The gathering of youth representatives from across the region last Sunday signalled the official opening of the Caribbean Awards Sub-regional Council of the Duke of Edinburgh camp; and Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, lauded the two-week event as proof that the young people of Barbados, and the region, have much to offer.
Addressing the dozens of students who, over the next two weeks, will earn bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards in areas such as volunteering and expedition skills, Lashley noted that the scheme had a long history in Barbados.
He said: “This programme is designed to equip participants with practical and experiential life skills geared towards holistic personal and social development. These life skills are certainly preparatory in nature and once put into practice will provide opportunities for positive development and contribution to families, communities and country.”
Observing that similarities existed between the scheme and Barbados’ own national initiatives, Lashley said that it was Government’s policy “to embrace and to promote youth development in all of its facets and we have illustrated this in particular by ensuring that we could be part of the various Commonwealth programmes that speak to youth development. Through the Division of Youth in my Ministry, we have been promoting the empowerment of young people by putting democratic principles into action”.
Lashley added that the activities which comprise the Duke of Edinburgh experience were pro-social in nature and served to promote citizenship, which was consistent with national development objectives as outlined in The National Youth Policy of Barbados.
He said that his ministry would continue to work with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme and similar civil society organisations to provide quality programmes which meet the needs of the youth and encouraged the Barbadian delegates to be a part of the National Youth Forum which will soon be enhanced.
Speaking about the relevance of such endeavours to enhance growth in the Caribbean, the youth minister noted that the awards “must be used as a tool to not only shape the opinions of our Caribbean, but to bring our Caribbean closer together”.
“I believe that the presence of delegates from across the region … is an indication that we can continue to build Caribbean unity and integration from the grassroots up… Perhaps the programme can begin to move our respective islands towards that unity at the political level that has so far not materialised,” Lashley added.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award, which caters to persons aged 14 to 24, is an international youth programme which began in 1956 in the United Kingdom.