Must I possess an esoteric sort of intelligence to implement change? Must I be blessed with a unique vision that only I can execute? These questions are such that there is no wrong or right answer. If posed by a youngster in your care, however — one who displays an early interest in community betterment, not for his or her own selfish interests but, instead to improve the livelihoods of others — you have a single responsibility; you have to fan that flame incessantly.
While outside observation of young, local leaders like Nyus Alfred, Tevin Shepherd and Louise Victor may have us believe that their lives are filled with travel and diplomatic handshakes, Nyus Alfred, who is first Vice President of the National Youth Council (NYC), Mentorship Co-ordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network, One Young World Ambassador, Sports Avis Co-Founder and Director, among a number of other titles, will be the first to inform you otherwise. For, at the heart of his work, is a deep-rooted responsibility to use the tools given to him in service to others and in making a difference where it counts.
His passion has taken him places. Recently Nyus, along with four familiar figures working in the domain of youth advocacy — Ajani Lebourne, Kendal Seraphim, Sophie Klien and Christy Butcher — recently returned home from a Trinidad and Tobago getaway. The trip, however, was void of the usual parang known to take over the twin-island sovereign state around this time of year. Rather, the Caribbean Regional Youth Council hosted its first Caribbean Advocacy and Policy Training Workshop for a Sustainable Caribbean in Port of Spain, where the small coalition joined other young advocates from across the region. On the agenda were presentations and exercises centred on modern day society policy and advocacy, advocacy strategic planning, advocacy campaign evaluations and more.
Nyus, who filled us in on the two-day workshop (January 26 and 27), which he ardently referred to as “fantastic and well organised”, says the group has returned with renewed enthusiasm for individual and group endeavours as well as revived focus on areas requiring improvement.
“One thing we must do that we have neglected for a while is, we need to implement structure. It is easy to think that with advocacy you address issues when they come up but, during the workshop, we all realized that for real, lasting, change and advocacy, structure is key,” explained Nyus. By re-introducing this piece to the puzzle, his expectation is that the council can get even more meaningful work done, and efficiently.
There is a limitless approach by which the Saint Lucia NYC tackles issues affecting young people, Nyus explained. Everything from youth unemployment, domestic- and gender-based violence, school regulations, “whatever needs to be addressed, as long as it affects young people in Saint Lucia and the region” it warrants the NYC’s intervention.
One of the biggest concerns expressed by the group’s first Vice President is the inclusion of young people in discussions prior to policy change. Nyus stressed, “During the workshop we also realized that young people are supposed to be part of the conversation. We are the ones being affected most . . . Also, many times, youth policies are implemented without consulting young people. How can you truly know what changes should be made without speaking to those who are experiencing the problem?”
Nyus recalled when Mario Michel founded the Saint Lucia NYC. It was 1985 — a year that was coincidentally referred to as “the year of the youth” — marking it as a time when youth advocacy was at an all-time high. This,
he says, is the level of prominence that the voices of young people truly deserve, and a reality that the group is working to replicate.
With an agenda already packed for the coming months, the year looks promising, and not only for the organisation. Fortunately for all of us, when the Saint Lucia NYC successfully reaches its targets, we all reap the rewards.