Voice Of Youth established in 1998 is a non-profit organization duly registered under the companies act no. N (A) 684. The organization’s main priorities spans a vast area of which include, the developing and facilitation of job opportunities for youth, developing entrepreneurship promotions and skills developments opportunities, harnessing the talents among youth in personal and national development, poverty mitigation, building awareness on HIV/AIDS, educating youth on democracy and good governance, ethnic reconciliation, human rights issues and environment conservation etc.
Their ultimate goal is to increase access and retention as well as improve the living conditions of youth in par with the Millennium Development Goals.
The organization comprises of a qualified and competent board of governors of which include a number of reputed university lecturers. Their main office is located at Nugegoda and with an additional branch at Anuradhapura .
I spoke to Mr.Senaka Dambawinne, Programme Director of Voice of Youth, on the organization’s contribution towards the youth in Sri Lanka. Our organization has two parallel lines of functioning. Our basic pilot activities are directed at the Anuradhapura district whilst also having various other national level initiatives, says Mr. Dambawinne.
Why we selected Anuradhapura was mainly due to a number of issues, namely that it is one of the largest districts in Sri Lanka located in the dry zone where the poverty levels, suicide rates and illiteracy are quite high. Taking these reasons into consideration we built our organizational infrastructure based on providing an exceptional service to a majority of youth from this district. Due to these reasons it is quite beneficial to conduct our work from this regional office for application in the national levels.
The organizations target age groups are from 15 to 24 years. We are looking at a development-oriented approach catering to individuals as well as benefiting the overall development of the country, says Mr. Dambawinne.
Voice Of Youth have combined their services with UNICEF to conduct a programme including 87 schools in order to promote life skills with the objective of preventing risk behaviour among students.
The primary objective of this programme was to combat HIV transmission among youth. The organization attempts to bring about productive behavioral changes in youth on the concept of developing favourable life skills that will be of advantage to them in their professional as well as personal lives.
A special programme was set up to monitor the progress of youth with regards to the activities they take part in to develop their life skills. Life skills form a crucial part of the day-to-day challenges that youths face in their daily lives. This may be a variety of challenges ranging from suicides to unsafe sexual practices.
Another special project undertaken by the Voice of Youth organization is the Youth Kingdom project. This is the countries first youth network comprising of 42 youth organizations.
Youth Kingdom is a web portal created by the Voice of Youth to facilitate networking of youth organizations in Sri Lanka. This provides them a place to meet, gather information, interact, interrogate, and initiate action and to form connections with the rest of the world.
Among the many services that Youth Kingdom provides include providing detailed profiles of youth organizations currently in operation in Sri Lanka, information on policy documents related to youth, organization of special youth forums, youth news, skills development and career guidance pages, information on educational institutions, sponsorship and funding information and feedback information. The following information provides youth with knowledge and insights on the youth organizations currently operating in the country, and allows them relevant information on how to contact these organizations and how they could actively work with such organizations.
The Youth Kingdom programme also helps the youth to share their ideas with others and find suitable programmes that relate to their common interests, skills and budget.
The career guidance pages provides an in depth knowledge about job opportunities, by providing a person with a list of employment opportunities that are currently available in the job markets. The programme also provides youth with a novel concept of leaning and gathering knowledge about numerous current issues such as Human Rights, HIV/AIDS, Drug prevention, Environmental Protection, Free Speech, Gender Inequality and many more. The Youth Kingdom programme also helps youth to find sponsors to fund their projects.
Voice Of Youth focuses on being the common voice of the youth organizations by connecting their services and channeling them as one in order to help the youth of Sri Lanka to obtain the maximum benefits of these organizations. There has not been any type of effective mechanism as this that has successfully addressed the relevant issues with regards to the youth of the country.
The organization strives to empower and nurture youth to actively participate in the growth and development oriented national projects and to display their deployable inherent talents and potentials, which will lead to their ultimate success in life.
The organization is also driven with a clear mission to bring forth a new generation of youth who will become a valuable element of the national clusters that endeavourers Sri Lanka to achieve prosperity and there by enabling them to come in par with the rest of the developed world.