The CYDI is a creation of the Department of Youth Affairs. Director Cleon Athill told Caribarena.com that the initiative is a direct outgrowth of the National Youth Policy, which calls for young people to be nurtured in a "just, peaceful and disciplined" society where each individual is empowered to participate fully in the life of a healthy community.
The Department of Youth Affairs take its own motto: "Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders Today" seriously, and the CYDI was created to achieve precisely this result.
Athill made an in-studio appearance on the Colin Sampson Show on Thursday. Readers are invited to visit the Caribarena.com video archive to view excerpts from the conversation.
On May 12, representatives of the Department of Youth Affairs met with selected "gatekeepers" of the Bolands community. The gatekeepers of a community are well-known and respected individuals, social leaders who carry weight and are able to facilitate positive communication within their community.
The gatekeepers who participated in the May 12 meeting were identified after a process of consultation and information gathering that involved a wide range of sources in the Bolands district.
The key outcome of the May 12 meeting was to set June 26 as the date for a general "Town Hall" meeting, where a wide cross-section of the Bolans community will be invited to assess the values and objectives of the CYDI. In its turn, the town hall meeting is expected to select an "action group" whose task will be to articulate the CYDI program throughout the length and breadth of the Bolans community.
The first major act of the action group will be to begin the formal process of engaging with the young people of the Bolans area. To this end, the action group will stage a further town hall meeting, this one aimed specifically at the youth.
The purpose of this meeting will be to empower the youth to become full participants in the CYDI vision. The initiative calls for community and youth to work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect to further the joint development of the community and of the youth who are nurtured within it.
The Department of Youth Affairs intends to take it's message of self-directed mutual community and youth development throughout the length and breadth of the nation. The objective is to mobilize communities across Antigua & Barbuda to undertake the essential work of community and youth development, in the full understanding that the community and the young people within it must develop together, mutually, in a symbiotic manner. The development of the one can in no way be divorced form the development of the other.
The Director of Youth Affairs reported that in addition to considerable levels of anticipation and excitement, the participants in the May 12 gatekeepers meeting also expressed a measure of cynicism and distrust. Athill attributed this in large part to the political culture of Antigua & Barbuda, which causes many persons to look askance at any initiatives emanating from the direction of officialdom.
She also noted that a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) Analysis carried out in advance of launching the CYDI had identified the national political culture, which promotes political polarization at the expense of community co-operation, as the greatest threat facing the initiative.
Athill is however unfazed by this challenge, anticipating that the extent and strength of community organizations in Antigua & Barbuda will militate in favour of self-directed development initiatives, taking root and flourishing in the fertile and conducive environment that already exists. She expects that politicians, upon recognising the social value of the CYDI, will seize upon the program as a means of dealing effectively with the many ills affecting the nation.
The time has come, said the Director of Youth Affairs, for transformational leadership to take hold within the nation's communities. The old ways that encouraged a culture of dependency and discouraged the growth of effective community grass-roots leadership have run their course, and a new political ethic is now required.
The new political ethic will empower communities to pursue self-directed self-development projects that lean heavily on youth involvement. This transformation can only serve to strengthen the hand of elected officials, who will enjoy greater grass-roots support in pursuing national social programs.
The rationale of the CYDI declares that communities provide the seeds for the development of their youth. Young people will thrive in strong communities, and in turn will give resources back to the communities that nurture and empower them.
The National Youth Policy envisions a nation in which young Antiguans and Barbudans will benefit from living in supportive and inclusive communities where they are valued and respected, and where they are provided with social, economic, educational, cultural, technological and employment opportunities.
The National Youth Policy envisions a nation in which every citizen feels safe, is supported to live a meaningful life, and is encouraged to take an active part in nation building. The Community Youth Development Initiative is designed to achieve exactly that objective.