Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bermuda to Present National Youth Service Program at Global Conference

At the IANYS 9th Global Conference on National Youth Service this October in Alexandria, Egypt, professionals worldwide will gather to present and learn about innovative models of national youth service. One of the programs, the National Service Program in Bermuda that will be presented by the Government of Bermuda on an exciting panel looking at new developments in national service.

The Government of Bermuda established the National Service Program to encourage young people to feel a greater commitment to their communities and keeping them safe. The National Service Program is also a response to an increase in anti-social behavior and violence among the Bermudian young people. Participation in the service program will help young people in Bermuda gain skills to help them engage in fulfilling careers and community and national development.

The Government of Bermuda believes this program will also help combat feelings of entitlement which are prevalent among young people by placing them in a position to help those who have to work much harder than they do. The program will require all participants to give 16 hours of community service every month for two years.

"It's going to provide opportunities for young Bermudians to be able to broaden their scope and perhaps stem the feelings of entitlement that we seem to have engendered in this Country by requiring all young people to do some kind of national service," said the [Public Safety Minister David Burch], as reported by the Royal Gazette.

Young people are eligible until they are 30 years of age, but they must have registered prior to their 28th birthday. It is a voluntary program and is not a replacement for conscripted service, although men who have been conscripted can opt to apply for the volunteer program after one year of military service.

This program and panel are an excellent representation of what the IANYS Global Conference hopes to achieve. Bermuda’s representatives will have an opportunity to present their plan to the conference and receive important feedback from experts in the youth service field. Other participants in the conference will have the opportunity to learn about a new program and consider replicating the aspects of the program that are suited to their needs and develop their own ideas from the basis provided by the Bermuda National Service Program.

“Other nations will review our plan and take away those aspects which are of value to them. By the same token, our presence at the conference allows us to review the plans in other countries and compare ourselves. This is an excellent opportunity for us to identify what are we doing right and what can we improve upon," said Premier Ewart Brown to the House of Assembly. (Royal Gazette; July 26, 2010; Island's National Service Plan could become model scheme for the world – Premier)

The National Service Program in Bermuda has some interesting components, including a provision that encourages businesses to let their employees use one hour of work time per month for volunteer service. Participants would also be encouraged to spend their volunteer hours mentoring a younger peer at work so as to further develop employment skills. The scheme also works with existing programs and higher education facilities.

Through the program, volunteers get to decide what volunteer project they would like to work on, or they can let the program administration assign them to a project. Many of the projects involve passing on knowledge or experience that volunteers have gained through previous experience.

For example, those who work in the health, legal or financial sectors are encouraged to devote their time to passing on knowledge on nutrition and fiscal responsibility. Volunteers are also encouraged to tutor younger peers, work on project proposals or volunteer for pre-existing youth or senior organizations.

This program demonstrates the ways in which governments can use youth service schemes to ameliorate social and economic problems that many young people face throughout the world. Just as Bermuda is using a national youth service program to combat feelings of entitlement and anti-social behavior among young people, so can other countries use national service to combat the major challenges their young people face.

The IANYS conference presents a vital opportunity for governments, NGOs, international organizations and young people themselves to come together to collaborate on youth development and civic engagement.

Registration for the conference is available here and further information, including the preliminary conference agenda and conference fees, is available on the IANYS website.

Image source here.

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