The Governor General’s Youth Award received high praise from two Cabinet Ministers Friday evening for being among the few organizations in the country to continue its work with young people throughout the pandemic.
During its first Annual General Meeting since 2019, the organization reviewed its challenges and successes of 2021, which saw the local arm of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award programme attract 963 participants assisted by 160 volunteers spread among 40 units on nine islands.
According to Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Mario Bowleg and Minister of State for Education, Zane Lightbourne GGYA’s work didn’t go unnoticed.
“Let me take this opportunity to congratulate each and every one of you volunteers who take the time to inspire and motivate our young people. The youth is our future. If we don’t invest in them, our future is very dim. The work, the dedication and the commitment you give to the development of youth in this country is of the utmost importance. We cannot afford to pay you for it…but because of you the GGYA is one of the most prominent youth organizations in this country,” said Mr Bowleg.
The audience gathered at SuperClub Breezes was comprised of members of GGYA’s Board of Trustees, its Management Council, volunteers from New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, Berry Islands, Eleuthera, Exuma, Inagua and Long Island, in addition to other stakeholders.
“You can be a thermometer or a thermostat,” Mr Bowleg told them. “A thermometer adapts to an environment. A thermostat controls the environment. You are controlling the environment of many young people. I want you to make sure you continue to do that.”
Mr Lightbourne said the Award programme deserves recognition for its dedication to youth during the pandemic.
“There was a shutdown period for most our country and a lot of programmes shutdown. They could not operate. They could not function. They could not find ways to. Zoom could only do so much, but through it all you found a way,” he noted.
“That speaks volumes about your resilience, determination and your dedication to our nation’s youth. That is very commendable.”
According to Archdeacon James Palacious, chairman of GGYA’s Management Council, the lingering effects of COVID-19 continues to be a major hurdle for all its stakeholders.
“However, we were and continue to be encouraged and inspired by the determination of young people and the unwavering commitment of our volunteers,” he said.
Last year, 92 participants – 44 males and 48 females – received their Award. These successful young people hailed from C.V. Bethel, R.M. Bailey, Queen’s College, Lyford Cay International School, C.C. Sweeting, C.V. Hart Institute, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force Rangers, Inagua’s All Age School and from schools in Grand Bahama including St. George’s High, Lucaya International, Bishop Michael Eldon and The Beacon School.
Approximately 64 Bronze, 26 Silver and two Gold Award were earned by participants who were challenged to discover their purpose, passion and place in the world.
Each participant learns a skill, improves their physical fitness, volunteers in their community and experiences a team adventure or hiking expedition in a new environment. Success isn’t competitive rather it is a personal challenge, measured by young people showing commitment and progress in each area over a fixed period. Each of the three levels – Bronze, Silver and Gold – are progressively more challenging.
Training remains a key ingredient to the delivery of a quality programme. GGYA’s national director, Jacquetta Lightbourne-Maycock said volunteers participated in and benefited from best practices of Award centers around the world.
“From the onset of the pandemic, global leadership of the Award programme assembled regularly to seek ways to ensure that while temporary changes were made to the delivery of the programme, our volunteers were not deprived of the training necessary to carry us forward.”
At the close of the AGM 31 volunteers received special pins commemorating their successful completion of courses delivered over a digital platform during the pandemic.
According to treasurer, Everette Mackey, who provided an assessment of the programme’s financial performance over the past year, GGYA owes a debt of gratitude to the government, the Lyford Cay Foundation and other donors who help to keep it afloat.
“We have a lot to be proud of as we move steadily into 2022, focused and committed to ensuring that our nation’s youths are empowered and given the opportunity to be the best they can.”
Writer: Tosheena Robinson BSc, MSc