National Youth Forum: “An Opportunity To Be Seized”

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From left to right is Kyle Prescod, Rhonnelle Smith, Damian Mascoll, Rashida Beckles of the Barbados Youth Development Council.?? ??

Several youth organisations have answered the call of the Ministry of Youth to mobilise the young people of Barbados for dialogue and action through the National Youth Forum.

One such volunteer is Rhonelle Smith, Special Projects Officer at the Barbados Youth Development Council (BYDC).?? The self-described "youth facilitator" has called on all young people and persons interested in youth development to work together to honour and empower our youth, as the Forum’s theme highlights.

The Forum has been designed by the Ministry to be a modern tool for the development of young people, by engaging them in constructive discussion, providing them with opportunities for leadership, showcasing their talents and enabling them to participate in the formulation of policies and programmes for their development and that of the nation.

Ms Smith was, however, quick to outline that there is no specific type of young person that the Forum was looking to recruit.?? "…Step up and say I want to be a part of this.?? I want a hand in shaping my community and I want to interact with the other young people, see how things are done across the country, find out what is working, what’s not working.?? We need to be as positive and productive as possible because the forum will be what we make it," Ms. Smith pointed out.

The young activist urged all young persons to come out and get involved, particularly after the launch at the Wildey Gymnasium on July 4.??

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??"Young people need to come out and feel the energy and connect, because it will be the start of one of the greatest things that Barbadians would have seen in a while.?? .?? Now a number of agencies will be working together with the Ministry of Youth, Family and Sports that will be driving this initiative, but it is the young people who will be shaping it.?? They will be making it as powerful and relevant as they think it should be, so I would like young people to come out and get involved", she opined.

While acknowledging that reaching all youth might be a challenge, Ms. Smith was confident that they could be convinced by other young people to see the forum?? as a place to "make things happen" and to interact with persons from all backgrounds, persuasions and levels.?? The goal is to make young people into leaders in their own right.??

The BYDC serves as the national umbrella organisation for youth groups on the island and as such, saw it as critical to be involved in the National Youth Forum.?? The non-profit organisation has been leading the charge in the communities.?? "We have also reached out to young people who are not members of groups or organizations, because there are a lot of young people who are members of the BYDC but who do not have any affiliation with a recognised organsiation as such," she said.

Ms. Smith revealed that the BYDC had been flooded with calls when the launch of the forum was postponed due to inclement weather on June 20.?? There was some positive gain from that disappointment, however.?? The BYDC special projects officer explained:?? "From that [postponement] we got more people involved in the planning.?? The response has been quite good.?? The launch is supposed to say to Barbados this is

a major opportunity.?? This is why there is so much hype around the launch itself.?? At the

launch there are going to be so many young people…, gathering information from those present… we want to get a sense of who’s interested, what their background is, what their interests are so they will be questionnaires being handed out."

Soon after the launch there will be a series of business meetings to decide on the constitution of the Forum, to have leaders emerge and to explore solutions to the challenges facing the youth.?? However, she maintained that there will be scope for the involvement of advisors as well.

A number of youth groups have a stake in making the Forum a success, including members of the guilds of the Barbados Community College and University of the West Indies, a number of church organisations, the CARICOM youth ambassadors and student council members.

"This is a golden opportunity… in many territories the young people or people in general do not have this kind of opportunity so I would say seize it and make sure that you are a part of a process that is going to develop Barbados way beyond today," Ms. Smith asserted.

For further information on the National Youth Forum, persons can visit the website www.nationalyouthforum.org or telephone the Ministry of Youth, Family and Sports at 430-2813. lbayley@barbados.gov.bb

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