By Jeff Trotman
Linden youth are being taught to prepare themselves for leadership roles by first serving the elderly in their community through a volunteer programme spearheaded by the organization, Youth Vision.
Youth Vision, formed in 2002 under the aegis of the first Linden Youth Fest, aims to empower youth through workshops and a programme called ‘Servant Leadership.’ Dexter Copeland, President of Youth Vision said the name encapsulates the concept that before one becomes a leader one
must first be able to serve. In this regard, the young people participating in the programme are mandated to serve the people who would have served them in the past.
“The whole intention is to empower young people economically, socially, and spiritually, starting with community development,” Copeland said. “We are going to different communities and try to improve the homes of the senior citizens, who have served their community,” he said. The group is currently repairing the homes of two senior citizens in Linden – one in the Wismar Housing Scheme and the other at Canvas City. This programme will be held once per year until it is sustainable, then it will be held quarterly.
Copeland is heartened at the support the programme received. It benefited from donations from public and private enterprises such as Ashmin’s in Georgetown, James and Sons, Bernard’s Variety Store, Singh’s Cash and Carry, Bolo’s Variety Store, Everpure Water, A& R, the Regional Democratic Council, the Public Service Ministry and individuals.
Youth Vision representatives journey into communities to identify and screen vulnerable senior citizens and, with the help of community members, select those most in need of assistance. “We ask people from each community to select a home that is in need of assistance in keeping with certain guidelines,” he said.
After a home is selected, representatives discuss the nature of repairs with the residents and photographs are taken of the home. An engineer from the Region then assesses the extent of work to be done and prepares the scope of work. Material donations are then requested and the photographs used to indicate to prospective donors the extent of the work that will be done. According to Copeland, monetary donations are kept to a minimum as a proper accounting system has not yet been set up.
Youth Fest 2013
This year’s programme of activities for Youth Fest included a single day conference at the LEN Building which attracted 100 students. “We had three sessions in workshop format from 8.30am to 4pm,” Copeland said. “A representative from Republic Bank did financial empowerment.
We had over 60 young people opening bank accounts right there and then. Public Service Minister Dr Jennifer Westford challenged the young people to start saving. She started them off by giving each person $1,000 to open a bank account on the spot and the group intends to make checks with the recipients to ensure that they continue banking.
“We had brother Eric Phillips, who is always there, supporting this youth organization. He facilitated a workshop on servant leadership, teaching the young people why it is important to serve and why it is important to stay in school and educate themselves. He also dealt with community development and spiritual development,” Copeland said.
“We also had Ms Thompson, a young, vibrant lawyer from Linden, talking about the Sexual Offences Act of 2010 in which she captured, among other things, the age of consent… and highlighted some of the protective rights that a lot of people are not aware that they have in terms of molestation and rape. For instance, if [a person believed that he or she had been raped during childhood, he/she can seek justice as an adult].”
Copeland believes that the home improvement exercise was beneficial to the youth who participated as it taught them the value of hard work. “They understand the pain of serving. They understand the pleasure of serving because after working on the home in the Wismar Housing Scheme on Saturday, some of them cried out that their shoulders were hurting them and I was able to point out that is what your parents went through; they had to serve you and were crying many times inside…. So, now they have a better understanding of the sacrifices that their parents have had to make for their benefit.
In keeping with the three major facets of Youth Vision (youth empowerment, community improvement and an economic focus) Copeland noted that Youth Vision, in collaboration with the Public Service Minister has set up an office in the LEN Building where young people can go for assistance, guidance and counselling. He further revealed that Youth Vision will be setting up a database of youth in Linden, documenting their academic qualifications, skill competency and career aspiration to act as an employment bureau on their behalf.
An outreach activity was also held where representatives invited other youth groups in nearby communities to join the organisation. The three-day programme ended with a cocktail reception on August 24 at Club Whiskers.