On September 24, the U.S. Embassy’s Youth Ambassadors representing the island of Abaco held an engaging community dialogue to promote social inclusion of Bahamians living with intellectual disabilities during a one-day forum at the Office of the Prime Minister in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. The community service project coordinated by the youth ambassadors was a direct follow-up to their participation in an international youth leadership exchange program sponsored by the U.S. State Department in February of this year. The participants, Kandise Kelly and Catalina Albury, both students at Forest Heights Academy, Berthony McDermott of S.C. Bootle High School and Conrad Cornish of Abaco Central High School, were accompanied by Kimberly Rahming of the Ministry of Education who served as the group’s chaperone. During the three-week exchange in the U.S., the youth leaders joined students from throughout the Caribbean in Denver, Colorado and Washington, D.C. to participate in hands-on community based activities.
Upon their return to Abaco, the youth ambassadors chose to champion the cause of disability awareness in the various communities throughout the island in a community dialogue. The U.S. Embassy’s Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Neda Brown was on hand for the event along with educators, religious leaders and representatives from special needs schools and various governmental departments including Social Services and the Department of Housing.
The highlight of the program was the screening of a short film produced by the youth ambassadors titled, “People with Possibilities,” which addressed everyday challenges faced by the disabled. The film included interviews with educators, parents and disabled youth on Abaco. During the discussion, Lynn Major, principal of Every Child Counts School, which provides an alternative education to children with learning, developmental and physical disabilities on Abaco, stressed the need for inclusion of the disabled primarily among Bahamian youth. Members of the religious community also raised a call to action in an effort to address concerns of the disabled among them.
The Youth Ambassadors Program brings talented high school students to the United States to promote mutual understanding, increase their leadership skills, and prepare participants to make a difference in their home communities by becoming active and engaged citizens through service. Twenty-five countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America currently participate in the program. U.S. Embassy Nassau previously coordinated three Youth Ambassadors Programs in 2013/14 with students from New Providence and Grand Bahama selected to participate in the youth leadership exchange.