Partners’ Youth Ambassadors Program, a U.S. State Department sponsored cultural exchange program, brings together youths of limited means and/or with limited international experience, ages 15-18, to build understanding among countries, increase leadership skills, and prepare them to be positive agents of change through volunteer service. In 2012, eleven Guyanese youth and two adult Guyanese mentors participated in the program. While in the U.S., they were engaged with local government and civic organizations, built relationships with host families and youths, and participated in skills-based training that enabled and empowered them to mobilize their communities towards positive change. The youth were empowered to build mutual understanding among countries, enhance leadership skills, be conscious minded, expose themselves to cultures in and out of the country, work and relate with each other, be positive agents of change through volunteer service and replicate what they have learned.
A core goal of the program is for the student leaders, once empowered, to bring their experience to life by helping encourage and guide other student leaders through community oriented service projects. The project seeks to build their capacity to mitigate the effects of climate change by promoting climate-smart agriculture. Youths will be promoting container gardening and mini-shade house production in two main areas: hydroponic and natural vegetable production. Container gardening is not labor intensive, hence several types of non-biodegradable containers can be used such as plastic (drink and water) bottles, cups, bowls, wash tubs, milk tins, old buckets, and old sneakers--some of these items which typically clog the drains in the city. These methods will be achieved by encouraging and providing training to youths within their communities. The exposure sessions will encourage them to reuse plastic containers and bottles thereby reducing the amount of garbage going into the canals and landfill sites. They can be planted in, organic waste generated in the home can be composted, and healthy vegetables can be produced in the home.
The youth, with assistance from Colwayne Morris Snr. Field Extension Officer, attached the Sustainable livelihoods project implemented by Partners of the Americas Guyana chapter and have embarked on their community project. They have demonstrated volunteerism and the leadership skills they acquired through training in the exchange program they participated in. The youths met and planned how they will execute their community project to which they are enthusiastic and anxious to get recycling and producing. These youths were first trained in simple techniques of hydroponics (theory and practical), a form of farming technology. Some of these students were exposed to Hydroponics previously, while it was new to some of the others. Nonetheless, they were charged up and ready to go do it on their own. Some already have their containers ready which they have collected in their own backyards and other parts of their communities. The youths also noted that this technique is easy and makes agriculture “sexy” hence, demonstrating that anyone can do it and that’s it’s not demanding or back breaking. As such, one of the YA’s brought along her little eight year old brothers to the training and he enjoyed it very much. He was involved in everything; from asking questions to mixing the Hydroponic solution and even planting the lettuce seedlings. The YAs were given various short growing vegetable seedlings such as lettuce, parsley, pakchoy, and Pepper to plant at home and in three weeks the team will visit each other to ensure all the plants are alive and doing well.
I am delighted to work with the YA’s in order to execute this project and more so introduce Agriculture in simplicity to Youths.
My experience working with the Youth Ambassadors thus far has been fantastic! The YAs are so friendly, willing, and thoughtful and I felt as though what I was doing was warranted. They are also highly knowledgeable in the sciences and eager to learn new information and techniques, so I am confident that they will carry on the knowledge I shared and continue to spread it to the people of their community and Guyana. We are constantly in touch so as to ensure they are taking great care of the plants and follow the guidelines given. I am also of the view that the impact made by this small project will spark the growth and development of other projects that seeks to expand efforts in Guyana within the areas of container gardening, composting and hydroponics, and hopefully also work on developing recycling programs and an anti-littering campaign.