The induction of 22 new Youth Ambassadors should help to ensure that the voices of Jamaican youths will be heard more strongly on the national and international stage.
The young people, aged 18 to 26, were recently inducted at King’s House, where they received the charge and instruments of office from the Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen.
They were assigned 18 portfolios, including CARICOM, the Commonwealth, the Diaspora, disabilities, disaster management, education, entertainment, healthy lifestyle, human trafficking, sustainable development, values and attitudes, vulnerable youth, youth and agriculture, youth and business and the United Nations.
The Jamaica Youth Ambassadors Programmes (JAYAP), launched in 2000, is a youth development programme of the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD), focusing on the empowerment of young people.
“I am honoured and I am happy to have been chosen to represent other young people like myself,” Youth Ambassador, Chief of Mission: Youth and Agriculture, Zurie Johnson, told JIS News, after receiving his instrument of office. He said that his appointment has put some amount of pressure on him, now that he is faced with the responsibility.
“You know what they (young persons) go through and you have always wanted to influence change, so now that you are in the position and you know the responsibility that comes with it, it is kind of nerve wracking, but you have to find a core to deal with it. Other than that, I am just really happy,” he said.
However, the young graduate of the University of the West Indies (UWI) from the remote community of Thicketts, St. Ann, said he is not afraid of the job, since he has a passion for representation and the drive to help others.
Zurie, who had no previous experience in agriculture, said he is open to new challenges, willing to learn and to represent others to the best of his ability. A role model in his community, he is encouraging young persons to get involved in agriculture to create more jobs.
“Agriculture is very wide, and there is that capacity for you to grow, for you to open, for you to do new things, for you to create new ideas, for you to be just successful,” he said.
“Persons who have done studies in science can look at aspects of agriculture that could be linked to agriculture and business aspects, as well,” he added.
Currently employed as a marketing officer, Zurie said it was also an opportunity for him “to create a better package to market agriculture to young persons.”
Youth Ambassador for Disabilities, Sharmalee Cordoza, will be addressing key issues of concern for persons with disabilities.
“I felt good, but it wasn’t really a surprise, because I went into the interview and I did what I had to do and I knew that I would’ve been chosen,” said Sharmalee, when asked how she felt after learning that she had been selected.
“I know the cries of persons with disabilities, since I have worked with different organisations responsible for persons with disabilities, so it’s a great opportunity, ” said Sharmalee, who is visually impaired.
She listed unemployment and accessibility to the workplace, as the two main challenges facing persons with disabilities.
“We find that a lot of persons with disabilities are graduating from tertiary institutions and they are unable to get jobs,” she said, adding that a number of government organisations were not accessible to physically challenged persons.
Sharmalee, who is also a graduate of the UWI, said that she will be working to ensure that persons with disabilities have easy access to schools, by seeking to have facilities established in them.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Senator Warren Newby, said the Youth Ambassadors will be meeting shortly to select a Dean from among them, and to deal with some administrative matters. Subsequently, they will meet with their stakeholders’ groupings and support services team to work out the year’s agenda, after which they will hold a press conference to outline their work programme.
He noted that the number of Youth Ambassadors was increased from 14 to 21, because of the volume of issues to be dealt with.
“I believe it will help for young people to have these varied portfolios being advocated for, so we thought it was very important to widen the pool of advocates,” Senator Newby said.
Turning to human trafficking, he said a number of young women, aged nine to 18, have gone missing without the authorities knowing what had happened.
“We are very concerned, and we want to increase awareness around this matter. We want to look at ways how we can reduce the incidence of human trafficking in our society,” he said.
Another issue of concern, Senator Newby said, was food security and agriculture. Apart from the need to increase foreign exchange earnings, he said it was also necessary to maintain nutritional standards and to provide employment for young people.
“This is an area that young people have not been gravitating towards, so we hope we can increase some awareness around the subject area,” he said.