Helping Young People to Help Others

Helping Young People to Help Others

(ARA)- Americans were extremely generous in response to the tsunami disaster in South Asia. Over $700 million has already been raised from private sources in the United States for tsunami relief, and the dollars are still rolling in.
Most noteworthy has been the contribution of young people. Inspired to action by images of kids their own age who had lost everything--families, homes and schools--America's youth organized school dances, walk-a-thons and good old-fashioned dollar drives to help those in need. The generation that many of us thought was merely obsessed with their own iPods and Gameboys was suddenly doing well.
But not everyone thinks this is so sudden. NetAid, a New York-based nonprofit that fights global poverty, was working with young people long before the tsunami. The issue, they say, is not that American young people don't care about the world. It's that they don't know how they can make a difference.
Of all of the problems in our complicated world, global poverty might seem to be the biggest and scariest. Over one billion people live on less than $1 a day, often without access to fundamental needs like food, water, shelter and basic education. This kind of poverty impacts everyone. It contributes to problems like the spread of HIV/AIDS, political instability, and environmental damage. For most adults, this is a problem that seems too daunting to tackle. For kids, it may seem impossible.
Yet young people might be more ready to confront this challenge than we think. "On many occasions, I've seen that young people want to--and can--change our world for the better," explains Edith Asibey, Acting President of NetAid. "So many young Americans are concerned about global poverty, but like most of us, they don't know what they can do about it."
NetAid's youth programs work with high school students in the United States to give them the skills, support, and guidance they need to help the world's poor. The NetAid Global Citizen Corps (GCC) empowers high school students to educate and rally their friends and classmates in poverty-fighting efforts. Each year, NetAid selects and trains a group of high school student leaders who then go into their communities to run campaigns about issues like HIV/AIDS or the lack of access to education in poor countries.
Kids and adults alike give the GCC rave reviews. "I am so thankful to be involved with this program," says Kaitlin Irvine, a GCC Leader from West Virginia. "It is fabulous to have a support group of people my age that cares about ending world poverty."
"The GCC tackles the hard-to-conceptualize global issues that students often struggle to connect to their own lives. The training gives students insights into how these issues affect them, and what they and their school communities can do to affect change," adds Melanie Smolev, a GCC Faculty Advisor from the Henry Street School in New York City.
For students who are already advanced in their work, the NetAid Global Action Award, is a scholarship program that recognizes their efforts. Each year, NetAid honors high school students who have taken outstanding actions that have directly impacted the lives of the world's poor and raised awareness in their own communities. Honorees receive a $5,000 scholarship and a trip to the awards celebration in New York City.
Last year, four young people were honored who had helped girls in Afghanistan go to school, provided vital medical equipment for rural villages in Uganda, and improved the lives of street children in Vietnam and child laborers in Latin America. This year, NetAid will honor another group of young people and inspire others to follow in their footsteps. "The more young people who are aware of the effects of poverty and feel confident in their ability to create change--the greater the difference they can make," concludes Edith Asibey.
There's a popular phrase from American cinema that says: "Youth is wasted on the wrong people." NetAid is out to prove that this is all wrong. Young people who want to get more involved in helping the world's poor--whether they're just starting or are already accomplished--can work with NetAid to boost their efforts. College students, teachers and parents can also get involved by providing mentoring and support.
To learn more about how NetAid's youth programs can help you help others, visit www.netaid.org.

Courtesy of ARA Content