Reflections from Youth@Work: Partnerships for Skills Development Conference
Recently, more and more attention has been given to at-risk youth and the issues of youth crime, violence, sex, substance abuse, and poor academic performance that often are linked to this population. On February 21-23, I was fortunate to participate in the International Youth Foundation’s Youth@Work: Partnerships for Skills Development conference in Amman, Jordan where we discussed such topics. The goal of the conference was to “engage participants in efforts to build effective, scalable, and sustainable youth skills development projects across the region,” as stated by IYF. As a representative from Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO), I presented a short documentary clip about one of our at-risk children and explained the importance of engaging family; as evidenced in the clip, engaging an at-risk child’s family can transform the child’s life as well as that of his family’s.
The conference gave me an opportunity to connect with and learn from many dedicated and diverse people. It was clear that the conference participants were aware of the increased complexity surrounding today’s at-risk youth. Moreover, working as a Psychosocial Program Manager enabled me to put faces to the data and statistics presented in the panels; every child that I have met at TYO is classified as an at-risk child. The unique combination of poverty, violence, and trauma found in Nablus has presented many obstacles for the children we serve.
Notably, no one from the Ministry of Education was present at the conference. This absence saddened me because I believe that the education system is integral to the conversation about how to treat children and understanding why they are not in school. I do not hold only the Ministry of Education accountable; I also believe that more governmental organizations like the Ministry of Welfare and the Ministry of Health, as well as other NGOs should all be part of this discussion. We are all responsible and have a long way to go to help these youth.
I believe that we as parents, representatives of government, members of non-governmental organizations, and employees from the private sectors must all work together in community-based efforts to help educate and guide at-risk youth and their families towards useful and varied services. Programs that offer counseling, skills development, assistance in finding jobs, and volunteering opportunities can all prove useful. In addition, we must create more preventative programs to help children before they ever reach this vulnerable point.
Suhad Jabi Masri is TYO’s Psychosocial Program Manager.