A dynamic alliance of government, the private sector, and civil society groups in Saint Lucia is launching the Caribbean Youth Empowerment Program (CYEP) Phase II, a major initiative designed to address the challenges facing the country’s youth at risk. The dignitaries participating in the launch event include Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony, the Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Latin America and the Caribbean at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Mark Feierstein, as well as leading government, business, NGO, and youth leaders. An initiative of the International Youth Foundation (IYF) and USAID, CYEP is providing local youth, ages 17 to 25, with vocational training, career guidance, entrepreneurship training and business support.

The program is being implemented by the Center for Adolescent Renewal and Education (C.A.R.E.), the James Belgrave Micro Enterprise Development Fund Inc. (BELfund) and the National Skills Development Centre (NSDC), in collaboration with CYEP consortium members Rise Saint Lucia Inc. and the Saint Lucia Chamber of Commerce. The initiative is designed to provide youth at risk access to the job market and sustainable livelihood pathways that will prepare them to play positive roles within the workforce, their families, and their communities.

According to Daniel Smolka, USAID Mission Director of Barbados and Eastern Caribbean: "A cornerstone of USAID's cooperation program in the region is to advance economic development through approaches that add significant value to the region. We are excited and honored with the growth of the consortium focusing on vulnerable youth under Phase II of the CYEP in Saint Lucia. We anticipate that the partnership consisting of government, the private sector and civil society organizations will continue to grow --drawing on the expertise, energies and commitment of each contributing partner to address the challenges of youth and their positive contributions to citizens' security.”

The mix of local resources and the strength of the partnerships being developed, including external donor support and skills transfers from IYF, provide for a sustainable, long-term focus on youth empowerment opportunities once CYEP is completed. Moreover, the consortium-based initiative ensures that limited resources are used to maximum advantage to support those youth who have the greatest need of assistance to turn their lives around.

“To create strong economies and thriving communities, we need young people who have the skills to get a decent job, start their own businesses, and have a voice in society,” said Awais Sufi, IYF’s Vice President for Programs. “By bringing together key stakeholders in Saint Lucia to help reach these goals, CYEP has shown us a robust and responsive model that is worthy of replication across the region.” The program targets youth from vulnerable communities, with priority given to those who have a previous court record, are single mothers, or have dropped out of school.

According to Dr. Jaqueline Bird, co-founder, RISE Saint Lucia: “By targeting a uniquely challenged and challenging group of youth that includes those who have been involved in gangs, are on probation, or have been in prison, this program is not just a second chance, it’s their first real chance at a meaningful life.”

CYEP Saint Lucia is part of the regional Caribbean Youth Empowerment Program, established in 2008 through support from USAID to equip vulnerable youth in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and Saint Lucia with the technical, vocational and life skills they need to develop sustainable livelihoods. In addition to vocational training, this year CYEP extended its skills training to include entrepreneurship and career guidance, and aims to benefit an additional 1,100 youth.