Learning the ropes
11 May 2002
Bonn, Germany: "[Volunteerism] empowers people, contributes to building solidarity, encourages participation and ownership, creates networks of reciprocity and reinforces a sense of collective responsibility. It is at the core of the United Nations development goals, and therefore serves the interests of social development."
Nguyen Thanh Chau of Viet Nam at the United Nations General Assembly, 26 November 2002
In the Caribbean, most young people have enough to eat and a bed to sleep on. Over 85 per cent attend primary school and many continue on to secondary school and beyond. Survival is not the issue, but making the right choices in life is. Growing up amidst increasing domestic violence, high rates of teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and drug abuse, it is often difficult to know where to turn. Teaming up with government counterparts and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), a Japanese-sponsored network of UN Volunteers in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, strives to create a world fit for children - by helping children and youth become fit for the world. They pass on skills for healthy living in schools and parent teachers associations (PTAs) and call on decision makers to adopt policies to standardize health and family life education in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states.
UN Volunteer Petra Buffong carries an important message all over her native Dominica, the region's lush "nature island" with 70,000 inhabitants. "We are preparing our children to be responsible citizens,"she told a PTA gathering in Portsmouth. Meeting teachers, Petra helps develop curricula designed to make pupils think more about the consequences of their actions. Taking the message to the streets, in 2002 she organized a week of activities with Dominica's Ministry of Education that ended with a colourful march through the capital Roseau and a rally covered on national radio and television. Sending the message further, she exchanges experiences with the other UN Volunteers posted throughout the Caribbean on ways children learn best to choose their friends, their fun and their future.
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