What YouthBuild Has Learned Over 35 Years

Dorothy Stoneman
October 4, 2013

We believe in the inherent goodness and sacred value of every human being. We believe that the talents and intelligence of young people around the world who were born into difficult circumstances through no fault of their own are an enormous, untapped resource for humanity. We have tested these beliefs with over 135,000 young people.

We have confirmed in every community and over 35 years that the power of love reflected through profoundly caring and respectful attention to each young person -- coupled with real opportunities for them to learn essential skills while building something of value to their own communities while belonging to a caring and responsible community of peers and adults committed to each other's success and also belonging to a larger network that stands and fights for the wellbeing of all and service to others -- works reliable miracles in liberating their positive energies and determination, no matter how much they have suffered from poverty, injustice and mistreatment of all kinds.

Basic Program

The basic full-time, year-long YouthBuild program includes equal measures of individualized classroom work toward a high school diploma or GED, and hands-on skills development through production of tangible assets for the community. When we add to this -- sturdy bridges to post-secondary education, employment and registered apprenticeships, volunteer mentors to support the young people in their transition to jobs and post-secondary education, the resources to build our housing and infrastructure green to protect the planet and opportunities for young leaders to speak and lead toward policy changes that would diminish poverty and increase opportunity -- we multiply our impact.

Delivery System Through Partnerships

With the support of our loyal philanthropic partners, we have also learned how to create partnerships between governments and NGOs, and between corporations and non-profit community based groups, to build delivery systems that can weather political storms and economic crises, even when the government shuts down, drawing on the best of human aspirations across class, race, age, religion and political party.

The Power of Local Social Entrepreneurs

Implementing any vision of change takes a multitude of creative leaders at the grassroots, an expanding network of what the Skoll Foundation has aptly called social entrepreneurs. They devote their passion and brilliance to overcoming society's failures, and enjoy doing it as part of a larger movement rather than working alone. In every community and every country where YouthBuild has thrived, there has been a local activist, a creative social entrepreneur who has figured out how to implement our core principles on the ground, with local partners and unique innovations.

What We Lack

The only thing we lack is sufficient public awareness, political will and the resources to open our doors to every young person knocking. That's where we need your help.

In the past three years, while YouthBuild has expanded exponentially around the world, spreading to 14 countries through the demand of governments and NGO's who see the value of investing in their youth, it has slowed in the USA due to the public funding cuts in 2011 and sequestration. Fifty programs have closed in the USA while 75 have opened abroad. This is a sin and a shame for America that we need to reverse as quickly as possible.

Every human being holds deep in their heart the aspiration for a more just and loving world. Let us move together to create it.

Please help us open our doors to every young person knocking by visiting our Crowdrise page today.

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post.

Follow YouthBuild on Twitter at @YouthBuildUSA