Unification News for June 2005

SFP Global Youth Service Day

by Charles Phillips

In our second year promoting Global National Youth Service Day, Service For Peace stepped up as a national lead agency in Japan and Mongolia, a national partner in the United States and a member of the International Coordinating Committee. We conducted over 70 projects that mobilized 4,151 volunteers in 20 countriesÑand the numbers are still coming inÑa big increase over 2004, made possible in part by a series of grants made by Service For Peace to youth programs all over the world.

One of the striking features of the day as a whole was the unplanned but noticeable twin dynamic of diversity and interconnectedness. Young people in San Diego raised thousands of dollars to send wheelchairs to injured and maimed children in the Holy Land while Muslim and Jewish children in Bet Shemesh, Israel, planted trees for peace and promised to work to build a better tomorrow. In several countries the focus was on basic health education and care for youth, ranging from a free clinic check up for a whole village (Nepal) to instruction in proper tooth-brushing & dental care (Philippines), and even circumcision for young men (also Philippines).

Projects in London, Moscow, Bratislava and Hialeah, FL helped youth with disabilities. With the coming of Spring, many cities in America including Miami, Seattle, Oakland and Chicago took the opportunity to plant seeds of community in public gardens or in fixing trails in city and state parks.

The day provided a strategic opportunity for Service For Peace to bring together its global and national networks to advance the global peace perspective. In Cote D'Ivoire the project focused on resolving barriers between Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim youth organizations with three distinct goals: (a) to find the best ways to communicate and work together. (b) to educate youth about problems common to all faiths (c) To model responses to avoid conflict. In Shibuya, Tokyo, foreign students from Korea, China, Nepal, Mongolia, and Turkey joined Japanese students in the Global Youth Service Forum to discuss how to create peace through ongoing service action.

An important theme in most locations was promoting a national culture of service through working together in close partnerships with national and local government officials. In Mongolia the project was co-organized with the municipal offices of the downtown districts of Sukhbaatar and Chingeltei, which helped it to be well covered by 5 TV stations, 5 newspapers and 3 radio stations.

Youth empowerment and transformative leadership were another integral part of the educational component of the service and learning experience. Each affiliate empowered youth leaders to work on the planning of the project on all levels including contacting government officials and promoting to the local community. Youth leaders provided examples of service and introduced as participants either mentally or physically challenged youth, orphans, at-risk-youth or elementary school students to experience the transformative power of service and their own potential as transformative leaders. Youth service leaders explored social justice issues and reached out to government officials to advocate for marginalized populations.

Of course there is room for improvement, too. Project themes tended to focus on environmental issues tailored to the needs in many countries for an entry level service experience. While these were often identified by local officials as a compelling need, this also provided an important lesson to offer suggestions of other types of successful programs and involve organizations at an earlier day to develop programs that can be part of a year round commitment to service.

Another important factor for success that became clear around the world was the essential involvement of business and corporate sponsors to offer not only financial support but also volunteers and help with planning. This is an area that needs more work for 2006.

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