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The Generation on the Rise: Peace Through Youth Engagement

Let's transform War Child's programs for war-affected youth into a collaborative strategy with young Canadian changemakers.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

With a goal as lofty as achieving global peace and prosperity, change is difficult to measure in brief, discrete periods of months or years. The journey to peace may be best measured on a generational scale. Our idea is to replicate and adapt successful youth engagement programs being run by war-affected youth by War Child for the Canadian market. This will include a strategy, a digital platform for collaboration and sharing, tools and the materials for youth to lead advocacy, awareness and fundraising events in their community. Too often, youth engagement in developed countries and traditional charity marketing tends to unfairly ‘other’ the children and families we are trying to support. With this idea, we envision a program that begins with the voices and input of war-affected youth first, then provides an open line of communication so that the children and the programming mature together and set a high bar for inclusion and collaboration. In areas of conflict we are actively helping young community leaders establish youth councils which identify needs and opportunities for peacebuilding, safety, community services, etc. These young leaders advocate for the needs of children affected by war on their own terms with our guidance and support. War Child’s role is largely to identify these young leaders, train and mentor them on establishing these councils, and provide funding for youth-led initiatives that fulfill our objectives of peacebuilding, empowering youth and strengthening the systems around them. Here in Canada, a generation of young people are engaging with social issues. More than ever they are increasingly aware that their decisions – like what they buy, where they travel and the charities they support have a global ripple effect. With the ease of online communication, there is a tremendous opportunity to unify our overseas expertise and domestic outreach.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our overseas beneficiaries participating as young leaders in our youth programming are ages 14-25. We are running youth outreach in South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur) and Afghanistan. We ensure a balance of gender, and where appropriate to the cultural context we ensure balanced representation of ethnicities or tribes. Domestically, youth leaders will be Canadian students under 18, primarily high school students between ages 14-18. For the purposes of this launch and pilot, all participants should be English speaking.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Youth engagement in international issues is growing in popularity in Canada. A popular choice is to educate students about global issues, then encourage them to fundraise for a trip to a developing country where they take on a project like building a structure of some kind. There is also a growing industry of for-profit volun-tourism that blends a vacation with volunteer service. While the intent is good, the result is an othering of the populations we hope to support. This temporary, unskilled, expatriate labour presents challenges for the local economies. What we are proposing would put domestic and overseas youth on equal standing. We want to facilitate collaboration and foster understanding. We want to break down any perception of difference by exploring and emphasizing shared experiences for the purpose of increasing empathy and a sense of empowerment by breaking down cultural barriers.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

War Child protects childhood in war zones through education, opportunity and justice while also raising public awareness around the impact of war on children and the shared responsibility to act.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

In 2015, our Founder and Executive Director Dr. Samantha Nutt returned from Afghanistan and swore she’d met their future President, a 15 year old girl named Fruzan who was participating in our youth leadership program. Her peers elected her to represent their concerns at a national shura – or, council – in Kabul. She said “when I was at Parliament and talking to the deputy minister and parliamentarians, I felt empowered and responsible – and I thought that maybe this is my future.”

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

In conflict-affected countries the population is incredibly young. In Uganda the median age is 15, in South Sudan it is 18. In Afghanistan, 43% of the population is under 14. When planning any form of humanitarian development work it is essential to incorporate the voices and viewpoints of young people. Linking them up with an international agency like War Child increases confidence and optimism that peace in their lifetime is possible and globally supported. Youth in conflict zones are one side of our bridge – peace – through the work they do in their community. The other end of that bridge – prosperity – is grounded in Canada where public support can drive change on an economic and political scale. A collective youth voice is powerful, as we’ve seen recently in US gun regulation protests. Harnessing the energy of Canadian youth will contribute to prosperity through advocacy, fundraising for sustainable development projects, and public awareness about the impact of war on children.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Our overseas Country Directors will be of incredible value to these projects. They are trusted members of youth programming and can guide our Canadian teams through the specifics of how projects are launched, managed and measured. Our local implementation teams, who are always local community members, will facilitate access and discussion with local youth that have graduated from, or are actively participating in, local youth empowerment programs. In Canada, we will work with high schools to prototype concepts and identify pilot program participants. We will also draw on experiences from our social sector peers that have developed effective youth programming, as well as the experiences of our counterparts in War Child Holland and War Child UK.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The average age of youth where we work is well below the global average and a disproportionate number of them are heads of a household. Despite this, our experience on the ground for 20 years has revealed an incredible optimism that change is possible. They often ask what Canadians believe about these issues and what they are doing to help. Youth in conflict zones want to know that they are part of a global movement for peace, not simply the beneficiary of donations and aid.

Geographic Focus

Canada, and one of War Child’s current countries of operation: Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Sudan, etc

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

18 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

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