New USAID YES project seeks to lower youth involvement in crime, violence

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) yesterday rolled out a new youth empowerment initiative, with the goal of reducing youth involvement in crime and violence through prevention.

The five-year Youth Empowerment Services (YES) project will target countries in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, but will be focusing especially on Guyana, St Vincent and St Lucia, where it was found that the emerging and existing issues there warranted need for intervention, USAID’s Programme Management Specialist Ryssa Brathwaite said at the launch yesterday.

The project will carry an estimated cost of $64 million and consists of three components: the Community, Family, Youth Resilience Programme; the Juvenile Justice Reform Project; and Strengthening Evidence Based Decision Making.

Brathwaite called the community, family, youth resilience component the “cornerstone of the initiative.” Its aim, she explained in her overview of the project, is to “tackle head on the risk factors that are fueling youth violence and crime.” This project will be implemented in an anticipated six to seven communities that will be chosen based on criteria such as crime trends.

There are three levels of intervention planned for this component. The primary intervention is expected to target youths between the ages of 10 and 29, at-risk for crime involvement, with the support from activities such as employability training and social and youth leadership training.

The secondary level will target youth affected four to six risk factors. It was stated that they will benefit from activities such as life planning, family planning and mentoring.

The tertiary level of intervention will provide specialized services to youth with seven to nine risk factors affecting them. These are young people who have likely been involved in gang activity or had brushes with the law.

“So ultimately, in summary, this project will provide family counselling, and psychosocial services will help youth develop new skills, will match young people to interventions based on level of risk and will connect young people to other services,” Brathwaite stated.

The juvenile justice reform component, intended to provide alternatives to custodial sentences, promotes the rehabilitation and reintegration of youth into their families and society.

The third component, ‘Strengthening evidence based decision making’ also known as CARISECURE, will seek to improve youth crime and violence policy making programming by providing relevant and reliable data. This is with the intention of influencing evidence based decision making, thereby creating avenues for the development of legislation, youth violence prevention policies and conducting research, among other things.

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