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The Contribution We Make: A Letter From One Young Person To Another

By Koreen Cueto

Dear friend

Sunday is International Youth Day. On Sunday we’ll celebrate the irreplaceable role youth play in all areas of society including politics, the arts, the not-for-profit sector and other industries. To all young people, especially those working to make our world a better and more equal place to live in, Sunday is YOUR day.

Koreen Cueto

Back in 1985, the United Nations (UN) first celebrated the International Year of Youth. In the following years the UN created guidelines and programs to encourage governments to place more focus on the development of their young people. Some priority areas include education, employment, leisure-time activities and young women.

So, why do youth deserve to be celebrated? What can we bring to the table? And why should we, as young people, care about social justice and making this world a better place?

Young people bring a fresh new set of skills

Many people agree that youth bring new energy to whatever task they are handed. We are focused, driven, passionate and adaptable. We love adventure and we are also daring in our search for purpose. Because of this, we are willing to try new things. We want to be able to put our many skills and talents to good use.

Take for example Amina Mendez, whose family lived in poverty in a rural area of the Philippines when she was a child. Desperate to support her two daughters, Amina’s mother, Remy, accessed a small loan from Opportunity International Australia 15 years ago to buy three small piglets and she gradually built a piggery business. With Remy’s income, Amina was able to go to school and excelled, winning a scholarship to study in the US. After graduating from a university in the US, Amina returned to the Philippines to work with Opportunity’s microfinance partner ASKI, who provided Remy’s loan. Amina received another scholarship to do postgraduate studies in Human Development at George Washington University and she recently completed an internship in an Indian village. Her career, Amina says, enables her to pay it forward.

Amina and her mother Remy at home in the Philippines

Young people want to pay it forward

Growing up in a country like Australia, it can be really easy to disregard the realities of the rest of the world, especially the lives of families in developing countries. When I was 17 years old and fresh out of high school, I desperately wanted to join my classmates on the very significant Australian rite of passage known as ‘Schoolies.’ I knew my strict Filipino parents would never agree and they suggested an alternative: a month long solo trip back to our roots, the Philippines. Reluctantly, I agreed and set off on a trip that would later change my life.

Part of my time in the Philippines was spent in a village immersion. I met a lot of young people, like myself, with big dreams and aspirations. They wanted to go to university and later become lawyers, or engineers, or doctors. However, their journey towards that dream was going to be a lot harder than mine. Most of them couldn’t afford to go to school. In fact, they had very little and often lived day to day, not knowing if they would be able to eat sufficient food the next day.

Unfortunately, this is a sad reality for many young people in countries like the Philippines, India and Indonesia. But I believe we all have a responsibility to help our brothers and sisters, and that we have the potential to make positive social change happen.

We as young people should strive to be generous with our time, talent and treasure. If we can do this, we can empower other young people to do so as well. We can promote a ‘pay it forward’ attitude. Many researchers have found that younger generations are more socially aware than ever. Because of social media, we are seeing social issues and injustice in front of our very eyes and we are determined to be involved.

As youth, we may often think we’re too young to achieve big things. Maybe we lack experience, or we lack resources. However, we bring to the table a fresh new energy and determination. Let’s channel it to make positive change in our world!

Enjoy International Youth Day!

Koreen Cueto

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