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Archives for Youth

USAID Scholarships: Forming Lasting Bonds among Nations through Youth

Phyllis M. Powers serves as U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua.

Phyllis M. Powers serves as U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua.

In June, I met 17 young Nicaraguans who were heading to the U.S. as part of USAID’s Scholarships for Education and Economic Development (SEED) program. This program provides training opportunities to young community leaders from disadvantaged and historically underserved populations. The students go to the U.S. to pursue an array of two-year technical degree programs related to the needs of their home communities — programs ranging from small business management to environmental technology.

These courageous young Nicaraguans, mostly from humble backgrounds in rural Nicaragua, leave family, friends, culture and country to embrace new opportunities and receive an education which can dramatically change their futures.

Marling García, who is studying entrepreneurship and leadership for youth development at Northcentral Technical College in Wisconsin, talks to U.S. Ambassador Phyllis M. Powers about activities she intends to carry out when she returns from her studies. Photo credit: USAID

Marling García, who is studying entrepreneurship and leadership for youth development at Northcentral Technical College in Wisconsin, talks to U.S. Ambassador Phyllis M. Powers about activities she intends to carry out when she returns from her studies. Photo credit: USAID

These youth spoke to me candidly about their hopes and plans to support their communities when they return. In turn, I spoke to them about their dual responsibilities, not only for their courses and classes, but also to learn as much as possible about U.S. culture, customs, traditions and our way of life, while sharing with Americans stories of Nicaragua’s rich culture, delicious foods and beautiful countryside. In short, I urged them to form the bonds that have united our two countries for so many years — “Estamos Unidos” (We Are United), as our Embassy slogan declares. These types of exchanges establish strong, enduring relationships between our countries.

The program also matches scholarship recipients with alumni, who mentor and encourage the next generation of exchange students and, in doing so, hone their own leadership skills. I have gotten to know some of these alumni mentors, such as Jaime García, who returned in 1998.  I heard Jaime speak to a group of outgoing students about the struggles of adapting to a new culture, of being away from home and family, of the rewards he gained from the experience and how the friends and knowledge he acquired continue to play a role in his life. Jaime graduated from an Agriculture and Aquatic Food Products program at Santa Fe Community College in Florida and now works as head of food safety in Sahlman Seafoods, a shrimp factory in Nicaragua that won the Award for Corporate Excellence in 2011.

Jaime García, alumni of a previous USAID scholarship program and head of food security for Sahlman Seafoods, shares his experience studying abroad with the group of outgoing SEED candidates and U.S. Ambassador Phyllis M. Powers. Photo credit: USAID

Jaime García, alumni of a previous USAID scholarship program and head of food security for Sahlman Seafoods, shares his experience studying abroad with the group of outgoing SEED candidates and U.S. Ambassador Phyllis M. Powers. Photo credit: USAID

These types of programs are extremely successful. Of the more than 1,000 alumni of USAID scholarship programs, 100 percent have returned to Nicaragua, and nearly 100 percent are currently employed. My interactions with private sector partners confirm how much they value SEED alumni for their English skills and U.S.-based education.

It is my belief that our support to these young Nicaraguans helps them have a positive impact in their communities and creates a lasting positive impression of the U.S. as a friend and partner in helping them — and their country — on the path to development.

From the Field in Afghanistan: Children Teaching Their Elders

Last summer, my sister was surprised when my 7-year-old son Abdullah told her, “Don’t throw that on the street,” referring to an empty ice-cream container.

After the Taliban regime ended in 2001, many Afghan refugees returned home from Pakistan and Iran, where almost 5 million people had fled during three decades of war. Most of those who returned came to the city of Kabul, where it was easier to find jobs and earn a living. As a result, Kabul’s population has increased by 4 million in 12 years. In 2012, there were more than 5.5 million living in the city.

Kabul was originally built for 1.5 million people, so that many more people meant more traffic — and more trash. Most people were not helping to keep the city clean. They threw garbage on everywhere, it seemed, but in the trash cans. Kabul became very dirty.

