August 12th marks International Youth Day, which aims to draw attention to the issues surrounding this key demographic. Global Communities is working with youth around the world through diverse programs that include encouraging democratic participation in local governance; building vocational skills and expanding employment opportunities; promoting peace and conflict resolution; supporting youth-headed households and other at-risk youth; and encouraging volunteerism, civic participation and environmental awareness.
Los Dioses are six young men from Libertad, San Onofre in the Montes de Maria region of northern Colombia. Marked by violence, massacres and massive population displacement, Montes de Maria was one of the regions most affected by the armed conflict in Colombia. What makes Los Dioses unique is that despite the challenges they see in their community – poverty, crime, mistrust – they choose to sing songs that encourage other young people to look beyond the circumstances around them. Singing from the heart, their song Soñadores (Dreamers) encourages young people in their community to choose a life beyond drugs, alcohol and gangs.
The song was produced through Afromúsica, an initiative developed to prevent illegal groups from recruiting children and youths by promoting values and leadership through art and music. Through Afromúsica, youth receive support and training in topics, not just related to music and the arts, but in areas such as psychosocial care, leadership and democratic values. Afromúsica is implemented by Global Communities through the USAID-funded Colombia Responde program. Learn more about Afromúsica here.
The Kiambiu informal settlement located in Nairobi, Kenya has a long history of violent conflict. That conflict turned tribal and political when post-election violence spread through Nairobi in 2007 and 2008. Kiambui bore the brunt of this violence, and since then its residents have divided themselves emotionally and physically among ethnic and party lines. Unfortunately, much of the violence and criminal activity that takes place is carried out by the youth of Kiambiu creating deep mistrust among youth of various ethnic and political affiliations.
With support from USAID, Global Communities is addressing the conflict between these various groups by implementing the Kenya Tuna Uwezo program and breaking down the mistrust and enmity between these groups by facilitating meaningful dialogue. Learn more about the Kenya Tuna Uwezo program here.
When asked about her dreams, Bashaer Othman is quick to answer: “The future President of Palestine is what I dream to be when I grow up.” At 15, Bashaer served as the “shadow” mayor of Illar, a small town of just over 6,000 people in the West Bank. During a ceremony, the regular mayor, Sufian Shadid, handed Bashaer official documents and briefed her on her new role and responsibilities as a mayor.
Bashaer became involved in local government through the Youth Shadow Local Council (YSLC) – an initiative implemented by Global Communities as part of the USAID-funded Local Government and Infrastructure program. The youth councils are voluntary bodies composed of Palestinian youth aged between 15-20 years old who are elected by their peers to mirror the positions of their local council and receive training to strengthen their capacity and prepare them to function out of their own offices at the local councils themselves. Through the program, Global Communities has helped establish 13 Youth Shadow Local Councils across the West Bank to engage youth and teach them about local governance and democracy. Learn more about the YSLC initiative here.
Last fall more than 2,000 students from seven schools dedicated five days to the service of the city of Bangalore. This effort was part of the Green Apple Day of Service, an initiative of the U.S. Green Building Council, where advocates around the world, including students, teachers, parents, elected officials and more, come together in support of healthy, sustainable schools by participating in local service projects. Last year, Global Communities participated by facilitating 15 projects in 6 different countries including Colombia, Ghana, India, Kosovo and Palestine, as well as near its headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.
In India, activities included planting trees at schools; field trips to the Global Communities-supported Trash to Treasure recycling and composting facility; awareness campaigns including student-led rallies, street plays and competitions; and large-scale clean-up and street sweeping efforts. Learn more about Global Communities’ Green Apple Day of Service activities here.