Youth Development

What is the Youth Development/Youth Initiative Program and what can I expect as a YD volunteer?

The Youth Initiative Program (YIP) is a newly-minted Peace Corps Kazakhstan Program.  To know what’s different about it, you have to know what came before it.  Throughout the history of PC Kaz, there have been two programs: Education (EDU) and the Organizational and Community Assistance Program (OCAP).  Last year, OCAP was divided for the first time into two sub-programs: OCAP-OD (Organizational Development) and OCAP-YD (Youth Development).  The decision to create a separate YD program was based on PCV feedback in Kaz stating that most OCAP volunteers worked primarily with youth anyway, but weren’t necessarily equipped with the specific tools to do so.  The OD program was designed to develop organizations in a very general, “we will fix all your organizational problems!” type of way.  If it sounds difficult, that’s because it is…haha.  We were trained in strategic planning, business planning, grant writing, project design & management, monitoring & evaluation, constituent development, and other good stuff — but without a specific youth focus.  Our orgs dealt with the environment, HIV/AIDS, and people with disabilities, for the most part (with the rare human rights/women’s rights org).  Unfortunately, the “fix-all” approach was a bit disastrous overall for OD, and even though the skills were very interesting and marketable, they proved lost on a lot of organizations who ended up viewing PCVs as simple cash-cow grant writers, or who didn’t know what projects to give a volunteer whose mission for the organization was so very vague (“sustainable development!” “capacity building!”).

Your PC Training Officer, YD Program Head, and another YD expert from PC Washington came to visit a couple of sites (including mine) recently to talk to current PCVs and develop the program.  We held focus groups with youth, they looked at our projects, and we all offered feedback for the program.  I for one was heartened by the progress that had been made.  The goals of the YD program are a lot more concrete now than an organizational fix-all.  Though you will still be working through youth orgs, you will also have realizable goal markers in working directly with youth, which is more graspable, accessible and under the PCV’s own control in case anything is lacking in your org itself.  You also will have a nice system of “target points” for your first 6 months at site, which will guide you much more concretely in what you are supposed to be doing, and that build off each other (e.g., community asset mapping when you get to site. start one english club with local youth.  do one community needs assessment. design one project with your org, involving youth volunteers. etc.).   Later on in your service, you can start working on some larger goals that build off your direct youth and org work: working with other youth orgs to build networking, with parents, and with local community/government partners.  And your placement org will have an outline of these clearer and more concrete expectations, as well.  Hopefully there will no longer be the muddled expectation that you will re-design the complete strategic plan of your org when you arrive, or that your main job is only to land them grants.  Your main job is to work with the youth in the now famous “Three Pillars” of YD: Healthy Lifestyles (including sexual health, nutrition, exercise), World of Work (professional development, language development), and Leadership (a nice catch-all whose main goal I interpret to be sustainability.  You want the kids to lead their own projects and have their own skills once you’re gone).  It is much more graspable by the human mind than the amorphous blob that was OD, IMHO.

So what might you be doing?  Some “YD”-type sites I know of:

-Helping youth build a peer-to-peer network of young educators in sexual/reproductive health
-Working with a youth bank doing microfunding to youth-organized community projects
-An orphanage site where you will help orphaned youth gain life skills and transition into the “real world” once they leave at an older age
-A business site where you will help youth with their entrepreneurial ideas and do financial education
-A study abroad institute that helps kids gain scholarships or opportunities for educational exchange

Will all of your organizations be fully functional? No.  I’m sure you will deal with all of the frustrations and craziness that the OCAPpers of both OD and YD have faced at their orgs this year and in years before (that’s a whole other cup of tea, haha!).  However, at least your program goals are more refined now, and PC really does give excellent training that will now be usefully tailored to your job working with youth.

This entry was posted in QandA, youth development. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Youth Development

  1. thank you much for your comment on my blog. I mainly wrote that for everyone else's benefit. All my friends/family are curious about what I'll be doing so I tried my best to explain what I could despite not knowing any specifics. I'm from Alabama, and PC is not necessarily well known. Also thank you for your blog. It is quite informative and has been very helpful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s