Imagine how much progress we could make in the world if the over 1 billion young people aged 15-24 got engaged in leading positive improvements in their country. From April 20-22, millions of youth and children, their families, schools, and communities around the globe came together to celebrate youth volunteerism and to take action as part of the world’s largest service event – Global Youth Service Day (GYSD). This year, in the spirit of youth power for positive change, USAID partnered with Youth Service America – the organization that convenes GYSD – to mobilize even more young people in even more places.

Numerous USAID Missions participated and many Washington-based staff volunteered in the DC area, below is a short spotlight on just some of the inspiring activities.

A youth day activity. Photo Credit: USAID

In Somalia for example, 50 Somali youth who had undergone a leadership training earlier this year participated in a community service action event to mobilze their colleagues and raise funds and other support for patients in the Hargesia Mental Hospital in Somaliland, and visited the hospital to distribute food to the patients. The event/ceremony was presided over by the Somaliland Minister for Youth, Sports and Culture and the Director General of the Ministry of Health and reported in one of the daily newspaper in Somaliland. In Kenya, GYSD was celebrated by the Yes Youth Can! project and marked with the announcement in local press (The Daily Nation) of the Kenya National Youth Bunge Association; and in Katutura, Namibia, USAID officers joined the Young Achievers Empowerment Project’s Day of Hope activities. Participants in USAID Liberia’s Advancing Youth Education project took their voices aloud for a national radio broadcast panel about service learning experiences and the importance of public/community service in the context of the GYSD.

USAID Mission Director Rick Scott presents to Ms. Zevonia Viera. Photo Credit: USAID

USAID Timor-Leste participated in the Global Youth Service Day on April 20 by hosting a ‘recognition ceremony’ and awarding certificates to youth volunteers who have dedicated their time, energy, skill and thought to promote youth participation in reconciliation and peace building process through innovative use of the media under a USAID supported, youth-led radio program project.

Youth leaders and volunteers across the West Bank and Gaza participated in clean up campaigns at the grounds of their local Ministry of Health Primary Health Care Clinics as part of the “Champion Community Approach” to enhance health awareness and to promote community engagement in health promotion and health services. In Nablus, staff and volunteers at the Ruwwad Youth Development Resource Center held an open day for children with special needs aged from 7 – 12 years, in cooperation with Care for Children with Special Needs Association; and at the Hebron Center, there was a workshop on volunteerism and life skills for youth leading to an landscaping and beautification activities so everyone had a chance to “get their hands dirty”.

In Kosovo, USAID/Kosovo staff and implementing partners joined students and community members across Pristina in youth volunteerism activities for Earth Day including bottle and paper recycling, and youth “green information” advisors; and in Georgia, Ambassador John Bass celebrated young people’s achievements at USAID supported youth clubs, and schoolchildren from the different regions of Georgia planted trees in service to Earth Day.

In the LAC region, USAID Jamaica held a major town hall bringing youth together with the Minister of Youth, the Ambassador and USAID leaders to discuss issues surrounding youth unemployment, crime and violence, youth education and how these relate to achieving Jamaica’s Vision 2030, USAID’s 50th and Jamaica’s 50th. Disabled youth played a particularly important role in leading the discussions.

In Washington, many staff volunteered with the breakfast program at ThriveDC and with MOMIE’s TLC after school program for children and youth.
Overall, it was a weekend full of youth-led and youth-inspired activities around the world, celebrating the importance of service and power of young people to change our world. Global Youth Service Day 2013 will take place April 26-28 – start planning now!

Dr Nicole Goldin is Senior Advisor in PPL, and Dr Maura O’Neill is Senior Counselor to the Administrator and Chief Innovation Officer.