Youth Information Centres - Providing Youth-Friendly Spaces for Young People
Imagine a brightly coloured building furnished with simply decorated seating, spaced for comfort and privacy. With a ramp in place the building is open and accessible to all youth, regardless of physical ability. There are young people everywhere. In one corner, three persons engage in lively debate.
In the other room, another group participates in a motivational session. A small room provides privacy to the in-house counsellor. The Cyber Café is a buzz as persons are on the Internet, checking their mail and conducting research in preparation for college and exams. This is the Youth Information Centre – where young people can “be” themselves.
The creation of an island-wide network of Youth Information Centres where adolescents can feel comfortable discussing and accessing information on issues concerning them is among a number of initiatives being implemented by the Government of Jamaica in the drive to empower the nation’s youth.
Operated by the National Centre for Youth Development within the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, the Youth Information Centres (YICs) are youth-friendly spaces where young people 10-24, and sometimes as young as eight, can discuss and access information on issues concerning them. Concerns range from drug use, sex, AIDS, available jobs to personal advancement. Up-to-date information is displayed in an adolescent and youth-friendly manner.
The YICs not only serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas and information, but also provide training for adolescents in building their knowledge base and life skills
The YICs not only serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas and information, but also provide training for adolescents and community members in building their knowledge base and life skills. It is from this location that the Youth Empowerment Officers, conceptualize and launch activities to meet the overall goal of empowering youth to actively participate in the shaping of their environment and to form strong and sustainable linkages. Parish Youth Associations being fostered by the National Centre for Youth Development, will establish relations not only locally but also at the national level with the YICs serving as the hub for activities.With the assistance of the UNICEF-funded Adolescent Development Programme, the National Centre for Youth Development intends to establish a Youth Information Centre in each parish in Jamaica. Currently there are two YICs operating in Jamaica in Portmore, St Catherine and in Port Maria, St. Mary.