Shir Sultan has introduced the “Green and Clean” campaign to 175,000 schoolchildren in 125 schools throughout the city. Above, Shir Sultan and Malika sing Afghan poems with children at Allaudin School. Photo credit: USAID Kabul City Initiative

Shir Sultan has introduced the “Green and Clean” campaign to 175,000 schoolchildren in 125 schools throughout the city. Above, Shir Sultan and Malika sing Afghan poems with children at Allaudin School. Photo credit: USAID Kabul City Initiative

To help overcome this challenge, USAID — together with the municipal government of Kabul and the Afghan Ministry of Education — launched the “Clean and Green” campaign. The campaign focuses on schoolchildren, using visual materials and live performances to share key messages. Two Afghan artists, acting as Shir Sultan (Kabul’s “Lion King”) and Malika (his queen), put on live shows for the children. Through Shir Sultan’s campaign of coloring books, billboards, posters and live theater, schoolchildren are learning how to plant trees, what to do with their garbage, and how to keep their city clean for many years to come.

When I was at school, we didn’t have practical campaigns like these to teach us about our social responsibilities. I am proud to work with USAID, which is supporting the development of countries such as Afghanistan. My son is one of the children who has learned from Shir Sultan’s performance at his school, and from the campaign billboards and coloring books, that he should not litter. He is also stopping others from littering — even his own aunt — and encouraging them to throw their garbage in trashcans.

Shir Sultan reads his storybook to children at Amani School in Kabul. Photo credit: USAID Kabul City Initiative

Shir Sultan reads his storybook to children at Amani School in Kabul. Photo credit: USAID Kabul City Initiative

“I am very proud of my little nephew,” my sister told me, “who understands his responsibility toward society and is even teaching me. I hope we will have a prosperous country and a bright future with children like him.”

“I hope that Abdullah and other children like him who grow up in this time will build this country. I hope with the support of American people and the international community, Afghanistan will come out of these problems,” my sister added.

Like USAID Afghanistan on Facebook and follow @USAIDAfghan on Twitter  for ongoing updates in the region. 

Preparing Youth for Employment

When it comes to preparing youth for employment, what strategies work best? As USAID’s recently-released State of the Field papers conclude, there is a need for more research and evidence on what types of interventions make a difference in strengthening youth livelihoods and employment. In Mali, Education Development Center’s (EDC) youth program  – PAJE-Nièta (Projet d’Appui aux Jeunes Entrepreneurs or Support to Youth Entrepreneurs Project) – is tracking several factors that affect youth livelihoods while highlighting issues and challenges that need to be better understood.

PAJE-Nièta has shown that young people are most eager for the business technical skills training and less for literacy and numeracy, so program delivery was adjusted to offer more business training earlier on. We also hope to learn which literacy and numeracy skills are most important for young people to have successful businesses in places where there is very little written local language.

Women in Mali using "Stepping Stone." Photo credit: EDC

Women in Mali improve literacy and numeracy skills through “Stepping Stone.” Photo credit: EDC

The PAJE-Nièta Project aims to increase access to local value chains by offering agro-enterprise development for 12,000 out-of-school rural youth. The project works in rural, often remote and difficult-to-access villages in Mali, where more than half of enrolled project youth have never been to school, while 80 percent are illiterate. Because of the major literacy gap, the project is offering literacy and numeracy training integrated with agri-business support services, business training, and audio instruction using a mobile phone platform created by EDC called “Stepping Stone.”

Results to date from the PAJE-Nièta Project show that 56 percent of youth who completed technical training have gone on to successfully start a micro-enterprise, with the proportion expected to rise as more data is received. Women outnumber male youth by 2 to 1 as participants, and in starting agriculture-based income generation activities. Young women, however, report lower profits with their businesses. Existing research on gender and agriculture suggests that results vary based on the resources available to men vs. women and inputs used. We are now studying these factors to learn more about gender differences within youth livelihoods, since this topic is not consistently analyzed under youth programs.

