Volunteerism: Improving emotional and social maturity among Jamaican youth

Volunteerism: Improving emotional and social maturity among Jamaican youth

With an estimated youth unemployment rate of 27.4 percent, Jamaican youths often face immense challenges in the attempt of successfully transitioning into the job world. With factors such as prior work experience being one of the distinguishing characteristics of successful job applicants, it is important for us, as Caribbean youths, to become actively involved in different programs and initiatives. Though it may seem a rather challenging task to undertake external activities while attending school, there is an activity that facilitates the coupling of both actions and this is volunteerism.

Volunteerism stands as a significant mechanism for us, as young people, to foster positive societal change while helping to promote sustainable human development. Acts of volunteerism thrive within a social ethos, where altruistic acts are emphasized to complement formal education, aiding in the development of ‘soft skills’, necessary for the job world. Characteristics such as leadership, creativity, teamwork, problem-solving, negotiation and management are often developed as a result of active volunteerism and are important assets in today’s  job market.

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Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteerism is often done to support a cause, an organization or a community; to facilitate change and promote human well being. It is particularly rewarding, as it not only provides an opportunity for the youths to make a difference, but also has the potential to enhance future employment prospects. It further creates a space for volunteers to build networks and to become engaged with individuals from diverse backgrounds, who share similar ideologies and values.

Youth-based initiatives and volunteerism

Jamaica has a wealth of youth-based initiatives that promote and provide opportunities for youths to become actively engaged in the country’s development. Spanning from environmental sustainability, culture and the arts, to female empowerment and policy development, these programs continue to empower and instill a positive work ethic among the youths.

The National Youth Council of Jamaica

The National Youth Council of Jamaica is the umbrella organisation for youth clubs across Jamaica, which advocates to provide assistance in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of government policies premised on youth.

The National Youth Service

The National Youth Service (NYS) is a program made to address the developmental needs of the country, driven by voluntary time and effort. It seeks to reinforce the spirit of volunteerism in Jamaica through dynamic engagements and is meant to collaborate with individuals, groups and organizations that share the mission of volunteerism.  

Jamaican Youth Empowerment through Culture and Nationalism (Jayecan)

Jayecan’s mission is to offer training to Jamaican youths in fields such as art, culture and civic pride. The pioneers of Jayecan believe that true empowerment comes from helping youths realize the role they have in building the nation.

I’m Glad I’m a Girl Foundation

Established in an attempt to facilitate the development and implementation of sustainable activities for teen empowerment and education,  this foundation hosts an annual camp that addresses  young women in an attempt to educate, facilitate creativity and emphasize the importance of representation, articulation and awareness in achieving academic success.

Manifesto Jamaica

Manifesto Jamaica is a youth-powered social initiative, that is now celebrating seven years of culture, creativity and community. Its philosophy lays in education, exposure and empowerment through arts and culture. This group undertakes multi-disciplinary arts education and entrepreneurship programs intended to inspire, while alleviating apathy and social exclusion. Its overall mission is to develop and attract opportunities for young people, that inspire creativity, productivity and elevated consciousness, by harnessing the talents of national builders.

Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN)

The Caribbean Youth Environment Network is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the well being of Caribbean youths by promoting education, training, Caribbean integration and community empowerment, as tools to develop values and principles amongst young people, that aid in the protection and conservation of natural resources within the Wider Caribbean.

Action Jamaica 

Action Jamaica initiative originated from a need to harness the collective spirit of volunteerism, energy and goodwill in an effort to overcome some of the country’s major challenges. Its systematic approach ensures that the local volunteer experience is meaningful and vibrant, as volunteers are often paired with opportunities that are aligned with their interests and competences.

Given these initiatives and their objectives, it is evident that an array of programs exists, which cater to different individuals, based on their values and interests. These initiatives offer many opportunities for us to serve others as well as to enrich our own lives. Therefore, it is crucial for us to offer our creative skills and individual assets in an effort to uplift others and to learn from each other.

Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV

Photo credit: Jhannel Tomlinson

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