I am so glad that during my first volunteer trip to Africa, I was able to be a part of the planning and celebrations of International Youth Day 2011! Through weeks of planning and countless meetings, we have been able to celebrate a successful year of youth and mark the beginning of another one ahead! International Youth Day was started by the United Nations in 2000, as a way to draw attention to the obstacles and issues faced by youth around the world. August 2010 to August 2011 was declared International Youth Year, with today marking a new year for youth. This year’s Youth Day theme was “Change Your World”. Although we had minute by minute plans for every act and presentation for today, no one could have predicted how successful – and fun – Youth Day would have been!
After introducing ourselves and Youth Challenge International, our program began with a bang. With the help of partner organizations, we were able to address many of the issues that arise for Arusha’s young people. The students from the Umoja Centre, the organization we have been working with for the past 5 weeks, were given a chance to introduce their community projects – in which the students went into their communities and educated their members about durg and alcohol abuse and Malaria prevention. It was great to see the students be so proud of what they did for their communities! Initiative for Youth, an organization that we partnered with during our work in Arusha, performed a skit on the obstacles facing young girls today. The complications of gender inequality were a main theme of their skit, in which a girl from the village was forced to work as a Dada, or housegirl, after moving into town. After running away from her work as a Dada, she finds herself in the wrong crowd – and into the streets. The impact the skit had on the young people in the audience was immense.
We had set out space for other events adjacent to the stage as well. One of our tables was set up for four previous Umoja students we have been working with. We have been meeting up with these students for the past 5 weeks, making business plans with them. Today they were able to show off their business plans, pictures of their businesses, and some were even able to bring in some of their items to sell! It was great to show others how youth were able to become self-sufficient if given a chance. We also had tables set up for our partner organizations, who were free to give out more information to those who wanted it. As a way to show students that they were able to make a difference in their communities, we also set up a poster board that asked them how they have changed their world. The answers we received were great, including “I can change the world by teaching the community how to abolish the use of drugs and alcohol” and “I can change my world by finding a good way to educate the people about Malaria”.
We had also set time out for many of the organizations that we had contacted as a way to introduce themselves and what they strive to create. What better way to create a pool for local and international organizations to come together and see how they can all work in partnership with one another. We were lucky enough to have speakers come from organizations including Initiative for Youth, YES! Tanzania, BILD, Global Youth Corps, CASEC, and of course, the organizations we have been working with for the last 5 weeks, the Umoja Centre. It was great to see other organizations coming out and taking part in the celebrations – it showed the dedication they had to youth development in Arusha!
We ended off our event by having a very talented Umoja Centre student read a poem that he had written for Youth Day. The poem was called “Change Your World” and focused on how young people have the skills and abilities to make a positive impact in their own lives. The poem brought shivers down our spines, as he talked about how young people can work effectively, regardless of their age. He told the youth that they can be in charge and make positive decisions that others do not think they can make.
We were very thankful to everyone that was able to come out and celebrate Arusha’s talented young youth! We were able to appreciate what every single one of these students had to offer, and commemorate the great achievements that they have made this past year. We were able to show that young people have the skills and abilities to make a difference in their world and create positive change everyday!
– Sureet Rai, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2011
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