As I reflect on the beginning of this journey. It was in 1995, the Derek Taylor led Administration deemed it important enough to set aside a day to celebrate our youth. From that day to this, much has been accomplished but there is much to do. However I remain grateful that there remains a commitment to ensure that greater focus is placed on our youth during this week.
At the outset, we wish to thank Mrs Angela Musgrove for her work and commitment over the years and we are sad to see her go but we are certain that she will continue in her avid support for positive youth development. We also wish to congratulate her on her recent recognition and Award from the British Empire.
Youth in this country continue to play pivotal roles and they continue to make contributions, be it positive and negative. It is up to us to ensure that their contributions are more positive than negative and we must recommit ourselves to their positive personal development. We often say that youth are the future leaders and I beg to differ to a certain extent because they are leaders today as well. They may take on more senior leadership roles as we move on but there is a need for a shift in thinking and we are called to recognize that they are already leaders in one respect or another and we must equally embrace them as co leaders today.
I pause to encourage and celebrate our youth who have taken on international, regional and national roles: our Youth Ambassadors, our Youth Parliamentarians, various Student Government Councillors and Prefects. These youth already have great leadership roles and need to be celebrated and encouraged. It is now time to reinforce a comprehensive Youth Policy that will aid the leaders of today and prepare the leaders of tomorrow. This Policy must embrace and plan for all the challenges that our youth face: imprisonment, juvenile delinquency, special needs, gang violence and bullying. They have immediate needs such as technical and vocational training, scholarships and funding for further educational pursuits and employment. These are but a few of the challenges that remain constant. As a member once of the National Youth Council, I was a part of drafting the first National Youth Policy and I am happy to hear that the Government has since revisited the need for this Policy and I look forward to seeing the master plan for youth development in these Islands but I caution that whilst we give to the development of our youth, we must demand more of them and we must establish a National Volunteer Service and Cadet Program, both of which I am convinced will help us as a people in shaping the best adult citizens possible.
In 2000 I spearheaded a Private Member’s Motion in the then Legislative Council that saw the establishment of the Culture Desk now Culture Department and assisted the first Director with a Cultural Policy. A part of that Motion was to feature TCI culture strongly in the week leading up to National Youth Day and the week was named Culture Awareness Week, the week now embraced as Youth Week. I wish to encourage us all to ensure that our children remain exposed to true TCI culture and that we make every effort during every opportunity that presents itself to instilling in our youth what truly makes or ought to make us proud to be Turks and Caicos Islanders. For there to be a shift in the attitudes of our youth as we desire, there must be a true sense of a national pride and a strong sense of ownership and belongership. It is important for them to know who we are as a people so as to give them a true sense of identity.
We are all responsible for the leaders among us – current and future and it is my hope that we use this week to reflect on how are we contributing to the development of our country’s future. Youth are bound to be the future leaders and how we mold them today will determine what type of leaders they will be tomorrow because they will lead this country. May we reflect on the decisions that we make that will impact them today and tomorrow and may we realize that we are all accountable to them and for the future we hand to them.
Youth I ask that you require more of yourself, aim high and make wise decisions. Embrace the opportunities that are made available to you and allow God to lead you on the best path for your life.
As Director of Youth for the TCI Baptist Union and President of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship Youth Department, I am blessed with the God given role of working with our youth in this country and around the Caribbean. I remain committed to developing our youth for the betterment of nations around this region and at home. I challenge us all to do more as our youth are achieving more: more academically, in sports and other initiatives and they are equally facing more and more challenges.
It calls for a greater investment of our resources and not just financial but also our time. I am calling on the Government to do its part and I am calling on individual citizens to donate to a worthy cause, to give of your time and talents by joining a civic organization today or by lending your support to those organisations that focus on our children Sunday and Sabbath Schools, Youth Ministries, the Kiwanis Club, Soroptimist, Rotary, Path Finders, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Brownies, Rainbows and other affiliate Clubs.
It is time we invest in our youth as they are the key. I wholehearted embrace and welcome this year’s theme “Invest in me: I’m the key”.
Youth, enjoy your week!
Sharlene L Cartwright Robinson LLB CLE JP