With youth aged 24 years and under composing around 40% of the total global population, skills development for children worldwide is crucial. That’s why Global Volunteers programs focus on helping children reach their full potential – from providing prenatal care so mothers can deliver healthy babies, and offering early childhood interventions to teaching conversational English in preschools, primary and secondary schools, universities and language camps. Read on to learn how Global Volunteers invests in international youth initiatives.
Why is International Youth Day Especially Important Now?
The future of our world – home to citizens of 195 countries speaking some 6,500 languages – depends entirely on the youth of today. However, the challenges facing our youth grow exponentially when we fail to address the the pressing crises of poverty, environmental degradation, disease, war and injustice. International Youth Day, a UN-designated observance, directs our attention to the struggles of youth and the role we all play in their futures. But skills development is challenging during a pandemic, with limited technology in many countries one of the largest obstacles to uninterrupted education. As students return to schools around the world, while others adapt to continued at-home learning, we recognize the youth volunteers who have enriched so many classrooms and brought energy and optimism to language camps in partner communities worldwide.
Attending School Doesn’t Guarantee Learning
The United Nations (UN) reports that more than half of the world’s children and adolescents aged 6-14 lack basic reading, writing or simple mathematics skills. Poor quality education leaves millions of children behind without basic skills, even if they are attending school. According to UNESCO, about 264 million children are out of school, despite primary school enrollment rates exceeding 90 percent in many developing countries. Why? Because of the obstacles of malnutrition, under-nutrition, infectious disease, inadequate sanitation, limited resources, shortage of teachers and salaries to pay them, and other hardships attendant with extreme poverty.
“Today, we celebrate the young people, youth-led organizations, governments and others who are working to transform education and uplift young people everywhere.”UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Since 1984, Global Volunteers has worked with community partners worldwide to help provide essential services such as nutrition and health education, resources for hand washing with soap and water to prevent infectious disease, and math, science, reading, and conversational English tutoring. Many of our short-term volunteers have been students themselves, who are especially effective at reaching and offering engaging learning environments for youth of all ages. Through fun, interactive lesson plans, cultural notes, songs, skits and games, student volunteers improve the learning environment in schools that lack resources by offering assisting with small group or one-on-one tutoring.
Students as Teachers in the Service-Learning Environment
Teen and young adult volunteers have especially inspired children in our partner communities to work toward their full potential in school. Student volunteers have served a variety of ways – solo, with their families, and in school groups – to respond to local youth’s needs worldwide. Their on-site experiences enable them to share their unique skills while immersing themselves in the partner community’s culture. This genuine exchange of ideas, knowledge and support is foundational to building capacity between, within and among the future leaders of the world – our youth. Working together, they motivate each other to learn and grow beyond the classroom. They share interests, vision, respect and commitment – the building blocks of peace!
The littlest community members have thrived under the guidance and attention of student volunteers. In preschools, youth mentor and encourage toddlers to test their limits, try new activities, and trust their instincts through fun and challenging activities. Classroom teachers have remarked how enriching enthusiastic youth have made their standard lessons. Volunteers as young as eight have tutored students the same age and younger in reading, numeracy, study skills and English while playing games – and learning about life, each other and the world!
“Through Global Volunteers, you’re able to truly immerse yourself in another culture. This allows a connection to form and flow openly within the community – allowing volunteers to gain an honest perspective. As a result, all participants gain greater global understanding and growth.”Cassidy Richardson, 19, Cook Islands
“We found the ‘special formula’ that worked — two periods of structured learning followed by an outside learning activity (kickball, 4-Square, Duck-Duck-Goose, red light-green light and more) and a final period of working in small groups. It was lots of fun, and learning actually happened!”18-year-old volunteer using Student as Teachers (SAT) materials
Professional Development through Connections
Teens and young adults the world over know they must continue to improve their skills to succeed in life – and to make a life for their own families. As role models, student volunteers not only help children and youth reach their potential, they develop themselves through the process, contributing to greater global security. Students working together from vastly difference cultures can immerse themselves in an exchange of ideas, gaining new perspectives, tolerance, and open-mindedness in the process. Regardless where they live, youth working together in a structured setting gain skills such as critical thinking, creativity, global understanding, and problem-solving – all which prepare them for leadership roles in their own societies.
“I found happiness in giving back, and it’s a high I can’t even describe. I learned that I can do absolutely anything I set my mind to. It has changed my perspective on teaching, my limitations, what I should be grateful for, and my life overall.”Cassidy Matz, 20, Greece
As we celebrate International Youth Day, we recognize the students and young people who, over three decades, have contributed their time, knowledge and skills on Global Volunteers’ service programs. Kudos and thank you! You can support this important exchange of ideas by supporting our ongoing projects to improve children’s quality of life. Actions we take today can truly change tomorrow’s world!