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The National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD) is revamping the National Youth Council to enhance and extend its reach to the country’s young people.
Co-ordinator of the National Youth Council, Trishan Haughton, tells JIS News that the restructuring is necessary, as “it was found that the level of involvement of youth clubs is somewhat limited because previously, we operated in a kind of top-down approach and so we are trying to take it from the bottom up.”
She notes that the restructuring will not change the overall objective of the Council, as it will still represent community-based youth organisations, “but the structure itself and the reach and in terms of specific goals, specific mandates – that might change.”
As part of the reform process, a registration campaign, dubbed ‘Getting Involved,’ will get underway soon, where youth clubs across the island will be encouraged to register with the Council. Through registration, the clubs will be able to access the various benefits provided by the NCYD, including financing for projects and other activities.
Youth clubs can access a $25,000 subvention to be used as seed money for fund-raising activities, among other things. A total of 106 youth clubs benefitted from this grant last year. Financial support is also provided for uniformed youth organisations. Last year, 10 such groups received $500,000 in grants.
In addition to these monetary benefits, Miss Haughton, who is also Youth Empowerment Officer at the NCYD, says that having a registry for all youth clubs will make the process of holding Youth Council elections easier.
“Every time that you want to have elections, clubs have to be found and verified all over again. Having conducted this campaign, you will always have a working list of clubs, (and) that will be the voters’ list of the electoral process,” she points out.
Turning to other programmes under the NCYD, Miss Haughton informs that changes will also be made to the Youth Ambassadors Programme this year, with the Ambassadors-at-Large to be given portfolio areas, “so that they can hone in on specific areas of work.”
The majority of Youth Ambassadors have specific portfolios, each with precise mandates. There are Youth Ambassadors to the Commonwealth, to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and to the United Nations General Assembly.
Geared towards enhancing the leadership skills of Jamaica’s youth, the Youth Ambassadors Programme selects young people to represent the views of Jamaica’s youth population, internationally, regionally, and nationally. The Ambassadors have represented Jamaica in other Caribbean countries, Sri Lanka, the United States, and countries in Europe.
These youth leaders sit on several boards in and outside of Jamaica, and attend meetings such as the United Nations General Assembly, and any other youth-related conference to speak or advocate on behalf of young people in Jamaica.
Miss Haughton explains that in order to be selected as a Youth Ambassador, persons have to be within the age range of 18 to 25 years, and be a member of a youth organisation. “The first stage involves you writing an essay and if your essay is selected, you move on to phase two where we .test your ability to work in teams and your interpersonal skills,” she informs.
She says that those who make it through this process are asked to make a presentation to a group of young people, “because . you would be representing them, so we look at how it is that you relate to young people, how they relate to you, how well you communicate with them. If you’ve made it through all that, the final thing is an interview.”
From that final interview, a Youth Ambassador is selected to serve for a two-year period. Twelve to 14 persons serve during each two-year cycle.
During their tenure, the Youth Ambassadors are required to remain a part of their original youth group, and engage in voluntary activities to benefit those in the 15 to 25 age group. “So they might conduct empowerment sessions.they (can) engage in activities like children’s home ventures,” Miss Haughton points out.
Youth Ambassadors sit on various boards and they have been involved with the Violence Prevention Alliance and the process to reform the justice system.
The NCYD is the youth division of the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, and works to promote the empowerment of youth and to advocate for public investment in young people.
“The work that we do is focused around the need for an effective public policy framework to support the transition from childhood to adulthood. The objectives of NCYD include fostering an environment, which allows for young people in Jamaica to self-actualise,” Miss Haughton informs.
These objectives are realised through the various programmes that the NCYD co-ordinates, which, in addition to the National Youth Council and the Youth Ambassadors Programme, entail the National Secondary Students Council, the Jamaica Union of Tertiary Students, and Spotlight Bright.
The organisation also co-ordinates Operation Phoenix, under which Youth Information Centres are constructed and operated. There are now five centres in Portmore, St. Mary, Kingston, Portland and St. James, where young people can access free internet service, do their homework and benefit from sessions conducted by the parish Youth Empowerment Officers.
The NCYD is also in charge of organising Youth Month activities in November of each year, which include Youth Parliament, International Students Day, Marching Band Day, Youth Entrepreneurs’ Exposition, Youth Organisations Sports Day, and an all-island youth run. Activities culminate with the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards.
According to Miss Haughton, the NCYD’s work is driven by the National Youth Policy, which aims to foster a culture of positive youth development and participation. The policy is broken down into six focal areas: education and training; employment and entrepreneurship; health; participation and empowerment; care and protection; and the environment.

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