Over the years, Youthlinc has had the exciting opportunity to host fellows from around the world through the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) and Community Engagement Exchange (CEE) programs. These programs, sponsored by the Department of State, place emerging leaders from around the globe with various organizations around the United States to collaborate and learn from each other. Those who were in the Youthlinc world last year may have had the pleasure to meet Johanna Ravomanana, a fellow from Madagascar, who worked in the Youthlinc office for 3 months during the summer of 2023.
Prior to her visit to the states, Johanna founded an organization called the Union of Committed Youth (U.C.Y), whose goal is to support the young people living in the rural areas near the capitol city of Madagascar, Antananarivo. U.C.Y. was born under the leadership of Johanna who witnessed many young people from her village become stagnant after high school as they faced the challenges that poverty placed on their families. In Madagascar, 70 percent of Malagasy people live in extreme poverty, making less than 2 dollars per day. Parents in rural areas cannot invest in their children’s college studies which results in many young people giving up on their dreams because they think that they will never get access to higher education. This leads to many of the youth becoming idle and lacking direction.
U.C.Y. seeks to support high school graduate students from underprivileged areas of Antananarivo to reduce the number of young people who give up on higher education due to lack of funds, teach them to develop a mindset of resilience and independence, and educate them and assist them to become role models for society. U.C.Y empowers participants through their 3-month weekly training program. The program is divided into three parts: Personal Development, Academic Orientation, and Mentoring. At the end of the program, each participant receives a certificate, and several students are selected to become mentees who will continue to receive financial and professional support and mentorship as they use their newly developed skills to seek jobs and apply for college.
Now, anyone who is familiar with Youthlinc’s Real Life afterschool program may be drawing some parallels here. U.C.Y. and Real Life share many similarities as they both work to support underserved youth populations in their communities and provide them with real-life skills that will help them to further their individual futures. It is in this way that these two programs were able to work hand in hand together during Johanna’s time at Youthlinc and benefit from one another. When the Department of State offered the opportunity for a Youthlinc staff to travel to Madagascar and continue to collaborate with Johanna, it was a no brainer that we should send someone to continue to learn and unite our efforts to uplift young people.
This past November, Melissa Pearson, Youthlinc Real Life Director, had the pleasure to travel to Madagascar and work with U.C.Y. under Johanna’s leadership. While much of Johanna’s trip to the United States was focused on the inner workings of Youthlinc, Melissa’s trip to Madagascar was all about learning more about U.C.Y. and how they operate. During her time there, Melissa assisted Johanna in completing a needs assessment, strategic planning for the future of the organization, budgeting, grant development, attended a meeting with the U.S. Embassy, and she also took part in a few of U.C.Y.’s weekly sessions with their students and volunteers. In addition, Melissa and Johanna spent some time acting as tourists, visiting the castles near Antananarivo to learn about the capitol’s rich history, and traveling to Andasibe to see a Malagasy national park, meeting an array of species of lemurs and many other creatures native to Madagascar while there.
In conclusion, the partnership between Youthlinc and the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) and Community Engagement Exchange (CEE) programs has not only brought diverse perspectives to Youthlinc but has also fostered meaningful collaborations with organizations like the Union of Committed Youth (U.C.Y) in Madagascar. Johanna Ravomanana’s visit to Youthlinc in 2023 and Melissa Pearson’s subsequent trip to Madagascar exemplify the power of international partnerships in creating positive change.
Johanna’s initiative, U.C.Y., stands as a testament to the transformative impact that committed individuals can have on their communities. Recognizing the shared mission of uplifting underserved youth, U.C.Y. and Youthlinc’s Real Life program found common ground during Johanna’s tenure in the United States. The alignment in their goals facilitated a seamless collaboration that transcended borders and cultures.
Melissa’s journey to Madagascar marked a continuation of this collaboration, highlighting the dedication of Youthlinc to extend support and learning beyond its immediate community. By actively engaging in U.C.Y.’s operations, Melissa not only contributed to the organization’s growth but also gained valuable insights that can be applied to Youthlinc’s own programs.
The exchange of knowledge and expertise between Youthlinc and U.C.Y. underscores the importance of international cooperation in addressing common challenges faced by youth in different parts of the world. As Youthlinc continues its commitment to empowering youth, the collaboration with U.C.Y. stands out as a shining example of how shared visions and collaborative efforts can create a ripple effect, positively influencing the lives of young people on a global scale. The experiences of Johanna and Melissa serve as a testament to the potential for cross-cultural partnerships to drive positive change, fostering resilience, independence, and a shared commitment to creating a better future for youth worldwide.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” ~ Helen Keller
Link to another article related to U.C.Y. in the Youthlincer: https://youthlincer.org/cee-youthlinc-and-union-of-committed-youth/