SAW established the Youth Idea Program (YIP) in June 2009 with the help of 40 young people from the SAW High School and SAW shelters. YIP is aimed at providing these young people with the opportunity to learn more about current affairs and issues in both international and Burma specific contexts. This includes knowledge of the global economic situation; exploring health, educational, social and environmental issues; and learning about civil wars and events occurring within specific political contexts.

The Youth Idea workshop is held twice a month and includes the participation of youth from the SAW school and shelters, migrant schools and migrant communities. Each workshop caters for 50 youth and discussions and debates are held on the political situation in Burma and other politically related global issues. This project encourages active learning, as well as critical thinking skills for the youth involved. Information and facilitation is provided by SAW staff and guest speakers are also invited.

Through this program the participants have a chance to meet with youth from other diverse communities and the opportunity to exchange their personal opinions, cultural experiences and ideas for the future. SAW believes that this project will result in them becoming more knowledgeable and aware of current affairs; develop skills that will allow them to be productive community workers and develop the confidence and motivation to take on leadership roles within community development activities. This knowledge and skills base will also prove useful when considering and engaging in further education.

SAW hopes to expand this project gradually and include more young people from migrant communities and other schools in Mae Sot. Generally young people from these backgrounds lack the kind of knowledge provide by the YIP project. Long working hours and low wages make it difficult for many young people to have the time, opportunity or motivation to access this type of information. The fact that the program is run twice a month improves accessibility and gives more young people a chance to participate. The specific skills being taught and the information being shared in these workshops is relevant to this groups’ current situation, and SAW hopes that it will significantly benefit their prospects for the future.

SAW is also aiming for motivated youth from the program to exchange their knowledge and culture with young people from other countries. At the moment, SAW has developed a relationship with the Kumar Youth Centre based in Korea, and is working closely with them to meet the goals for YIP. SAW has already hosted a group of 17 young people from this centre (December 2009) and plans to engage in more activities with them in the future.

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