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Unbound stories

Youth groups build strength and confidence

April 30, 2014

Unbound knows that each future generation will have an impact on their culture and society, so supporting the youth in our program is vitally important.

In communities where we work, youth sometimes feel pressure to leave school and get a job once they are old enough to help provide for the family's immediate needs. Unfortunately, this often leads to the continuance of poverty into the next generation.

The Youth Forum meets in the Allahabad project.
The youth forum meets in Unbound's Allahabad office in India.

We work to create communities of encouragement and positive influence for the teens and young adults who are part of our program. We also educate parents about the benefits of youth remaining in school longer.

"Many young people in the Unbound program face extraordinary obstacles to completing their education or finding employment," said Sara Asmussen, a project specialist for Unbound who works with programs in India and Africa. "Our goal in working with youth is to help them access the knowledge, resources and a supportive community of peers necessary to achieve their goals."

In Allahabad, India, a group of young women created a youth forum where they discuss their goals, develop their talents and find ways to overcome difficulties together.

The older girls in the group offer advice and guidance to younger girls. They help them understand the options available to them academically and the best courses to take for different job opportunities. As a group, they help each other develop their individual talents and interests.

Drawing inspiration from local mothers groups, the young women of the youth forum started a savings program so they can offer loans to their members to help pay for future educational expenses. Every meeting they collect approximately 85 cents from each member, which is matched by Unbound. Since the savings program was introduced, the youth forum has granted nearly 150 loans to members for educational assistance.

Sports day in India
Youth in India participate in a sports day.

"We all make good use of the money," said Jyoti, the president of the youth forum. "All of us contribute every month and participate in the collection and deposit."

Jyoti also realizes intangible benefits from the youth forum.

"Most of our parents haven't completed school or even attended one," she explained. "A knowledge gap is created between the parent and the child, so the seniors in the group help each other to shape our goals by discussing the access and procedure to different educational courses available."

Groups similar to Allahabad's youth forum have organized in other countries. Our Santa Barbara project in Honduras reports small youth groups meeting on a weekly basis, selecting their own leaders and offering each other support.

"Through these youth groups we want to create a positive impact on their lives," said Ana Martinez, a project group director for Unbound who works with programs in Central America. "In the youth groups they learn to interact with other youth and participate in the selection of their formation activities.

"The groups give them confidence to speak in public and opportunities to discover their strength, talent, abilities and leadership."

In the Philippines, our Quezon project organized a two-day youth camp at Mount Makiling. The camp's goal was to teach the 600 participants about leadership and teamwork through presentations, survival games and outdoor activities.

Divided into teams, the youth competed in several team-building games, such as sack races, human bridge, spider web and troop crawling. Each team was awarded points for how well they did in the games.

The number of points earned determined how much food the teams could "buy" to make lunch over a campfire.

Filipino youth camp
Filipino youth participate in the "spider web" game at the youth camp
arranged by the Quezon project.

Many of the youth, however, admitted their culinary skills fell short of good home cooking.

Jessa Mae, an 18-year-old participant, didn't let that ruin her enjoyment.

"I am very happy doing all the activities that we had," she said. "I really enjoy being with my group. We all worked together; that's why we achieved a high score.

"In terms of cooking, even if it isn't delicious, it doesn't matter. What's important is we could eat and remove our hunger."

The youth also listened to talks from guest speakers and performed in a talent show.

"Thank you so much, Unbound, for the opportunity that you have given us," said Cristine, a 17-year-old participant. "We learned a lot from this youth camp. For me, I will keep on fighting to reach my goal; I will not surrender."

Events like the youth camp in the Philippines and groups like Allahabad's youth forum work to strengthen and educate teens and young adults who are part of Unbound. The support the members provide each other will encourage them to continue reaching for their dreams and eventually give them the tools they need to break the bonds of poverty.

By partnering with our sponsors and donors, Unbound is able to give the youth in our program access to resources, programs and a supportive community that help them build self-esteem, realize their full potential and strengthen families and communities.