Another issue that has emerged in this youth work in Mali and elsewhere is the role of youth in family structures and how it may impact the benefits they gain. Our programs generally target youth with trainings and support based on the assumption that they are autonomous individuals and make decisions for themselves about what activities they engage in, or on whether they spend or save money. And yet, young people are a part of large and small family structures that influence their decisions  (particularly young women) about what work they do and when, as well as what they do with their earnings. This is important to consider when evaluating results from livelihood programs with youth; it is central to shaping the questions we ask and what we are measuring.

EDC is also tracking improvements in technical competence with respect to production techniques and business management; input costs; products sold; commencement, duration, and increase in the volume of both production and sales. We track literacy and math skills through exit interviews and performance tests and data on sales, production, and business management indicators. We are also assessing the use of mobile phones to increase literacy and numeracy.

The project seeks to prove the hypothesis that longer-term self-employment requires not just technical competence, but a commitment to entrepreneurial culture nurtured through mentoring. Toward that end, we conduct appraisals of youth microenterprises that are successfully managed for at least six months to determine the benefits realized by out-of-school youth and their families in the long term.

EDC’s work in Mali and around the world is contributing to a broader evidence base on youth livelihoods and employment with the goal of expanding opportunities for young people to support themselves and their families.

Nancy Taggart is a youth development specialist at Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC). She has worked in the field for 20 years, and is currently the Team Leader for EDC’s Youth Technical Team. EDC manages more than 200 projects in 30 countries. Visit www.edc.org.

Launching the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance

During a visit to Zimbabwe last year, I asked a group of teenagers what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some suggested they wanted to be doctors, others said teachers. One outspoken young lady wanted to be a movie star. I asked if any of them dreamed of becoming social workers. They laughed and said that they wanted to get paid. For these kids, being a social worker was not a particularly prestigious profession – and definitely not lucrative.

But it is an important profession – and a profession that I aspired to since I was a little girl. I always wanted to be a helper. But being a helper is hard and I was under no illusions that helping would make me rich.

Now I have the great pleasure of helping the helpers. And with the launch of the new Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, my efforts to help the helpers will now have a global platform.

Group of young adults. Photo credit: World Education

The Alliance, which is funded by PEPFAR through USAID, as well as other donors, asserts that a well-planned, well-trained, and well-supported social service workforce can effectively deliver services to improve the lives of vulnerable populations around the world. However, a number of challenges confront this workforce and limit its ability to create protective environments for children and families who face poverty, discrimination, violence, and exploitation in their daily lives.

In its mission, the Alliance recognizes key challenges facing this workforce and aims to promote the knowledge, evidence, resources, tools, political will, and action needed to address them, especially within low to middle income countries. During the launch webinar held on June 6th, Amy Bess, the Alliance Coordinator, described how to get involved in the work of the Alliance and introduced participants to a website, which will act as a platform for information sharing and advocacy.

I am a member of the Alliance. You can become a member too by registering here. As a member, you can contribute to knowledge on the social service workforce, connect with others through the Alliance Webinar Series and interest groups, and join with me and others to help the helpers through global and more targeted advocacy efforts.

With any luck, we will inspire a new generation of social service workers to follow in our footsteps and social workers will become as popular as movie stars!

New Mobile Clinics Take to the Road in Lesotho

This originally appeared on the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation Blog.

Last month, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) teamed up with the Lesotho Ministry of Health (MOH) to launch two mobile health care clinics that will provide HIV/AIDS and other health care services to residents in Lesotho’s rural communities. On July 11, EGPAF’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Brad Kiley joined representatives from the Lesotho MOH and other high-level government officials at a ceremony to celebrate the new mobile units and how they will improve access to health care services to people throughout the country. The clinics are made possible thanks to generous support from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Representatives from the Lesotho Ministry of Health, USAID, and EGPAF – including EGPAF COO Brad Kiley (in orange tie) – at a launch for two mobile clinics in Lesotho. Photo credit: EGPAF

Kiley noted that he is particularly proud of EGPAF’s success in Lesotho and is grateful for the kindness and support of the Government of Lesotho and the Ministry of Health. He also acknowledged and thanked USAID on behalf of the Foundation for its generous contributions to the key project of Strengthening Clinical Services in Lesotho.

