Just over a year ago, in a small seaside village in Dominica, a group of youth gathered at the La Plaine Child Development Centre to form La Plaine Youth on the Rise, dedicated to promoting youth involvement in the community. Eleven months later, in May, this group of young people opened the Koulirou Youth and Internet Center inside the ChildFund Caribbean-affiliated facility. This new Internet cafe provides youth an opportunity to connect to the world for a small cost.
The grand opening of the Internet cafe drew community members and government officials including the Honourable Peter St. Jean, Dominica’s Minister for Education, who is from the La Plaine community and supportive of its youth.
Funding for the cafe was made possible by Brian Anderson, who sponsors numerous children through ChildFund. Anderson, of Massachusetts, first visited Dominica last September and immediately fell in love with the culture and the children of La Plaine. His donation to the youth center was used to purchase six computers and desks to help educate and entertain the youth of the community. Anderson chose the La Plaine region to support because it was relatively close to the United States. “If I wanted to get there, I wouldn’t have to travel halfway across the world, and I could communicate freely with the kids,” he says, noting that the primary language in Dominica is English.
At the Internet cafe, children and young adults now have access to the Web, social networking sites and e-mail. They also enjoy playing games in teams. Parents are also encouraging an education program through the youth center to teach children the computer skills necessary in today’s world. The center is open daily, and many of the youth will stay the entire day, sometimes not even taking a break for lunch.
Before ChildFund opened the La Plaine Child Development Centre, the community had few organized activities for children, and many of its youth dropped out of school or experimented with drugs. Now, the La Plaine youth group boasts more than 40 youth and young adult members, and the number is rising as an overwhelming amount of support continues to come from the community.
“I really appreciate the fact that ChildFund is helping us channel our efforts and energy into something positive to help our community,” says Srey, 17, the group’s treasurer and a college student studying economics. She is also sponsored through ChildFund. “My parents are very proud and amazed at the fact that at a young age we can manage all this.”
The group approaches its tasks with a dedication that is sure to yield results — and already has, in the launch of the Internet café, which so far has raised more than EC$100 that the youth are saving for an August field trip. There are executive meetings twice a month and general meetings monthly. Friday hikes are in the works. The group is also developing a marketing strategy to encourage more parents to use the cafe as well as involving more parents in the youths’ activities and initiatives. Throughout their efforts, the members support each other in attaining their dreams and maximizing positive socialization.
“I am hopeful that this will open up their world through the use of the Internet,” says Anderson, who will continue to invest in similar “high-impact” projects geared toward transforming young adults into leaders. “Children are naturally curious, and the computers may give them that path. By expanding their menu of options, they may see opportunities that they never knew existed.”