Chargé d’Affaires Bryan Hunt met today with six Guyanese secondary school students and one mentor who recently participated in a three-week exchange program to the United States known as the Youth Ambassadors Program (YAP). The theme of this year’s program was “Youth and Social Transformation.” Representing Guyana were Dolly Chambers, Ashraf Dabie, Joashaha Drakes, Nareema Khan, Hanani Lewi, Natisha Mokutnauth, and Royston Alkins – Mentor.
The enthusiastic and dynamic group of Guyanese youth arrived in Brattleboro, Vermont on August 9, 2015 for the commencement of the program and joined approximately 36 secondary school students and adult educators from other Caribbean countries including the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. The program focused on civic education, community service, youth leadership development through site meetings, experiential learning activities, civic participation at the community level, mentoring by community, business and NGO leaders, volunteer programs, and homestays with American families. The program culminated in Washington, D.C on August 30.
During the program, the Guyanese Youth Ambassadors and their Caribbean counterparts visited several cities, including Washington, D.C.; Cleveland, Ohio; Rapid City, South Dakota; and Seattle, Washington. One of the main objectives of the program was to prepare youth leaders to become responsible citizens and contributing members of their communities. The participants had an opportunity to foster relationships among youth from different ethnic, racial, religious, and national groups and create global networks of youth leaders, both within the participating countries and internationally from countries such as Lebanon and Iraq. The program seeks to promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other citizens of the international community and also to provide a platform to influence the attitudes of the leaders of a new generation.
The Youth Ambassadors Program gives students and adult leaders an opportunity to develop leadership and problem-solving skills that enable them to act as community leaders. The project aims to hone participants’ sense of civic responsibility and foster civic activism. A core goal of the program is for the student leaders, once empowered, to bring their experience to bear in helping encourage and guide other student leaders through community oriented service projects. Youth Ambassadors are required to implement follow-on activities upon their return home that will help the participants stay in touch with each other, reflect on their experiences, and integrate what they have learned into their daily lives.
In describing a part of his experience, Youth Ambassador Ashraf Dabie shared “though my highlights in Seattle thus far are defined mainly by my interactions with the homeless, the visit to the Space Needle, exploring the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and touring China Town, the activity that was most outstanding to me was volunteering at North West Harvest. At North West Harvest, I, along with two of my Seattle teammates, assisted in the organization’s daily distribution of food to the homeless and less fortunate. This experience definitely opened my mind to the struggles of the less privileged, and direct contact with these anguished people allowed me to truly sympathize with them. It also inspired me to consider the homeless in my country and initiate a similar project in Guyana. That experience single-handedly achieved program objectives of enhancing my understanding of diversity and improving civic engagement. I must say, only few are afforded the opportunity to participate in such a generously sponsored and well implemented program, and I am honored and grateful to be among such a minority.”
Chargé d’Affaires Hunt congratulated the delegation and reaffirmed the U.S. Government’s commitment to work with the government and people of Guyana on issues that are of mutual interest to both countries and contribute to the improved well-being of Guyana’s most valuable resources – its people –through capacity building and institution strengthening.
To date, twenty-nine students and six mentors have participated in Youth Ambassadors Program for Guyana since September 2012.