With the increase in juvenile delinquency and crime amongst our youth, activists continue to search for ways to help curb these issues. Enter Youth on Fire, a group from Anse La Raye, who do not rely on resources, but rather their talents, to inspire, encourage and enlighten. And just as their name implies, they are burning with a desire for change. I hung out with one of the embers, Nilka Gonzague, who gave me a glimpse into their world.
“Youth on Fire is a group which is involved heavily in the Arts. We use the Arts to bring across positive messages to everyone in the form of song, dance and theatre art/drama.”
The collective is the brainchild of Albert Joseph and Marie Reid. It was originally formed as a creative outlet for young persons in the Catholic Church.
“There was a lot of interest from the youth of other denominations within the community who wanted to be a part of the group. So we did not want to discriminate but rather bring the youth together, so Youth on Fire was transformed into a community-based group,” Nilka explained.
Initially, Youth on Fire spanned a wide demographic, from as young as eight-years-old to about thirty. Over the years persons have moved on from the group to pursue other opportunities.
“The current group members are within the teen to young adult age range. They’ve matured over the years with the group, and enjoy what they do because whatever message is brought across, it’s done through their talents,” she continued.
Nilka says that Youth on Fire get invited to make presentations at events, but they also host their own shows.
“Only last month we held our annual Music Lounge, where group members, as well as residents of the community, came and showcased their vocal talents. They were able to portray positive messages through their preferred genre of music.”
The 16-year-old believes that Youth on Fire is playing a metamorphic role in the lives of young people in the Anse La Raye community.
“The group has definitely changed the mindset of the members. The members have developed a much more positive mindset over the years, as we always encourage each other to be role models to others. That in itself encourages other young persons to be positive and it also affects the community in a desirable way going forward.”
Nilka is a very active member of the group, heavily involved in the singing, dancing and theatre arts committees. She confessed that being a part of Youth on Fire Ministry has allowed her to shed her timidity and also helped her develop her talents.
“I was once a shy girl, very reserved, until I joined Youth on Fire. The exposure that I have gotten since becoming a member has helped tremendously with my confidence. Because of Youth on Fire, I got the urge to dance competitively. I decided to join the Fundamentals dance group and that turned out to be a great decision, as we won the first ever Jèté Dance Competition. I feel proud that I am a winner, and better yet, one of the first,” she smiled.
Youth on Fire pride themselves on transforming lives, not only through performances, but also by volunteering their time within the area.
“Occasionally, we go around and visit the sick, shut-in and elderly persons within the community. We sing to them, pray with them; offer them some of our time. We try to make them feel appreciated, as they were the ones who paved the way for us. We
try to ensure that they still feel very much a part of the community.”
Nilka’s passion for Youth on Fire is clear. As our conversation came to a close, she shared why other youngsters should consider membership.
“I would encourage young persons in the community to be part of the group because I would want them to see how much they can be changed by becoming members. I think that their lives would be impacted holistically. Because we don’t just focus on the Arts but we encourage members to aim for excellence, and not forgetting to strive to live spiritual lives as well. So I believe they would become well rounded individuals.”