Each Children International agency has a Youth Council — a group of youth elected by their peers to lead. The Youth Council mission is to improve life in their communities. CI helps make that possible with annual grants called Youth Empowerment Funds, which Councils use to finance various community-improvement projects.
Here are some examples of projects recently created and carried out by sponsored youth.
In Guayaquil, Ecuador, many public schools are ill-equipped to prepare students for the 21st Century job market. Children whose families can't afford technology or private tutors graduate without the skills they'll need to secure good jobs. The Guayaquil Youth Council is working to level the playing field in the Flor de Bastion community, offering computer lessons twice a week for 150 youth and 100 children. The lessons give students the basic computing skills and familiarity with technology they'll need to get ahead.
In Kolkata slums, unsanitary conditions cause diseases to spread with alarming regularity. Sponsored youth are attempting to alleviate this problem in one community where a lack of waste removal services causes garbage to collect in vacant lots and alleys and spill over into residential areas. The project began with an awareness campaign that educated residents about the ill-effects of indiscriminate garbage dumping. Then the youth placed 60 large trash bins around the neighborhood where over 300 families could easily access them. For two months, the youth monitored the bins, giving prizes to families who used them regularly.
The Chibolya compound is just a stone's throw from Lusaka, Zambia's central business district, but it might as well be in the desert for the scarcity of water. CI-Zambia's sponsored youth are working to change that by extending clean-water pipes into the community. The impact of this ambitious project will reduce infections and disease and improve sanitary conditions for thousands of people. It may even boost academic performance among Chibolya's children, who won't have to wait in line for hours to get water from one of the few overburdened sources.
In Cartagena, Colombia, the Youth Council is continuing two of its most popular programs. Personal Growth Workshops take a dynamic approach to helping sponsored youth build character, define and strengthen their values, and learn life skills that will help them get ahead. And Video Forums for Responsible Social Behavior aim to educate over 400 sponsored youth about the social ills affecting their communities and what they can do to help other children and youth overcome them.
In the Philippines, manmade and natural disasters are a part of everyday life. Families too poor to fortify their homes are the hardest hit. That's why sponsored youth in Quezon City were recently trained by volunteers from the local fire department on how to prepare for, and respond to, various disasters. The youth then held workshops to pass on the training and form volunteer Disaster Brigades in their communities.
UPDATE: The efficacy of disaster training was proven recently when sponsored youth Jomel (pictured far left) prevented a fire from spreading in his community. Seeing smoke, he rushed to the scene and showed bystanders how to isolate and extinguish the fire before it spread.
Slums offer little in the way of constructive, positive activities for youth when school lets out. The Youth Council in Legazpi, Philippines, started P.A.S.S.I.O.N. (Performing Arts for Self-expression, Social Involvement and Overcoming Negativity) to enrich the lives of youth by giving them opportunities to participate in a variety of performance arts. The plays, dance expositions, musical showcases and talent shows are all based on social issues that affect youth. The performers get a boost in self-esteem from joining a close group with a positive mission and audiences are exposed to valuable information and ideas.