In the Solomon Islands the Youth@Work scheme, which was initiated by the Pacific Forum and now aided by a range of donor partners including the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), Plan International Australia and the UK Diamond Jubilee Trust for the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme, is providing a practical response to the growing issue of youth unemployment, a key national development priority for the Solomon Islands Government.
It is acknowledged that the Youth@Work programme while aiming to fill a critical gap in youth unemployment provides training in job skills and personal development needs, combined with mentoring support.
It occurs to me that the Youth@Work programme’s newly empowered graduates could be encouraged to go on to participate in a supplementary volunteer youth programme committed to community service.
Let me explain.
In the UK, the USA and France there exists volunteer youth programmes whose members are passionate and committed to their mission to bring individuals and communities out of poverty and focus their efforts to fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster schooling development, and otherwise assist low-income communities.
Why not, therefore, in the Solomon Islands?
In the United Kingdom (UK) the charity City Year UK allows 18-25 year-olds to serve full-time for an academic year in UK schools, helping children from disadvantaged background with their attendance, attainment and behaviour.
In Germany, France and the USA the full-time voluntary national community service programmes, allow hundreds of thousands of young people to give millions of volunteer hours every year to serve their country.
City Year UK has this as its Vision, Mission and Values:
“Our vision is of a society where all children are inspired to believe in themselves and supported to excel by a generation of young people whose commitment to a year of voluntary service is universally respected.
“Our mission is to empower young role models to help children from disadvantaged communities succeed in school.
“We bring together the public, private and voluntary sectors.
“We give our volunteers the training and personal development they need to become empowered and effective leaders.
“We demonstrate the power of individual action to drive collective impact.
We create an opportunity for service to become integral in society as a catalyst to transform lives.
“RESPONSIBILITY: we are the change we wish to see in society.
“INCLUSION: we unite from all backgrounds to serve a cause greater than ourselves.
“PROGRESSION: we are dedicated to the personal and professional development of all.
“ACTION: we don’t just talk, we do. We are always ready.
“EXCELLENCE: we strive for nothing less, no matter where we start.”
If the volunteer youth programme was created locally then the training and personal development the volunteers would need to become empowered and effective leaders could also be undertaken by the acknowledged professional tutors in the full time employment of Youth@Work.
I’m of the belief that talented youth volunteers could also transmit civic and civic values through sport, and make this practice accessible to everyone, including youth in social difficulty.
Clearly some extra funding would be required for what I have envisaged but perhaps the donors already committed to the existing “Youth @Work” Programme could extend support.
I am mindful, too, that the Government of the Republic of China, ROC (Taiwan) recently gave SB$2 million to the local founder of READ to assist that organization in developing teaching people, strengthening families, good governance and helping people with disabilities.
I would be hopeful that the ROC Government would additionally lend donor support to a programme empowering young people to aid those in society less fortunate than themselves and committed to the kind of core values and mission I have illustrated while serving the Solomon Islands.