“We have the potential and the power to do it once we are together”: Southern Highlands Youth Construct Rehab Centre in Just Two Weeks After UNFPA Youth Parliament
29 December 2021
“We have a vision”, says Alson Wandi. “The whole vision is that we want to give our youths an opportunity”.
Alson is the Chairman of NK Association, a youth organisation in North Kagua, Southern Highlands. On what was a bare patch of land only two weeks ago, Alson spoke with UNFPA Youth Ambassador Bronwyn Kili in a bright, timber building that is step one in realising the organisation’s ambitious vision.
“It’s a really impressive building to be honest,“ said Bronwyn, looking around the new structure. “Just this month, we ended the Youth Parliament and then straight after that, some of the participants came back and have been doing different initiatives. Here they have been building a rehabilitation centre. They decided to take the initiative to do that and they've been using their own money, their own resources.”
“So, we basically paid for the nails, the bolts, the iron roofing. The rest of the stuff it came from our own pockets,” said Franklin Kunjip, who works with the Diocese of Mendi and assisted with the construction.
The building’s bright timber was sourced from local forests and the next step is to install solar panels. “The energy will be a solar energy because it's more sustainable,” said Franklin. “The building has to sustain itself. I think the building itself would be complete by maybe two- or three-weeks’ time. We'll have this thing running by then.”
“We just want to empower people. We feel that we have the potential and the power to do it once we are together and we have this network going on.”
Alson foresees this space being a valuable platform for leaders in various fields sharing their knowledge and insights with the next generation. “Some of us are teachers here. Some of us are nurses. Some of us are accountants, doctors, police. They all have to come from time to time and at least encourage the youths on how to be a good citizen.”
“Nurses are there to come and give them a small bit of counselling or guidance, for how to look after themselves, their health, their family, their wellbeing. The police have to come and then talk about the law, how to look up the law, not to break the rules so that they can be responsible.”
The completed building will have lighting, desks, and chairs to provide school-aged children a safe space to complete homework after school hours. “We have a problem within our own little community,” said Franklin. “You can see we have lots of young girls here but these girls, they're going through a big challenge. People are not even seeing them the right way. They’re being deprived of a lot of basic rights like health services, counselling, schooling and all this.”
“So, this is basically why we're starting this youth rehabilitation centre: to support the young ones, to support the little ones, providing the guidance for them and a safe environment for them. They need mentors. If you don't guide them, then they'll be like sheep without shepherds. So, we're trying to be that shepherd.”
With the physical structure in place and mentoring from local youth leaders in the works, the Association has ambitions to provide opportunities for children and young people.
“We want to develop our human resource as well,” says Franklin. “We cannot only have the doctors, the pilots coming out of big fancy families. It's possible for them to come out of settlements and blocks, even from the poor family. But they have to start somewhere. This is basically the platform we're building right now. This is just our vision. We're just trying to make it happen.”
In addition to supporting local youth with the North Kagua rehabilitation centre, the Association has plans to use this as a model for neighbouring communities.
“This is like a pilot project or pilot community,” said Alson. “When we are done with this one, we will move, move to other locations, and help the other youths so that they will build something like this one too.”
Franklin shared that this project came about because of the events that he has attended throughout the year. An opportunity to meet fellow young leaders, these events have brought youth together to look at local challenges and inspire change.
“This is an outcome of all the trainings which have been conducted, which is the Youth Summit and the Youth Parliament. This is really crucial and really had an impact in every individual and especially me.”
The Youth Parliament was an event of the EU-Funded Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women and girls. The mentoring opportunities and educational support offered by the new rehabilitation centre will make a significant contribution to the lives and girls and boys in the North Kagua community.