| Peace Corps' rededication to youth: Addressing the needs of youth-at-risk |
Ever since Josie can remember, she and her mother went the river that ran through the middle of her neighborhood to draw wafer for drinking, cooking, laundry and bath. Some people, mostly men, bathed right in the river. Jo recalls that when she was very small the water in the seemed so much clearer.
She often asked her mother why the waters was not as clear any more, and if it was okay to drink the water or cook with it because it was so dark. Her mother was always too busy filling buckets and thinking about all the work she had to do to answer Josie. She usually said to her, `'At 12 years old you're too young to ask all these questions. Why don't do help me instead of thinking so much."
Since Josie didn't get her answer to the questions at home, she started asking her next door neighbor, Mr. Flomo, who was a teacher at He local school. He, too, was surprised Josie's interest in the water. It wasn't a subject he usually discussed But he thought this was a good opportunity to talk about the problem, so he gave Josie and some of the neighborhood children an assignment. He asked them spend the next week going through the neighborhood looking for all the sources that made the river water dirty. Then they would discuss them, and also discuss things they could do help clean up the water.
Josie and her friends brought Mr. Flomo their lists based on their observations and conversations with their parents and relatives. They realized the river water got dirty from sources outside their neighborhood, ho, but did not know the exact sources. They wanted to know more and to do something about the problem. Mr. Flomo had a friend who belonged the local Conservation Society and asked him to come speak with the children. Seeing the positive response from She, Mr. Flomo and his friend decided to seek other ways channel this interest into positive action.
Sam had lived on the city street with his friends for four years. He was the only one in the group of six boys who was not born and raised in the city. Sam came from a large, poor family hat lived on a farm where his father raised a few chickens and grew rice. Sam loved the open spaces, the animals and he clear stream where he used to swim. But when he was 10, he left the village because his father constancy beat him.
All of Sam's friends came from the city and they laughed at rim when he talked about life on a farm-the animals, all the fruit trees, and streams. Sam really missed that part of village life. But he also enjoyed the excitement of the city.
To make money, he and his friends often went to the city dump to look for things that they could sell. But they discovered the hard way that the dump was a dangerous place. Sam once stepped on a sharp object and lost a lot of blood His friends carried him to the nurse at the outreach center for street children.
The nurse warned trim that he could have died or lost his foot because of this bad cut and warned him against going to the dump any more. Even though it took many weeks for his foot to heal, Sam did go to the clump again with his friends. When key were hungry, they did not worry about danger. This time one of his friends found a bottle with some liquid in it. It had a strong odor like the glue they sniffed to get high. But this was a dangerous toxic chemical and it made his friend, Jonathan, very sick. The other boys carried him to the outreach center and the nurse rushed him to a clinic. Later, the boys showed the center director the bottle and he told them it was an agricultural chemical used for killing insects.
It was at times like this that Sam longed most to be back in the village where there was lots of fruit to eat, streams to swim in, animals to take care of and no worries about drinking something dangerous.
You-at-risk, both in school and on the street are often unaware of the environmental influences on their lives physical and mental. For example, many urban youth-at-risk are physically affected by poor water and sanitation. They not know how to avoid such problems nor understand how they could help others avoid them. Growing up in slums, she towns or on city streets, most of these youth have had little exposure to or understanding of nature, wildlife and other positive environmental influences. They have little, if any, opportunity to learn about and be exposed to these influences. In addition, they are unaware of the social environment afflicting their lives and how to learn about and develop good work habits, a sense of responsibility, dependability and self- discipline.
DISCUSSION OF THE PROBLEM
Youth-at-risk typically live in urban physical environments which are not conducive to good health. Poor water polluted by domestic sewage, industrial chemicals and resulting run cause numerous diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid. In addition, standing water and excessive garb: breeds mosquitoes which carry malaria and other insect-borne diseases. Garbage dumps and landfills contain toxic material and are sources of accidental cuts and other injuries. And some major cities, noise and air pollution are serious threats to the entire population.
Such poor environmental conditions not only threaten physical health but also contribute to a mental atmosphere of apathy a indifference that stifles an appreciation of a quality environment and a desire to preserve it. Few educational programs teach about environmental dangers and how they can avoided are available to urban youth-at-risk. There are a few incentives or programs that channel the energies of you at-risk towards constructive environmental action and the help them develop a sense of individual and community responsibility.
Some urban youth-at-risk have migrated from rural areas, 1 most have grown up in the city and have not been exposed the beauty of nature, the need to preserve natural habitats a wildlife in rural areas or the importance these things have the quality of the environment.
In many places where youth have had the chance to better understand the natural environment, they have learned not only to appreciate that environment, but also have learned about themselves, about hard work and self discipline and how to better operate in a society growing ever more complex.
PEACE CORPS INVOLVEMENT
Possible Contacts For Collaboration
Following a regional youth and environmental conference in a neighboring country, several participants returned home with representatives of the California Conservation Corps to organize a task force to start a conservation corps.
The task force was composed of representatives of the Ministries of Fisheries, Forestry and Social Services, and several local NGOs working with street children and the environment including Opportunities for Youth, the Center for Environmental Studies, the Audubon Society, and the Peace Corps. The task force agreed that through a well organized conservation work program youth-at-risk could learn through hands-on experience:
- about the environment, the growing environmental concerns in their community end country, and how/ where they could make a difference.
- skills that would help them cope in an ever more complex society.
- good work habits by developing responsibility, dependability, self-discipline, and teamwork.
The task force adapted conservation corps approaches used in other countries to fit the context of their own culture and environmental concerns. They decided to organize both rural and urban conservation work programs to help give youth a more complete understanding of their environment.
Work projects will be supervised by adult and peer trainers serve as mentors and role models to the youth. Each crew approximately 20 youth participants will be given a work project that can be completed in the two week program. The work project will teach leadership and team building Interspersed in the daily routine will be both formal informal environmental education and time for reflecting on the experience through writing, talking or acting out their impressions of what they are learning.
Urban projects will include organizing boys and girls dubs that will, as a part of their activity, conduct clean-up campaigns, recycle trash, and take nature awareness walks. Rural project will include an educational, work-oriented, two-week trip to a national park several hours outside of the capital.
To be successful, the task force agreed the program must ha public support and that the best way to gain this support was through a successful demonstration, or pilot, project.
They agreed that the most effective organizational structure would be to form a non-governmental organization fund through grants from several large local industries that impact the environment, as well as from a local credit union league, and several international donors.
The task force decided to involve both in-school youth-at-risk and street children between the ages of 15 and 19 in program. The recruitment process will include visits to high schools located in poor neighborhoods and to the institutions working with street children. The site for the rural conservation work will be in a national wildlife reserve. The urban conservation work will be conducted in two pilot cities.
Possible Peace Corps Project Activities
Use current Peace Corps Volunteers to support the logistical and organizational efforts of the taste fore to recruit and train staff and recruit youth participants.
Assist in the design, implementation, and evaluation of the pilot work programs and based on this experience assist in redesigning a long-term program.
Provide a team of urban community development and environmental Volunteers to work in each of the urban and rural conservation work sites during the first six years to:
Coordinate recruitment of staff and youth participants.
Design and coordinate work programs.
Provide to crew supervisors the requisite environmental and leadership training.
Develop training curricula and materials.
Assist in fundraising for the program.
Network with and recruit other organizations to provide necessary technical and financial assistance, including building materials, tools and equipment.