Speaking at the same ceremony on behalf of the Health Minister, Principal Secretary to the Ministry of Health, Lefu Manyokole, said the mobile clinics come at the right time, when the Ministry is revitalizing primary health care and trying to strengthen the health system. He also commended the partnership and continued support EGPAF is giving to the Government of Lesotho.

He continued by emphasizing the MOH’s commitment to properly maintain and carefully coordinate the use of these mobile clinics so that they are effectively used for strengthening linkages and helping malnourished people in the region.

EGPAF will work with the MOH to provide integrated health services to patients in the remote areas of the mountainous districts of Thaba-Tseka and Mohale’s Hoek, where there is a high prevalence of HIV among pregnant women along with high rates of malnutrition among children and overall limited access to maternal, neonatal, and pediatric care. Each mobile clinic is equipped with two consulting rooms with collapsible examination couches, a metal stairway and emergency/wheelchair pathway, air conditioning, and built-in generators. Initially, services will include HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, prevention of the mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services, nutrition counseling, and other maternal and child health services.

These services are part of a larger effort by EGPAF and the Partnership for HIV-Free Survival (PHFS) and Nutrition Assessment Counseling Support (NACS) program to reduce malnutrition in the region, especially in HIV-positive women and children.

EGPAF has been active in promoting the use of mobile clinics throughout Africa. To learn more, click here.

To learn more about our work in Lesotho, click here.

Mapalesa Lemeke is Communications Officer for the Foundation, based in Lesotho.

From the Field in Lebanon: Learning that Water Is Everyone’s Responsibility

I found myself transported back to childhood as I cheered with a group of boys and girls in a school auditorium. We were watching a USAID-sponsored puppet show, “Chasing after Water,” which ran in schools and public libraries in nine cities and villages across the Bekaa region of Lebanon.

Located 30 km east of the capital, Beirut, and part of the Litani River Basin, the Bekaa is the Lebanon’s central agricultural valley. The entire area has suffered from depletion of the water table due to unsustainable agricultural practices and individual water-use habits. Efficient management of the region’s water resources is paramount. It is also a region that has hosted large numbers of those that have sought refuge from the crisis in Syria.

The king of the puppets considers solutions for water shortage, during a USAID-sponsored performance in the Bekaa, Lebanon. The shows were part of USAID’s partnership with the Lebanese government to increase awareness about water conservation. Photo credit: USAID

The king of the puppets considers solutions for water shortage, during a USAID-sponsored performance in the Bekaa, Lebanon. The shows were part of USAID’s partnership with the Lebanese government to increase awareness about water conservation. Photo credit: USAID

To help raise awareness about this need, USAID’s Litani River Basin Management Support program collaborated with the Litani River Authority to put on a series of activities, including the puppet show I attended. Around 5,000 children between the ages of 6 and 11 attended the shows, in addition to 100 children with special needs.

The show starts by telling the story of a king who is concerned about a water shortage in his kingdom. He embarks on a mission to find the root of the problem and — eventually — a proper solution. With the help of a loyal citizen, he traces the causes of the shortage: water pollution and absence of water conservation practices. The children in the audience watched with great enthusiasm and were eager to hear about the solution. As it turns out, that solution lies in the hands of consumers, young and old.

As part of each performance, children were called on-stage to participate in a role-playing activity that emphasized the show’s theme: that it is everyone’s responsibility to conserve water. At the end, students heartily sang a jingle and took home a booklet with water-related games they could play with their families.

كلنا مسؤولين؟ ايه! مسؤولين كلنا!

كلنا بالهوا سوا وأكيد بمايتنا!

Are we all responsible? Yes, we are all responsible!

We are all in this together … when it comes to our water too!

— Refrain from the “Chasing after Water” jingle

Children got to be on-stage during the shows, playing games that helped reinforce the messages about their role in responsible water use. Photo credit: USAID

Children got to be on-stage during the shows, playing games that helped reinforce the messages about their role in responsible water use. Photo credit: USAID

The students’ enthusiasm as they learned about managing their water consumption habits and protecting water resources confirms the importance of initiating awareness in early life. Such initiatives complement USAID’s other efforts to develop infrastructure that will improve water service delivery for all Lebanese citizens.

