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Celebrating International Youth Day

Youth: Partners for Sustainable Change

International Youth Day 2015

Several hundred young girls and young men gathered to celebrate International Youth Day on August 12th. Youth engagement is at the heart of the strategy of Partners of the Americas program for the promotion of good nutrition practices for sustainable change. Since October 2013, Partners of the Americas supports the Ministry of Health and Population by strengthening the capacity of the community health workers and traditional birth attendants in nutrition and by improving coordination with the staff of directorates and health institutions in order to achieve better coverage of services: prevention, screening, referral and management of cases of malnutrition.

Young people between 10 and 19 account for more than 37% of the Haitian population and they have the ability to play a key role in the promotion and adoption of good nutrition practices. The Nutrition Security Program (NSP) and its partner FOSREF mobilized young people in fourteen towns in four departments to enhance their nutrition capacity. Given the enormous needs and their desire to learn, NSP facilitates bi-monthly meetings of youth groups to discuss health and nutrition, values, principles, decision making, life skills, participation and leadership. These young people are called to be leaders among their parents, their peers and in their communities. Acquiring these skills enables them to play their new role to gain experience and to be armed with the confidence to participate in social change in their communities. Currently, 1,875 young girls boys take part regularly in these groups.  Other school-age children and students attend “Vendredi Vert” (Green Fridays), the weekly sessions on environment, sanitation and hygiene.

Young people are also supported in this work by the entire community network set up by NSP. This network consists of the care groups and other influencing leaders; it is a platform of mother leaders integrated by 20,597 women, 1,278 grandmothers and 1,362 fathers.

Community leaders, community-based organizations, participants in the farmer field schools established by another USAID funded program AVANSE and local institutions also come to support youth. Young leaders become aware of their role and prepare to become tomorrow's citizens, striving to be worthy, accountable, honest, brilliant and committed to ensure the progress of their country, starting with the communities and counties in which they operate.

International Youth Day on August 12th, celebrated this year under the theme "Youth Civic Engagement." This focuses on the added value of involvement and inclusion of youth in the construction of their future. NSP organized six large gatherings offering the opportunity to 973 young men and young women to participate in thematic discussions and presentations to highlight: a) the potential of youth as partners for social change today and b) opportunities for the local associations and authorities to take appropriate steps to meet their needs. The talks were facilitated by project staff, youth leaders and personnel from local health institutions. Young people also showed their talents and eloquence between the sessions and expressed their wishes to see the accomplishment of their demands for quality education, vocational training and insertion.

These young people were full of energy and promise in the Canaan commune of Croix-des-Bouquets, in Thibeau, the commune of Milot, in Caracol, in Fort-Liberté and in Ouanaminthe. Many other young women and young men living in these areas continue to show their interest to participate in adolescent health groups and youth meetings. They testify saying they see their participation in terms of personal and community benefits. These talks have greatly contributed to form the connections between young people from diverse backgrounds. The mobilization was made around the theme "Jèn Yo La" (Youth Engagement) supported by a logo showing key skills for young people in leadership, nutrition and participation, dynamically represented. Topics on adolescence, health, values, principles, life skills, hygiene, sport and nutrition were presented in a booklet distributed to the participants.

Young people are connected with the care groups and meet at least once a month to discuss various topics. They discuss and seek solutions together to the challenges and barriers to their initiatives and proposals. They want answers to their questions about society and about themselves. They share their experiences and seek further training. Young leaders are getting ready to significantly contribute to changes in health, nutrition and many other areas. Young people want every citizen to become aware and know that today's youth are committed to the advancement of their community and the progress of their country.