August 12 is International Youth Day. It’s a time to celebrate the valuable contributions that young people make around the world. When given an education and a voice, youth are empowered to reach their full potential and build a better future. They can break the cycle of poverty, overcome social barriers, and advocate for peace and justice. They become agents of change. In this issue of World At Your Door, you’ll find inspiring stories of young people who are making a difference in the world around them.
“The current generation of youth are the largest in history,” says information from the United Nations for Youth. “Young people often comprise the majority in countries marked by armed conflict and unrest, therefore considering the needs and aspirations of youth in matters of peace and security is a demographic imperative.”
The (Computer) Key to Success
Rista did all the right things. She studied hard, stayed focused and managed to get a post-secondary education – a challenge for most girls that live in her rural village in India. But despite beating the odds, she wasn’t able to secure a professional job.
“In every job, a candidate should have a basic knowledge of computers,” says Phonuel Poricha, who works with CBM’s partner in India. “Her father’s income is not sufficient to send her to a private computer centre.”
Rista’s father works as an attendant at a local hospital, but he struggles to support their family of five on his meager income. But when he recognized that Rista wanted to pursue her education, he borrowed money at a very high interest rate to send her to school – increasing their financial struggles.
Now 20 years old, Rista lives in a very poor area with limited resources. Many youth do not have access to a computer or training. Although some try to seek work outside of the village, they struggle to compete for professional jobs in surrounding cities.
“They do not have transportation or good education,” explains Phonuel. “As a result, many youth of this village are jobless and uneducated.”
Last year, Rista learned about a computer training centre that offers free services to youth seeking employment. The centre, supported by CBM’s Youth Empowerment project in India, provides training in a range of applications – from Microsoft Office to Adobe Photoshop.
After receiving the training, Rita secured a job as a data entry operator for a district labour office. This job places her in a better position to develop her career, and it also provides the income she needs to have a better quality of life.
Rista is thankful for the opportunity to learn computer skills. This has given her the chance to have a “dignified life in society”, she says.
In the future, Rista hopes to empower other girls in her village by teaching them the skills that helped her to succeed.
Youth in Mission
Each year, CBM encourages youth to participate in short-term mission trips around the world. Through this life-changing experience, young people have the opportunity to deepen their walk with God and increase their global awareness. The result? Youth come back empowered to share God’s love – in word and deed.
Aaron and Erica Kenny, CBM Field Staff in Kenya, share quotes from Canadian youth that served as leaders at Kamp Tumaini this year. Based in Kenya, this annual camp focuses on children and youth who are infected or affected by HIV and AIDS:
“Don’t be afraid to step out, whether way-out or just a little bit. I know that I am going back [to Canada] more confident than I was before.”
“Kamp Tumaini has made me more confident, as well. I did not think that I could stand up and talk in front of people, but God showed me that I could. I’m taking that back with me.”
“As I go back, I know that I will take more chances and engage more. I want to be more outgoing with my peers at school.”
A Step in the Right Direction
At 17, Evariste has never gone to school. He is blind in one eye and has a disability in one leg, which causes him to limp. As an orphan living with physical challenges, getting an education has always been out of reach for him.
Evariste lives with his aunt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She is a widow with seven children of her own to care for. She is not able to afford the special care that Evariste needs, and Evariste is not physically able to help is aunt with the field work. As a result, he has lived in isolation for most of his life.
“Children living with [a disability] suffer marginalization in different aspects: at home they are regarded as a curse for the family. In the society, they are regarded as a burden,” explains Polisi Kivava, who works with CBM’s partner in the DRC. “They have no access to education, and even with other children, they have to endure mockery all the time.”
Earlier this year, Evariste’s situation began to change when his aunt heard of a CBM project in their area that provided support to vulnerable children. Through the project, Evariste was trained to work with leather and joined a basic literacy class. It also gave him the rare opportunity to interact with other children and youth.
After two months of training, Evariste is now able to read the alphabet and make small repairs on shoes. He has even learned how to make a pair of sandals.
“His aunt could not believe it until she came to [the centre] and saw him at work,” says Polisi. “She raised her hands in the air and praised God for what she called a live miracle.”
When Evariste came home with the sandal he made, it had an impact on those around him. They began to change their perspective and attitudes. “Even his cousin, who used to mock him, now speaks to him with some respect,” says Polisi. “Also, reaching the level of saying the alphabet in such a short time has shown that he is not as stupid as people used to think.”
Despite Evariste’s physical challenges, his aunt is now convinced that he can reach his full potential. “God has given a special talent to each human being,” she concludes.
Evarist is proud to be attending the centre and he has started speaking about his dream for the future: to own a “big shoe workshop”.