A brief glance at Joel Greenidge’s schedule quickly disproves the saying “youth is wasted on the young”. By day the 26-year-old is an insurance advisor at Sagicor Life but he also serves as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Youth Ambassador for Grenada and is an active participant in a number of civil society initiatives. Oh, did we mention that he’s an impressive football player too?
The young Grenadian, who was raised in Tempe, St Georges, was appointed to the ambassadorial role in 2013. The Caribbean Youth Ambassador (CYA) programme, started by CARICOM back in 1994, is a mechanism for leadership development and youth participation within the Caribbean region. The CYA’s are intended to be the Community’s focal points for deepening the regional integration and development process through advocacy and peer education initiatives.
Prior to this influential appointment Greenidge co-founded Youngmentour, an organisation that aims to address the limited options available to many young people on the island. The organisation conducted a national youth survey, to coincide with the UN’s International Year of Youth, and identified both challenges and opportunities for young Grenadians. The findings led to focus group discussions and a series of motivational talks at schools across the island.
If all this wasn’t enough this talented young man is currently in the midst of an exciting new youth development project through which he is hoping to engage Grenada’s private sector. In a collaborative effort between Greenidge, Grenada’s Commonwealth Youth Ambassador and the Commonwealth representative to the Americas, Canada and the Caribbean a new initiative, entitled YESO is on the verge of being launched. The projects core objectives are:
- To strengthen community youth groups
- To set up parish youth councils
- To set up the national youth council as the umbrella body of all youth organisations
- To have all the parish council to elect a national youth ambassador to represent the interest of the parish.
- To collaborate with the ministry of youth and sport in having parish youth parliament and also to set up a national youth government and youth opposition to debate pertinent national issues.
What’s interesting about the initiative is that, fully aware of the extent to which young people are disaffected and disengaged from traditional politics, the group are seeking funding to be able to execute the project in a way that will avoid activities coming under undue political influence.
The plans are ambitious but Greenidge seems like exactly the sort of determined young mind needed to make this change happen.
Why were you interested in becoming a youth ambassador for Grenada?
My deep interest in becoming a youth ambassador for Grenada stem from my childhood battles and also my understanding of the challenges faced by young people and the need for proper and greater representation of the youth population of Grenada both at the national andCARICOM Level.
What does your role involve?
As a CARICOM youth ambassador my responsibility is to represent the voice of the Grenadian youth at CARICOM level. It gives me the opportunity to be part of regional solutions to solve the problems affecting young people within the CARICOM Community.
At a national level, I am able to work in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth and Sports to implement some of their national youth programmes. I also work alongside other stakeholders to help strengthen community youth groups. I visit schools and youth groups to do motivational speeches and attend regional and international youth forums.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Grenada’s youth?
- The lack of opportunities to pursue their dreams to the full measure of their happiness.
- Cultural infiltration
- Lack of motivation and incentives for youth empowerment
- Drugs and alcohol usage
- Lack of relevant and holistic education to prepare the youth of Grenada for the world of work
- Lack of role models/heroes
- Lack of places to go and things to do that are youth friendly
- Breakdown in family unit
How can you use your role to address some of these obstacles?
I can my use my role to rally the support of youth in Grenada to hold our leaders accountable to create the enabling environment where we as young people can strive and prosper. Secondly I can bring to the forefront issues for discussion at the national level using the media. Thirdly I can have youth forums with different youth organisation on the issues affecting young people within their communities and document the information and submit to the Ministry of Youth with recommendations.
If you could commit to changing one issue in Grenada, what would it be?
That issue will definitely be improving the alarming unemployment rate among the youth of Grenada. I believe the social issues affecting our nation’s youth has a lot to do with not being able to provide for themselves and their families.