While it is being seen as a success, in its fifth year, founder and organizer of the Barbados Youth Leadership Retreat is questioning the possibility of its being held next year due to lack of funding.
Christianeisha Soleyn, Chairman of the United Youth Leaders of Barbados, which coordinates the annual retreat focused on youth empowerment and getting young people involved in service activities, equipping them with management, personal development and public speaking skills among others reported that the process of finding sponsorship to fund the project was very difficult and as a result she has placed a cloudy forecast on the possibility of it being executed in 2014.
Not giving a figure, she also alluded to the fact that the number of participants had to be cut this year.
Speaking to the media at the Ministry of Education where the participants for this year’s retreat assembled, the chairman said that this stark reality was not only bad news for her, but almost those who would have benefitted from the project, including participants, parents and guidance counselors.
According to the youth leader, since the retreat started, a difference has been seen in students attitude and behaviour towards school and life in general.
Soleyn explained that in order for the retreat to be held this year, she contributed her monetary prize for winning the 2013 Commonwealth Youth Award of Excellence for the Caribbean and Canadian Region along with donations from the Maria Holder Memorial Trust, the Barbados Youth Development Council, Cost U Less and the Barbados Light & Power.
“It worries me because this year has been hard because we have never had an issue with sponsorship. It was difficult to put together this retreat and parents and guidance counselors came and put their personal money into the retreat this year. The Caribbean ambassador to Barbados the Honourable Robert Morris actually made a personal donation to us,” she said.
She added: “ The project comes around and sponsors always say yes but this year even with non-governmental organisations we found it very difficult accessing sponsorship. We had a case where the sponsorship was available and then when we were, ready to do the project the company said, ‘You know what, its a rough year for us and we are going into 2014 which seems to be rough, we can’t help you this year’. I am worried especially when people have to make personal donations to us.”
During the retreat themed Becoming A Change Agent to be held at Marion Retreat House, St John, 55 students from schools across the island will not only be exposed to empowerment activities, but will also be divided into groups and find a cause that they want to design a project for.
“A lot of the students report back that the project change their lives and I find that they get involved in extracurricular activities. When I check in with them they would say, Christa, I am going overseas to do this or I joined this group and now I am doing this. Guidance counselors are seeing behavioral changes and they are seeing students getting involved in wanting to do more charitable work. They become very motivated and they leave wanting to do more.” (AH)