"The opportunity is ours to be the architects of our nation’s wealth - not wealth through money, but through the prosperity of a people."
Tevin Shepherd, 2016
In honour of International Youth Day, we continue to highlight the work of outstanding young persons from across the Caribbean who have been positively impacting their communities. CREN Team member Hannah Enightoola recently had the opportunity to chat with Tevin Shepherd, a 23 year old Youth Development Specialist from St. Lucia. He shared his motivations, struggles and successes in executing youth development programmes across his island. Mr. Shepherd was a Commonwealth finalist and received the prestigious Queen’s Young Leaders Award in June 2016. He is also a Chevening Scholar and will pursue a Master of Arts in International Social Development in the UK from September 2016.
Tevin, could you tell us a bit about the volunteer work which you do?
I co-founded ProjectCan which is a youth organisation aimed at empowering young people to be agents of change and peace-building in their communities. In 2010, Joy Martin had an idea to start an organisation to support and empower young persons in our community. I soon became the President of ProjectCan. Through ProjectCan, youths are exposed to various opportunities which give them the tools to explore their full potential. ProjectCan started in the community of Canaries, a lesser economically developed community in St. Lucia, but one which has been producing exceptional young individuals who are making an impact across St. Lucia and the world. Some of our programmes include mentorship, training and educating young persons in tourism heritage so that they can utilise our heritage as a form of tourism and income generation.
I am also the second Vice President for Education in the St. Lucia National Youth Council which is aimed at activating and supporting student councils across St. Lucia and fostering a community of democracy and governance within schools. We encourage youths to be agents of change in their school environment, help them develop their leadership and team-building skills and assist young persons to understand governmental processes and their rights as citizens.
As the recipient of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award in June, can you tell us about your experience?
It was a wonderful experience to gain that encouragement from such well respected global leaders. It was an amazing opportunity to learn and network with youths from across the Commonwealth as well as global movers and shakers who are making valuable contributions around the world. We learned from one other’s challenges and successes and gained valuable insight to take back to our respective countries and projects. It was really inspiring to be connected to so many outstanding individuals and to be part of this global movement.
Why did you get involved in volunteerism?
I have been volunteering for about thirteen years now. As a teenager, my friend and I organised a summer programme for young persons on ICT (Information and Communications Technology) in our community. I enjoyed teaching beneficial and empowering skills to young persons. I continued volunteering in various areas and was able to further impact many youths through my work with ProjectCan. My work started at the grassroots level and I now have the opportunity to work at the national, regional and international levels.
What benefits have you gained from being involved in social causes?
Being involved in these projects has given me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills and gain an appreciation of the struggles of persons from all backgrounds. It has also allowed me to build a network of other individuals who are passionate about development in their communities. Through volunteerism there is no direct financial reward. However, the benefits gained through my work have been more valuable to me than money. Despite the socio-economic challenges faced in my community, we have been able to produce outstanding leaders who are making global impacts.
What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
Apart from financial constraints, it was initially challenging to generate interest and get followers. We had to figure out how to make development trendy for young people in order to mobilise their support. We overcome these obstacles by making our approach trendy and relevant to young persons. In this way we were able to reach out to them and gather their support and interest.
Do you have a message to other young persons who may be reading this?
Yes, I would like young persons to realise that we control our own destinies. We are the architects of our own future. Many persons may depend on the government to provide or facilitate their situations, but sometimes we become so over-dependent on others that we become stagnant in our actions. We have to think beyond that mindset if we really want to accomplish our goals. If you want to achieve your goals, you have to craft your own future and work very hard to achieve your dreams.
At times we may view young people as ‘issues’ to be solved, rather than valuable human resources which can be used to advance our respective nations economically, socially etc. I advise young persons to get involved in volunteerism and various projects in their local communities. If you are unemployed, volunteer and build your network. This will help you to build your network and your potential opportunities. It doesn’t matter your circumstances or your situation. Set your goals and go after them aggressively.
Thank you Tevin for taking the time to share your inspiring story with us. On behalf of the CREN Team, good luck in and all the best in your studies and future endeavours!