PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – “How old are you, Dara?” asked one of the youth delegates to the Eastern Caribbean Youth Symposium. She was talking to Dara Jerome, a symposium co-ordinator from the NGO createfuturegood, on the last day of the five-day meeting in Trinidad.
“How old do I look?” Jerome teased the delegates. They shouted: “Seventeen!” “Twenty-four!”
Jerome, who is 19, was one of some two dozen young people working at the symposium, staged by UNICEF and the Trinidad and Tobago ministry of sport and youth affairs from November 19- 23. The symposium’s theme was “Our Education, Our Future”. Youths and their chaperones came from all 12 of the countries covered by the UNICEF Eastern Caribbean office.
UNICEF representative Dr Aloys Kamuragiye said in the programme’s notes that the symposium was a way to equip young people in advocacy for the future, part of the UNICEF Generation Unlimited agenda. The campaign seeks to have all young people in education, training or employment by 2030.
Createfuturegood, which is based in Trinidad and Tobago, was responsible for planning and executing the training. Exercises included workshops in advocacy, design, TV production, writing and presentation. Most of the team members were youths, and that was intentional. It was part of the NGO’s goals to equip young people with real skills whether they were delegates or working at the symposium.
Abdul Majeed Abdal Karim, 20, from Morvant, Trinidad, is a createfuturegood youth co-ordinator, doing database and administrative work and helping to organise workshops. At the symposium he led the social media team, planning the strategy, managing his team of two, and creating and posting content on the NGO’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
“It definitely helped me to realise some leadership qualities I hadn’t recognised,” he said at the end of the week. “Being an integral and significant part of the symposium, having responsibility placed upon me and delivering well made me feel empowered, like I can take on more tasks like this.”
Createfuturegood has been doing child rights advocacy for ten years in the Caribbean region. It makes widely-distributed child-friendly videos on themes such as preventing bullying and child abuse. It is also known for creating community murals painted by children.
As part of the symposium, delegates spent the morning of World Children’s Day painting a mural in the common areas of the Princess Elizabeth School, Woodbrook, with the school’s pupils. Kyle Fraser, 18, a multimedia artist from West Moorings, Trinidad, and three other young people – Omenirah Wiggins, Mikaella Hills, and Lystia Mulzac – designed the massive “tree of life” in a central common area with its branches stretching throughout the corridors.
He said working on the project required skilful planning and attention to logistics, teamwork, co-ordination and tenacity. “It was just so hectic.”
Team member Erica M B Ashton works closely with the NGO’s founder Nadella Oya.
“This has been a massive undertaking,” Ashton said. “The symposium brought in delegates from right up the Eastern Caribbean, including the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the British Virgin Islands. We’re talking about young people who might not know anything about media, or communications, or activism, and training them in five days. It was a real challenge. We’re so proud of what they’ve done, and happy they got the experiential learning. Now they can go back to their countries and use what they’ve learned to help other young people like themselves.”
It was the first project of this scale for createfuturegood.
“This happened with the direct support of UNICEF and the ministry of sport and youth affairs and we’re grateful they entrusted us with the responsibility to bring it together,” Ashton said.
Oya is a whirlwind of energy. As a TV and video producer she impressed on the delegates the power of communication. At the country presentations on November 22 each of the countries made affecting presentation on education issues, including on teen alcohol and drug abuse, teen parents, inadequate classrooms, and teaching for multiple intelligences.
Delegates from Maria- and Irma-devastated islands where schools were flattened talked about their infrastructure needs. In the audience that day ministers and technocrats from their islands listened and took notes; these presentations were designed to influence policy.
“Createfuturegood is an NGO that has always had big ambition and we have always been comfortable with a steep learning curve,” said Oya. “This is how we’ve managed to get our material on TV and online, so that children in Dubai and Taiwan can look at a video we made, that a teenager wrote, using just hands and some sheets of paper, to teach child rights. This symposium was ground-breaking for these young people and who knows what they’re going to be able to accomplish when they get back to their countries?
“Of course, we are glad we had the chance to work with UNICEF and the Ministry, and we want to keep going further with this work so the children and young people can create future good across the region with what they learned with the help of createfuturegood.”
Asma Muhammad, 16, from Brades, Montserrat, was one of the delegates. The Fifth Form student plans to go back to her school to meet with the principal and the student leadership team, of which she is a member.
Montserrat deputy premier and minister of education, Delmaude Ryan, saw the presentations and took part in a roundtable afterwards.
“I like how we are able to persuade our government to take action on the issues,” Muhammad said.