Not slavery

Over the past few days, many Barbadians, including older, more mature members of our society, have been making a case for why young persons should not be encouraged to volunteer. Many of these persons would have benefited from their involvement in various extracurricular and voluntary activities and now cry foul at an incentive encouraging young Barbadians to contribute at least a few hours a week in community service.

Even more alarming has been the response of some young people who have sought to justify why they should not and cannot become involved in national service. The youth policy document has been widely circulated and received moderate and sometimes even lukewarm attention from our young people whom it targeted until the mention of a “mandatory requirement for National Service”. Where were all of the dissenting voices when the policy was being distributed and persons from all walks of life invited to participate in the recommendation and review of the documents?

It is my firm conviction that this exercise should be a wake-up call for young people to recognise that they have a responsibility to contribute to the development of a better Barbados. This is not just a call for charity, but young people must be educated by their elders that many of them are in the fortunate positions they are in because they or their parents in many cases were the recipients’ free primary education, free or heavily subsidised school meal, free secondary education and heavily subsidised post-secondary education. We must never forget these benefits are not really free, but come at a heavy cost to Government and ultimately all taxpayers.

It is for this reason I am so disappointed with some of our purported youth leaders whose reaction would lead one to believe our nation’s youth are as self-centred and insular as their comments would have them appear. Many years of working with young people of all ages and backgrounds tells this is not the case however.

I hasten to add that young people are not being asked to slave away in coal mines, but to participate in activities and programmes which will benefit themselves while providing them with character-building opportunities, life skills and practical real world experience. While persons have been spending the last few days discussing why our young persons should not be encouraged to give back, the question should be: Why would a committee have to make recommendations to encourage service to our fellow man? What examples are being set for our youth? How can we continue to grow as a nation if we don’t help each other?

Let us therefore encourage our young people to willingly contribute their time, skills and energies to productive activities that will help advance our community and build our country. Above it all, let us all embrace the concept of “each one teach one”!

— Damian Mascoll

Immediate Past Vice President

The Barbados Youth Development Council

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