International Service Programs
Commitment to International Development
Youthlinc’s approach to international development is based on research and practical experience. We pride ourselves on helping communities become self-sufficient. We help in the construction of compatible and sustainable structures for education, health, and the general well-being of the community. We offer information (in the form of lessons for people of all ages, community workshops or fairs, and professional exchanges) in basic health and hygiene, education, social work, and business. We offer vocational training and through our microenterprise program, provide small loans to help start effective, self-sustaining businesses.
In order to provide the most effective service to the international community, Youthlinc partners with small communities for 3 to 5 years with the expectation that these communities continue to help themselves with the resources we provide.
Youthlinc is not in the business of giving handouts. Internationally, we strive to teach people how to provide for themselves a better quality of life. We also seek to provide our Service Year participants with the best educational and cultural exchange opportunities possible. We strongly believe that the best learning experiences come through hands-on activities, interacting with partner communities, and project based learning.
In keeping with these goals, we have established a basic curriculum for our international trips. Each team (35-40 people), no matter where they travel, is comprised of 5-6 core committees, which plan and carry out the projects in each site. These committees are led by students and mentored by our professional volunteers.
Dates for the 2013 Youthlinc international service sites are:
The core Youthlinc committees are:
All team members help with construction projects while at their international site, so all team members are on this committee! Teams have worked on various projects like installing water filtration systems, building bridges, laying sidewalks, and constructing classrooms and first aid stations. Projects are determined well in advance through meetings and needs assessments with Youthlinc staff and the partner communities, and negotiated according to the financial resources available to Youthlinc. It is expected that each community we visit will help provide labor for the construction projects working together with our participants to build stronger partnerships.
In each of its sites, Youthlinc gathers information in advance about the most pressing medical and health needs. From that information, the Medical Committees work to organize health fairs, raise funds, and bring medical equipment to each community. Youthlinc does not operate open clinics at its international sites. Holding ‘come one, come all’ clinics is not sustainable. Knowledge and understanding is sustainable. Clinic work is only done within the area of expertise of the medical professional we bring, and in concert and under the direction of village health professionals. Opportunities for professional exchange, within the village and in local medical facilities, are part of the Youthlinc international experience.
The Cultural Exchange Committee is in charge of creating a bridge between the team and the local community. Committee members organize the opening and closing ceremonies, the Mondo Art exchange, cultural dialogues, sport competitions, and other activities. We encourage our young people to learn about the culture and society through structured and casual interaction with people, young and old, in the partner community. We encourage the Cultural Exchange committee to present research and information about the international site (e.g., history, customs, etc.) with the whole team in preparation for the visit.
Our in-country partners let us know what the educational needs are in each site. Students on this committee plan lessons, raise funds, and organize school supply drives in order to meet these needs. The Education Committee chair is responsible for teaching each participant how to organize a basic lesson plan that will ensure successful interaction and communication of information. Each team participant (including mentors) is encouraged to prepare a lesson to be taught to various age groups in the community. In this way, every participant has an opportunity to interact with community members in a way that we have found is very rewarding.
The Microenterprise Committee focuses on finding and strengthening business opportunities in each community, based on information gathered from previous team visits and on-going communication with our in-country coordinators. This committee teaches business lessons, gathers information on people interested in starting a small business, and helps determine the disbursement of microcredit loans. Prior to each trip, members of these committees meet regularly to raise funds and come up with ideas for the sustainability of the program.
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The Vocational Training committee works to create better employment opportunities in our sites. Youthlinc teams have taught baking, sewing, barbering, soap making, and a variety of other skills as requested by our partner communities. Often Youthlinc team members have to learn these skills in order to teach them. Often, adult professional proficient in these skills serve as mentors and help student committee members develop lessons to teach in our partner villages.
According to the needs of the communities and the professional experience of our Mentors, Youthlinc has organized a number of other committees focused on Social Work, Audiology, Special Needs Education, and many more.
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YOUTHLINC MICROENTERPRISE PROGRAM
The Youthlinc Microenterprise Program exists to provide small loans, business training and microcredit organization training to individuals and communities. We work with existing community organizations wherever possible at our international sites and provide resources to those who are interested.
In 2006, in keeping with the student leadership model of Youthlinc, alumni and program participants began formulating our microenterprise program based on best practice research. In the summer of 2007, the microenterprise program began in Ocotlan, Mexico; and Nkubu, Kenya. Since that time, Youthlinc has begun facilitating business and vocational training in most our partner communities.
Youthlinc has been successful working with groups of women to increase their standard of living and to provide them with skills and capital to start their own businesses. Over the last few years, Youthlinc has solidified the program's goals: first, to provide interested groups with vocational and business training to enhance the work they are already doing; second, to provide interested people the training and resources necessary to run a small-scale microcredit organization; and third, to provide initial capital for loans provided through those organizations.
Download the Youthlinc Microenterprise Training Manual
How We Operate
The Youthlinc Microenterprise Program includes three activities:
- Vocational training
We have often found there is a We have often found there is a strong desire in our partner communities for vocational training. This can include anything from baking, making soap, sewing, giving haircuts, technology training, and construction. Once we have established partnerships with the community, we can work with them to see if there is a desire and a need for vocational training and we can work over the course of the year to develop a training program to implement in-country.
- Business training
Many people in our partner communities have established businesses and want to develop their skills, or may desire to start a business. We provide business lessons to the communities.
- Microcredit capacity building and loans
Before offering loans, we either partner with a group already doing microcredit in the area, or we work with the local Rotary club to establish a governing board. This is the most essential piece of the loan program; without an in-country organization, we are not able to give loans in an area. Our teams fundraise for money for small loans, which is distributed when villagers have established a governing board, complete their microenterprise lessons and sign a contract outlining the stipulations of their loan.
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