Honorable Minister Nicolette Henry;
Members of the Private Sector;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
I am honored to participate in this event today and to recognize the talent, commitment, and creativity of the outstanding young entrepreneurs gathered here. It is gratifying to know that the grants provided by my government played a role in not only launching your businesses but will generate income and jobs for your communities.
I have met with many Guyanese since my arrival here, including Ministers in government, members of the private sector, civil society leaders, and others across different sectors to discuss issues important to the development of Guyana. The collective commitment expressed to support the growth and development of young people and to provide avenues for them to realize their full potential was inspiring. It is clear that both government officials and private citizens recognize that supporting youth development is a wise investment.
The U.S. Government has supported the USAID SKYE program to forge networks and impact youth across Guyana. The SKYE program has reached those most in need through mentoring, counseling, and work related training. As a result, 200 youth have continued their studies; over 1,900 youth received workforce development training; 700 are now employed; and 60 entrepreneurs, including those being recognized today, started businesses. These successes represent achievements that empower youth and change lives.
I’m very pleased that the U.S. Government is a partner in supporting the interests and aspirations of youth in Guyana. This is evident in our democracy and governance programs that foster youth engagement in political processes and our health programs that provide care and support services for youth infected with, or affected by, HIV. Similarly, our citizen security programs work to improve the treatment of youth who come into conflict with the law and support youth empowerment activities such as business ownership. Youth, like the ones gathered here today, are supported in their entrepreneurial efforts to use creativity to create self-employment.
We recognize that hard work and an enterprising spirit can often only mitigate difficult life circumstances and, therefore, opportunities have to be provided and systems put in place to provide assistance for those who are in greatest need. I am pleased that through the SKYE program’s youth entrepreneurship initiative, “Be Your Own Boss,” we were able to identify gaps and provide tangible assistance.
To all the new business owners gathered here, you have demonstrated your resolve to be independent and control your own destiny. I applaud that determination and commend you for taking this opportunity to start your own enterprises. I encourage you to capitalize on future opportunities that may offer important prospects for a better life for you, your families, and your community.
The SKYE program is making a valuable contribution and the partnerships developed along the way will continue to have a lasting impact on the program’s sustainability and on participants’ lives. The SKYE volunteer initiative announced earlier today is an example of a strong partnership focused at involving those who are best positioned to understand the needs within their communities and who have a desire to play a role in their communities’ transformation. I urge every Guyanese who is able to offer their time to this worthwhile endeavor.
After the SKYE program ends in September 2016, the U.S. Government, through USAID, will remain committed to supporting youth development work in Guyana and continue to work with our many local partners beyond 2016 to reduce youth involvement in crime and violence and to support the empowerment of youth and their active engagement in Guyana’s and the Caribbean region’s development.
In closing, I want to again congratulate our young entrepreneurs on their new business ventures. I wish you every success going forward and hope to be invited to visit some of your businesses in the near future.
Best wishes to you all. Thank you.