My journey back to innocence continued as I sang the jingle myself as we drove back from the school. I was even prompted to share the water conservation tips with my 9-year-old daughter and start practicing them in our home. So, we are also reinforcing the program’s message that “water is everyone’s responsibility.”

The USAID Litani River Basin Management Support is four-year program that supports more efficient and sustainable water resource management in Lebanon’s Litani River Basin. Learn more about USAID’s work in Lebanon

International Youth Day: Young People Are Key to Solving Global Challenges

This originally appeared on Dipnote

Today, and every August, the world celebrates International Youth Day.

Young people are key drivers to solving some of the world’s most pressing strategic challenges, from rebuilding the global economy to peace building and creating sustainable democracies, and will play a prominent role in shaping the 21st century world. Around the world, we’ve seen young people use their voice to demand opportunity and respect, utilizing technology to connect to one another in ways that no generation has ever been able to before.

Throughout my travels, I’ve heard from young people what is important to them–opportunities for effective political engagement, access to education, the hope for meaningful employment, and the desire for a safe and healthy future for themselves and their families.

Special Adviser Rahman at the Global Young Leaders Conference. Photo credit: State Department

Special Adviser Rahman at the Global Young Leaders Conference. Photo credit: State Department

All of these issues are equally, if not more, important to young people who have been uprooted from their homelands and forced, or have chosen, to migrate to a new country for economic or political reasons.

This year, the focus on International Youth Day is youth migration. Every year, millions of young people enter crowded cities, looking for economic opportunity or fleeing political persecution. Migration affects all countries and presents both opportunities and challenges. It can be an opportunity for a more stable life or a chance for prosperity but it can also hamper young people’s access to education or leave them marginalized and vulnerable. It is imperative that we pay attention to the special challenges of these young migrants.

Addressing the challenges that youth face around the world — in education, employment, healthcare — is smart foreign policy. But it is also an opportunity; young people represent a pool of human capital whose potential has yet to be tapped. I am inspired by the energy and passion of this generation and am committed to working in partnership with them to solve some of our biggest global challenges.

Follow and join the conversation on Twitter using #IYD2013. 

Srebrenica Smiles

David Barth serves as Mission Director to Bosnia and Herzegovina

David Barth serves as Mission Director to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Srebrenica. For years, the name has been synonymous with tragedy. The massacre in Srebrenica marked the darkest moment in the blackest of wars.  During the second week of July, 1995, 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were slaughtered by paramilitaries of the Army of the Republika Srpska and 30,000 women and children were forcibly deported in an act called the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War. Eighteen years later, the wounds have barely begun to heal, if at all.

The town remains wracked by ethnic tensions. It remains the most economically depressed municipality in the country, with unemployment approaching 50%. The obstacles to economic growth are legion. Infrastructure, workforce skills, isolation, poor governance. And a major casualty of that is hope. One resident told me that because she’s from Srebrenica, it is expected by society that she never allow herself to be happy. Imagine the impact that has on children.

With that in mind the staff of USAID/Bosnia and Herzegovina set out to create one special day for the children of this remote town. NBA basketball player and star of the Bosnian national team Mirza Teletovic joined the mission at the Srebrenica International Peace Camp to spend quality time with the children of Srebrenica; to talk about sports, ecology, human rights, and most importantly, hope.

In addition to a basketball clinic featuring Mostar native Teletovic, USAID-grantee Eko Sports Group taught courses in water sports, including scuba and boating. Eko Sports Group is a marvel as well. Made up of disabled athletes, including landmine victims, the Eko Sports Group has made itself the country’s most prominent aquatic sports trainers. They provide a valuable service and are also tremendous role models on the power of perseverance.

The principal responsibility of our Mission is to administer precious foreign assistance resources in the most efficient manner to achieve tangible results. This is our core objective. But we are also in a position to promote our American values. So I was enormously proud to watch our team working with their hands to build a camp worthy of these kids. I think that you will see from this video that in this case, their smiles represent an overwhelming tangible result.

