The Impact of a Comprehensive Approach

More than 3,500 families and 24,000 adolescents and youth have participated in RET International’s programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean. 2015 marks 10 years of uninterrupted work in the region, with sustained growth. This work has created an important protection process for vulnerable young people affected by displacement, various forms of violence, armed conflicts or natural disasters.

The methodology of action implemented has evolved through the years in different lines and thematic areas. The mechanisms used include non-formal education, vocational training, and promoting social cohesion. These have led the activation of mechanisms of resilience, integration and empowerment of vulnerable youth. Thanks to these mechanisms spaces for coordination and learning have been created for thousands of young people in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela, who have become positive social actors.

Thus, now we have various groups that make up a youth network: ‘Young Madiba’ in Costa Rica, ‘Young X’ in Ecuador, ‘EACAJ’ in Panama and ‘Active Youth’ in Venezuela. With the particular characteristics of each context, these youth groups develop and manage various activities to raise awareness and inform their communities on issues relevant to their situations.

Activities include workshops, fora, lectures, street interventions, sporting events, theatrical performances, music creation, video production, and public speaking. Through these activities they touch on issues that concern them, such as protecting their rights, raising public awareness about refugees and asylum-seekers, preventing gender-based violence, and fighting against discrimination and xenophobia.

The process of youth empowerment also includes the generation of productive activities that facilitate the recovery of their livelihoods and provide actual sustainability to this process. After receiving vocational training in RET, young people have organized themselves to carry out subsistence activities. An example of this is the FISH Project by the X Youth, who are already operating a printing workshop and making bags. Other young people in different countries offer: musical services, hair dressing and nails care, production of fruit juices, and more.

Recognizing their own abilities, finding family support, as well as joining cultural or sports activities, these young people have been able to strengthen their social networks and develop their personal, group and community resources. As a result, vulnerable young people have been able to reconnect with their aspirations and dreams, establish life projects, as well as integrate and participate in their host societies.

RET International’s work allows the momentum of these youth groups to be taken to the regional level. That is why an annual meeting is organized in which young people come together, share their experiences and their lessons learned. In these meetings young people address the issues they deal with in their countries and the results of their activities in their process of cultural integration and participation. RET and these youth groups have also, since 2014, developed an implemented a regional campaign called “What unites us” to fight against intolerance and xenophobia. This regional campaign was of course thoroughly discussed during the meeting as many of the groups activities are related to it.

Empowering young people confirms that thanks to these activities and sustainable initiatives, the young people have become active and resilient members in their host communities, where the challenging circumstances that they have had to endure have transformed themselves into great opportunities. Through education, participation, joint action, and reconnecting with a community, these young people have achieved self-sufficiency.