| Peace Corps' rededication to youth: Addressing the needs of youth-at-risk |
Manuel has always been a talented athlete and is an especially good football player. When he was ten, Manuel played with the older boys and scored many goals. Even though he was smaller, the older boys respected his talent and toughness end didn't burly him.
As he grew older, Manuel became a natural leader among his friends both on and off the football field. He organized games and settled disputes that often broke out when they played on neighborhood streets.
Manuel's family was quite poor. He was the oldest child and expected to work after school to help support the family. Each afternoon and evening he went to the central city to chine shoes and sell candy.
Even on the streets Manuel was a leader. He organized his buddies into a profitable begging and pickpocket ring. He was fair to them and shared the profits equally among the group. Sometimes when they saw a poor old man or woman, he and his friends would share some of their money or food with them.
Downtown streets were not the place to play football. Occasionally one of the boys did find an old ball and they played in the park. But eventually the ball was run over in traffic or was stolen.
Manuel and his friends always talked about Jorge Vasquez, the best player on the country's national team. Manuel, like lots of boys his age, dreamed of playing for the national team. Each night as he returned home from downtown, he walked passed the lot where he used to play football with his neighborhood friends and remembered how great it was to score the winning goal.
There are thousands of youth-at-risk in the capitals and ma secondary cities of most countries. Many of these you demonstrate leadership and organizational qualities among their peers, but often in non-constructive or illegal activities They lack opportunities to develop these qualities in constructive activities which interest them, such as sports. A well-organized sports program can be a vehicle to teach them ho to apply these skills to small business activities, health vices, environmental education or other personal community development needs..
DISCUSSION OF THE PROBLEM
It is estimated that about 25 percent of the youth-at-risk live the street and do not attend school. The other 75 percent attend school, but are on the verge of becoming street children Many in this latter group work on the street, but live with their families in very poor neighborhoods. Given the poor living environment from which they come, the youth have few opportunities to develop leadership, organization and team building skills or to use these skills in constructive activity that will help them lead more responsible and productive lives.
Unlike youth from the rural areas who have family and fan responsibilities after school, urban youth in poor neighborhood have few such productive after school activities, and there form have much idle time.
The Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Education have financial resources to provide for extracurricular activities. fact, there is a shortage of schools, books and supplies. School operate on double sessions and are still overcrowded.
PEACE CORPS INVOLVEMENT
Contacts For Possible Collaboration
The Ministry of Education held a sports conference in which all local sports groups and other local and international organizations working with youth-at-risk in the three cities were invited to attend. The conferees agreed to develop a comprehensive sports program for all youth in the country's three major cities.
The government and five international and local NGOs agreed to collaborate on a project that wilt organize sports as the first step in developing initiative, team work, leadership, and organizational skirts among youth-at-risk from poor families who spend much of their time on the street, but are stilt in school. The youth will be taught to apply skills learned through the sports program to other personal and community needs, such as employment, health education, and community development.
The sports program will be integrated into school and youth sports programs to maximize existing public and private resources, and will also integrate street children into mainstream youth activities. The program will teach these youth to organize, schedule, manage and direct the program and be responsible for much of the decision making.
Children in school will participate on teams at the school or near their homes. Separate teams will be formed for children living on the streets. A sports office located in the center of the city where street children live and work will serve as headquarters for the sports program. The sports program will pay special attention to maintaining regular attendance of street children whose transient lifestyle tends to make their involvement sporadic.
The director of the National Center for the Development of Human Resources chaired the conference and agreed to chair the project's planning committee. Representatives of the mayor's office and the Ministry of Education in each of the cities were present and in agreement with the concept.
Local groups attending the meeting included the Boy Scouts, representing 30 troops, three city football associations, and 15 various other sports clubs and associations, and the Home for Christian Boys and Girls.
UNICEF's Basic Services Unit monitors all programs in country for children in especially difficult circumstance Partners of the Americas is interested in the project and the local representative thinks he can solicit support from a stateside partner in New Jersey. Save the Children Catholic Relief Services, and Plan International each have a project in one the cities and are interested in supporting the project.
Peace Corps has been involved in the planning of this program from its inception and has agreed to supply Volunteers or multi- and cross-sectorial basis over the next eight years.
Peace Corps Youth Development Advisory Committee will formed to conduct crucial contact, communication and liaison activities with appropriate ministries.
Possible Peace Corps Project Activities
Use Peace Corps' five current education Volunteer located in one of the secondary cities to train local counterparts to conduct preliminary surveys in each zone of the three cities to determine existing sports activities.
Based on survey results, assist in the design a implementation of the initial sports program.
Provide a team of urban community development small business Volunteers for each of the proposed project cities during the first six years to:
Assist community leaders in organizing a' coordinating sports activities.
Organize and train youth to plan, schedule a' manage sports activities.
Develop leadership training/team build)' programs and guides for the project.
Network with and recruit other organizations provide necessary technical and financial assistance, including the contribution of spa equipment.
Develop job placement, artisan and/or vocational training programs for youth from the sports program.
Develop micro-enterprise training for youth.
Provide additional youth development Volunteers in skill areas to be determined by community needs (obtained from surveys) as well as from experience gained during the first two years of the project.