Learn more about our work in Bosnia and Herzegovina and like us on Facebook for ongoing stories and photos from the field.  

Video of the Week: Youth Initiatives in West Bank/Gaza

Yesterday was International Youth Day and this year focused on Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward. Created in 2000, the day brings attention to the challenges facing young people as well as their contributions to their communities, nations and the world. USAID is celebrating International Youth Day by reflecting on the linkages between youth migration and development, exploring the positive aspects of youth migration, and accounting for the risks and challenges young people frequently face when they migrate.

This week’s “Video of the Week” was produced by youth as part of the Ruwwad Youth Empowerment Project about USAID’s youth programming in the West Bank and Gaza. Ruwwad is implemented by the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) and funded by USAID.

Learn more about youth programming at USAID. Join the conversation on Twitter using #IYD2013. 

A Day to Celebrate Youth’s Contribution to Development

Today is International Youth Day, a day to celebrate youth and their numerous contributions to their communities, nations and the world.

The theme for 2013 is Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward. Many of you are familiar with the global statistics on youth–of the seven billion people on the planet, at least half are under the age of 30, and that youth and children comprise up to 70 percent of the population of many developing countries. But, are you aware of the statistics on migration?

Young people in the village of Bunyakiri, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). By helping young people to develop positive beliefs and attitudes, a USAID project can prevent future acts of violence, and can ultimately contribute to a more peaceful and equitable future for DRC. Photo credit: J. Harris, International Medical Corps

Young people in the village of Bunyakiri, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). By helping young people to develop positive beliefs and attitudes, a USAID project can prevent future acts of violence, and can ultimately contribute to a more peaceful and equitable future for DRC. Photo credit: J. Harris, International Medical Corps

Today, more people are on the move than at any time in history. As of 2010, 214 million people, or three percent of the world’s population, were living outside their countries of origin. Twenty-seven million of the international migrants are between the ages of ten and 24. The vast majority of these young migrants live in the developing world.

Many USAID programs support young migrants or potential migrants. This includes our anti-trafficking and human rights programs, which help mitigate the risks associated with migration. However, I would like to draw attention to our broader youth development programs, which aim to provide youth with the support structures, skills, knowledge and opportunities they need to navigate the challenges they face while growing up. These programs help youth develop the resilience and self-confidence they need to overcome obstacles and become agents of change. While this is important for all youth, it is critical for youth at risk, including young migrants, who have additional hurdles and stress factors.

Below are highlights of some of our successful programs in this area.

In Kenya, the Yes Youth Can! (YYC) program is owned, led, and managed by youth. It was created to engage young people impacted by the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008 in improving their own lives and the lives of people in their communities. Youth organize themselves in democratically elected bunges, or parliaments. These bunges, now active in 20,000 villages, provide a structure through which youth can engage. The program bore fruit during the 2013 elections. YYC youth organized a national campaign which resulted in 400,000 young people applying for their national ID card, which is required to vote. Youth also supported a peace caravan that culminated in messages in the national media that included peace pledges from the major presidential candidates.  The messages touched hundreds of thousands of youth immediately before the election and played a role at keeping violence to the lowest level in years.

USAID has planted the seeds of youth self-empowerment elsewhere. In Bosnia, Peacing the Future Together supports youth conflict resolution and leadership in ethnically mixed communities through “youth banks” that provide young people opportunities to develop skills while working together on youth-led initiatives, thereby boosting their confidence as agents of social change. A Ganar targets at-risk youth in fifteen countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, using soccer as a tool for teaching life and employability skills. Finally, in Jordan, Youth: Work Jordan strengthens the life, employability, and entrepreneurship skills of the most vulnerable youth in disadvantaged urban communities through training, job placement, mentorship, and civic engagement programs.

For more information on these and other USAID programs, visit our Youth Impact website. Also stay tuned for updates related to the implementation of our Youth in Development Policy. Finally, join the conversation on Twitter using #IYD2013.

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