Thursday, August 21, 2008

Listening to the Voices of Youth

By Cynthia Price, Director of Communications
We are now in The Gambia. A brief plane ride (less than 30 minutes gets us to this country that is carved out of the middle of Senegal.

Although it is the rainy season, we had encountered little rain in Senegal and virtually none in Dakar. However, it’s a different story here in The Gambia. The rains are definitely upon us. At times the rain beats down so hard it is difficult to hear.

We travel to Kaira Nyining Federation, which is a short drive from the CCF Gambia National Office. By the time we arrive, the rains have stopped. The mud, however, is everywhere and we step carefully.

The rains create a good backdrop, though, for the morning’s presentation. “It is very appropriate to have so much water today,” Anne says, “because water is life and the youth are the life of the community.”

We are in the federation’s building and in the front sit the community’s leaders. In the back are the youth. One day soon, those same youth will be sitting in the front as the leaders of the community. These youth are part of the Combo East Youth and Children Development Association.

Omar Cham, a youth who is active in the association, gives an overview of the highly successful program. He shares how CCF has assisted youth in a variety of capacities, including paying for school fees or building homes.

He notes, “As youth we believe in coming together to participate in support for our health. We don’t want to be school drop-outs. We have the opportunity to go to school, which is the key to life.”

He shares how many of the youth are involved in Junior Achievement, a program new to The Gambia, but one that is used in hundreds of schools in the United States. The youth also are exposed to information technology.

The youth also are participating in the first-ever youth and children cooperative credit union in the region. Currently there are 41 members. “We’re learning to save money,” Cham says. The credit union also gives them access to loans for their own economic empowerment and development.

Cham also talks about child protection and giving children a voice to speak out and reduce risk of violence and abuse. He said activities such as quizzes, debates and drama competitions help children improve their self-confidence and esteem.

No comments: