Youth are the heart of the Timor-Leste Red Cross
by Sue Chamberlain
After ten years after gaining independence, Timor-Leste remains one of the youngest countries in the world with almost half its population aged under 17. CVTL is working hard to reach this growing demographic who are approaching adulthood with limited education, poor job prospects and a need for better life skills. In March 2011, CVTL held its first National Youth Assembly. It was the first time Red Cross Youth representatives elected from across Timor-Leste had come together to share their ideas on the development of CVTL’s Youth Program. 25 young people from all 13 districts across the country travelled to Dili to attend the two day forum.
Over the two days the young participants held discussions about the issues facing youth in Timor- Leste and suggest ways CVTL can respond to these needs. They also elected a Youth President who now serves on the National Board of CVTL bringing a youth perspective to decisions made about the future of the organisation.
More than 80% of CVTL’s 1000 volunteers are young people who give up their time to help their own communities through activities such as disaster prevention and first aid training. Red Cross Youth Clubs are one of the keys to the organisation’s success in reaching out to young people all over the country. The clubs give youth a sense of belonging, reducing their risk of getting involved with the wrong crowd. Young Timorese love sport and music so CVTL has been distributing instruments and organising competitions through our youth clubs. The activities bring young people together and give them activities to get involved with.