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Gambia YMCAs BLF funded project creating young entrepreneurs

Feb 24, 2011, 11:15 AM | Article By: Nfamara Jawneh

The Young Men Christian Association of The Gambia (YMCA) continues to be a catalyst in the economic empowerment of young people in the country. The Gambia continues to face numerous challenges relating to youth employment and as such developing programs and projects to mitigated against this scourge is one of the core business of YMCA.

The mission of the Gambia YMCAs which is to develop the full potential of young people by creating opportunities for their positive participation in national development through a holistic right based approach to advocacy on youth employment and economic justice, HIV / AIDS, Provision of Micro Loan Scheme and other youth related endeavors all geared towards enhancing the total development of the body mind and spirit of young people in order to be positive agents of change irrespective of faith, age, sex, race and social condition.

The support in creating young entrepreneurs emanated from the BLF Funded Project in Life Skills and Enterprise Development for Marginalised and Disadvantaged Young People funded by the Big Lottery Fund of UK and Y Care International. This tripartite partnership with the Gambia YMCAs has so far trained 1617 young people in over 25 different skills in almost seventy five different communities within Greater Banjul Area, West Coast Region, North Bank Region, Central River Region and Upper River Region. All this culminates with the establishment of the National Youth Job Centre at the YMCAs National Council Office where employment opportunities are facilitated for youth by brining the employer closer to the employee.

A strategic in regional training was employed using available training centres and service providers in each of these regions as a yardstick to reduce rural – urban drift. The participation of local government authorities and local communities has been the centre of such a great success. The Micro Finance Scheme has taken firm grip on present operations at regional levels with the establishment of about one hundred and fifty business involving over two hundred beneficiaries from different economic and social background across the country. Young people who never earned any income are now assured of a stable source of income generated within their own region.

Despite the recent economic downturn that hit the whole world and Gambia being no exception the beneficiaries benefiting from The Gambia YMCAs Micro Loan Scheme have demonstrated strong indication of the commitment and willingness to pay back the loan and continue operating strifing business enterprises.

The need to profile youth employment issues has also taken centre stage in the course of this project. With regional meetings held last week in North Bank Region and Upper River Region, the YMCAs Programs and Development Secretary – Joseph Peacock was quick to commend regional groups for the tremendous efforts in educating communities about issues affecting young people. He reiterated the need to create regional area council funds to cater for the needs of marginalized and disadvantaged youths especially in vocational skills development as a pre-requisite to genuine employment. 

Additionally, during last week’s project countrywide monitoring visits, the strong appeal for private sector support was re-echoed by community leaders.

As part of the vocational training component, The Gambia YMCAs continues to support the Carpentry and Tailoring Departments at the Juvenile Rehabilitation Wing at the Jeshwang Prison. This holistic approach to youth empowerment of various categories is very necessary for the total integration of young offenders into mainstream society. The authorities at the Jeshwang Prison commended the Gambia YMCAs while calling for other stakeholders and NGOs to support the wing. Similar statements were re-echoed by Fr. Tony Sonko who represented the Gambia Prisons Ministry of The Gambia Christian Council.  

Speaking at his YMCAs Kanifing head Office, Sam Thorpe National Director of Gambia YMCAs stressed the commitment of his organization in always addressing the many problems of young people. He called for strategic partnership with the private sector and business community to give back to the communities. National Director Thorpe thanked the government for creating the enabling environment for such initiatives to succeed.