29 January 2013

Gambia: Youth and Community Services

Why should we encourage youth to get involved and participate in community-based activities? What are the benefits of service learning? How do we recruit and retain energetic, creative, and thoughtful youth and present them with real opportunities to make a difference?

There are a growing number of opportunities for youth to get involved in service activities, through schools, service clubs, religious affiliations, family or neighborhood based volunteering. The challenge is to maintain youth interest and commitment to community service by showing them the benefit to the community they are serving and to themselves.

There are several strategies that can be used to get young people involved, keep young people involved, and keep them motivated in the process.

Give Youth Responsibility

Contrary to the thought process of some adults, youth like to have responsibility. In the area of Community Service, this means involving Youth in the process from the very beginning. For instance, when the decision has been made for a Youth service project, let them decide what the project will be then let them plan the project. This means recruiting and supervising volunteers (specifically other young people), obtaining resources such as funding and materials, settling transportation details, and allowing them to lead on the day of the project. When Youth are involved in the entire process, they have a vested interest and want to be sure that what has been planned will get done.

Youth are more willing to get involved in service projects that are developed and led by their peers. When Youth are not involved in the entire process of Community Service efforts, it comes across as a necessary evil. However, when Youth have a role in the planning, they

are very excited about what will happen and can easily influence their Youth and Community. Youth are also encouraged to be successful when they are given responsibility.

Perceive Youth as Resource

Youth should be recognized for their talents, skills and ideas. Too often, adults focus on Youth as needing resources rather than being resources. As a result, young people may want to contribute their own resources, but are afraid that their ideas will not be accepted because everyone else already has an answer. Community Service can be used to give young people the opportunity to be resources. If young people are involved in the entire process of Community Service efforts, they can utilize their talents and see the positive outcomes. The time, effort, and money spent obtaining resources are saved because the Youth are the resources. Throughout this process, Youth learn more about themselves and their abilities. They may discover talents and strengths they never knew they had.

Recognize Youth involved in Community Services

After Youth have been engaged in the entire community service process from planning to completion, and after they have been utilized as resources, the best way to keep them motivated is to recognize them for their work; one of the goals of the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSS) of the Gambia. This initiative makes youth to be recognized and involved in Community Service. Whether it is an award, a certificate or just taking a moment to say "Thank you," acknowledging the fact that Youth are doing something positive encourages them to continue to give back to their community and motivates them to get others involved.

Community Service must be taken beyond the level where Youth do the work and adults get the credit. With so many options to choose from, Youth don't have to be involved in Community Service. Recognizing them lets them know that their actions are not taken for granted. Youth are the future. Community Service helps Youth prepare for the future. Lets empower our Youth to determine their own destiny.

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