YouCAN set to Boost Roving Caregivers  Programme
April 1, 2011
YouCAN set to Boost Roving Caregivers Programme

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Roving Caregivers Programme (RCP) was given a boost with the recent launch of the Youth and Community Advocacy Network (YouCAN).{{more}} The RCP is an informal early childhood education programme that seeks to reach children from birth to three years who do not have access to any formal early childhood education. It is hoped that YouCAN will provide ongoing grassroot support to the RCP.

“YouCAN is a network of advocates who mobilise and sensitise members of the community on early childhood development and family support issues, in an effort to garner the support from the community to demand quality support services,” notes Clive Murray, programme officer for Youth, Community Advocacy and Communications at the Caribbean Child Support Initiative (CCSI), in his address at the launch. “The YouCAN’s purpose, therefore, is primarily to engage young adults, and by extension the community, in meaningful dialogue around the issues of providing and sustaining such quality services for vulnerable young children and families. This is indeed a significant milestone in light of the steps being taken by our youth and community leaders, especially those participating in the Roving Caregivers Programme.”

Consisting of a network of caregivers or Rovers, who live within the communities, YouCAN provides an opportunity for members to develop their communities and become advocates for children and their developmental needs. The initiative is headed by three leaders – Ann Pierre and Ekron Francis from Barrouallie and Hazel-Ann Bengy from the Sandy Bay community. They are charged with leading community advocacy activities and fostering dialogue on important issues around early childhood development and family support.

Pierre, who has been involved with the RCP for five years, says the programme has been beneficial, providing crucial insights into interacting with children at important stages of development. “I got involved with RCP through a friend who was a Rover at the time… I’m a very talkative person. I like to share my views on issues. I’m an outspoken community-spirit person, and what grabs me is the youth,” she says, noting that YouCAN provides an opportunity for her to advocate on behalf of the youth. “What I’m gaining is a mouthpiece for the RCP. I hope that the government or some organisation will take us up to sustain us, to house us, and for more awareness about the RCP.”

Representing the Ministry of Education, Gwyneth Cambridge lauded the initiative and its impact on national development. “The Ministry of Education commends the Roving Caregivers Programme known as RCP, expertly directed by Judith Hull-Ballah, for the initiative geared at promoting education and improving the lives of the citizens of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” she notes.

Speaking specifically to YouCAN, Cambridge said: “We target the youths because they form the nucleus of our communities…This brainchild of CCSI seeks to cater to their needs and advocate on behalf of young children and families who are at risk, in areas where we at the Ministry of education who deal with early childhood centres might not be able to go.” Highlighting her expectations for YouCAN, Cambridge envisions an initiative that will provide young people with the tools to complement their training, expose them to international perspectives and individual support, create opportunities to change public perception of young people and strengthen the links between preventing youth problems and promoting youth preparation and development.