the production of graduates who will support a transformation in the Caribbean youth development landscape – or the “youthscape”.

Please connect with us by commenting here at 50/50 Youth to let us know where we need to do more research in relation to youth development work, professionalisation and education and training!

Looking forward to hearing from you.