RISE’s Youth Development Officers (YDOs) are a group of youth enthusiasts who are trained in the delivery of healthy lifestyle education to their peers and other groups of people. The group had its origin in 1997 when a cadre of youth peer educators were selected from an Adolescent Drug Prevention Programme operated by the organization in secondary schools across Kingston and St. Catherine. They received intensive training over a three year period in life & social skills, leadership skills, and the performing arts, equipping them with skills to train other youth in schools and communities.
In 1998, when the organization began its school based classroom intervention, this highly trained group of youth facilitators was charged with the responsibility of conducting the weekly classroom sessions with seventh grade students in the following Life Skills: Adolescent Sexuality & Reproductive Health, Drug Abuse Prevention, Crime and Violence, Peer Pressure Coping and Refusal Skills and Personal Development. Sessions were delivered using the performing arts – music, drama and dance. They also sensitized other students, teachers, guidance counselors and parents
This innovative teaching methodology utilized by the group proved to be very successful and generated the interest and participation of its target audience – adolescents between 10 and 18 years old. The group received many accolades, chief among them, being seen as role models by their peers and the many other young people with whom they came into contact.
As a result of the success of the teaching methodology and the overwhelming requests made for the group to make presentations at multiple locations, the organization decided to package the technique so that other educators, including guidance counselors in schools, can utilize its approach to disseminate healthy lifestyle messages. The SHINE facilitator’s toolkit was created. The toolkit, which includes a facilitator’s manual, a participant activity book, a DVD with role plays, and a set of pictorial posters, was created by the Youth Facilitators and launched in 2005. The Youth Facilitators co-authored the manual and activity book, are featured on the posters, acted in and directed all role plays.
In 1999, the group planned and hosted CARYFONDA - Caribbean Youth Forum on Drug Abuse Prevention – a one week residential conference targeting over 250 youth from across Jamaica and the Caribbean. Another such conference was held in 2001 and included participants from Texas U.S.A. The group has coordinated and hosted all of RISE’s residential camps. They have also participated and facilitated at many International Youth Conferences over the years; Youth to Youth Drug Prevention Conference – Ohio, USA, 1997, Rhode Island, USA, 2000 and 2004, Crossing Cultural Borders, Texas, USA, 2002, the First Asian Youth Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention, Bali, Indonesia, 2002, and PRIDE Conference, Kansas City, USA, 2004.
They have participated in many genres of youth development in Jamaica. In 2001, two facilitators were appointed Jamaican Youth Ambassadors and carried the portfolios of CARICOM affairs and Youth Empowerment and Participation.
Two other facilitators served for many years as Instructor Trainers for the Red Cross of Jamaica. They also work as Trainers for the Ministry of Health in their HIV/AIDS prevention programmes, as well as the National Youth Service (NYS) at their Youth Development Camps.
Through the many interventions conducted by the organization over the years, the facilitators have educated and sensitized approximately 70, 000 students, parents, teachers, guidance counselors and community members.
They have empowered and transferred skills to many youth in inner-city communities, motivating them to effect changes in their lives so that they can lead more productive lifestyles and contribute to the development of their communities. The group has done all their work through the inspiration of having been changed themselves and lives by their motto – “Motivation, Guidance and Confidence are the keys to our success”.