Young Voices is an organization which offers young persons with disabilities (PWDS) in developing countries the opportunity to empower themselves and change the way disability is viewed. It functions as the medium through which they can develop campaigning, advocacy and media skills, learn about human rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as share their experience with other young persons with disabilities to build friendships and self-confidence.
What began as a project of the Leonard Cheshire Disability Global Alliance in 2006 now sees nineteen Young Voices chapters spanning the globe across Asia, Africa, Central and South America, with its Guyana chapter, Leonard Cheshire Disability Young Voices Guyana (LCDYVG) currently being the only representative of the Caribbean.
Since its inception in April 2008, LCDYVG has been making a name for itself on both a global and local level. In 2008 a representative of the local chapter received training in the making of short films, during a Global Young Voices Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. That workshop provided the technical expertise and supplied the equipment needed to create a short film, entitled ‘Determination.’ The film featured the struggles of four members of the group to overcome obstacles relating to their individual disabilities. It can be viewed on the Young Voices YouTube channel, www.youtube. com/user/youngvoice28 along with other short films of Young Voices worldwide.
In April 2009 a LCDYVG representative participated in a Leonard Cheshire Disability Regional Conference (Americas), held in St Michael, Barbados. The purpose of inclusion in this conference was to give a PowerPoint presentation to influence those member states of the region who were without Young Voices chapters (for example, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago), to establish chapters of their own.
Four members of the local chapter also attended the Commonwealth Youth Forum 7 (CYF) which was held in Trinidad & Tobago, from November 21-27, 2009. Members were tasked with introducing the aspect of disability in discussions where possible, and with getting disability mentioned within the finished communiqué, to be submitted for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). It was the first time that young PWDS were represented at a CYF, which made quite an impact. Whilst in Scarborough, Tobago, members were interviewed by the local news on the day of the CYF7 opening ceremony.
One member of LCDYVG was also among the few participants selected to attend a special luncheon meeting with the Commonwealth heads of government to discuss the communiqué. Unfortunately, the original date for the luncheon was postponed by one day, when all four representatives were set to depart.
Locally, LCDYVG has thrown itself into the disability community with enthusiasm. In February 2009, LCDYVG conducted a three day empowerment camp for young PWDS. It has also been active in participating as well as conducting workshops on media, organizational development, human rights, sensitization on the Disability Act 2010, HIV/AIDS etc, and in campaigning and collaborating with other local DPOs, such as United Action during their 2009 ‘Right to Ride’ minibus campaign.
LCDYVG seeks to bring about positive social change and endeavours to help young PWDS realize their full potential. Currently, the organization is in the process of establishing a second local chapter in Berbice. Organizations interested in collaborating with LCDYVG, and hardworking, committed and creative young persons with disabilities interested in being a part of LCDYVG can contact the organization at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.