Although somewhat of a cliche, the statement that “children are the future” has never been more true. It is not enough to start children off in the right direction very early in life, they still need assistance at every level leading into young adulthood. This can be seen in western societies plagued by economic strife where young people are trying to find their proverbial footing in a competitive, seemingly shrinking job market. The problem is greatly exacerbated in the developing world where jobs are often scarcer and the focus on education doesn’t extend as far into young adulthood.
The International Youth Foundation (IYF) is hard at work attempting to provide what’s necessary for children of all ages to successfully enter adulthood and contribute meaningfully to society. Starting in 1989, founder Rick Little came to realize that large swaths of the global youth populations were underserved by governments and most types of foreign aid. He wanted a renewed focus placed on youth development. Through years of effective networking and promotion, Little and the IYF have built partnerships with many donors and other aid organizations to serve youth at every stage of their development.
Thanks to the tremendous awareness raising efforts of the IYF and their partners, recognition of the importance of youth is being recognized by organizations like USAID. In fact, USAID counts the population of young people today at 1.5 billion, the largest juvenescence in global history. In conjunction with the advent of new technologies, the youth presence is very concerned and motivated to tackle demanding world issues. This only underscores the importance of youth development from childhood to adulthood.
IYF contends that 400 million youth the world over cannot find decent employment, mainly because of gaps in their skill sets. Through things like mentorship programs and internship opportunities, IYF is able to plug many youth into their respective job markets. Another way used is purely entrepreneurial, mentoring and empowering the young to start their own businesses. This is done again through partnership with other organizations. entra21, launched in Latin America, is one such IYF program. Through their association with the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank, favorable results were achieved for young people ranging from ages 16-29.
When it comes to schooling, the IYF is active with its Passport to Success initiative. Targeting at-risk children like those on the verge of dropping out of school, the program teaches key skills like time management and goal setting. Ensuring the longevity and continuity of the program are local institutions, schools, and universities. The program has helped over 60,000 students in nearly 30 nations with 60 life-skill lessons. Especially telling are the results from Mexico, where nearly 100% of those who completed the program were employed within 6 months and school dropout rates were sliced in half.
The International Youth Foundation has certainly brought focus to a sect of the youth population that was in dire need and it reminds us that the importance of education and development spans out into adolescence. Equipping young people with the right tools to become great citizens as adults is just as much, if not more so significant than early childhood education. With almost 2 billion young adults waiting in the wings to assume society, it’s absolutely necessary.
– David Smith