To Brenda Bonareri (18) from Kenya  engagement with the Youth Initiative means ...

 

… support in implementing own projects

Brenda is a student leader of the "movement" club at her high school that focuses on building awareness drug and substance use. The aim is to give students a platform to share facts and teach peers giving information on substances, health effects as well as social aspects are shared among peers, as 

             "we are the ones who teach ourselves"

Student leaders serve as a contact persons that peers can consult when they feel they need for help or support in any issue. As representatives of the club they speak on behalf of these young individuals and/or the group to teachers or other elder persons of the community.

 

… to meet youth from all over the world

At the Youth Forum, Branda was surprised by the amount of international youth that gather to discuss their experiences in drug use prevention and health promotion within their communities. It was exiting for her to meet with youth from various countries such as Indonesia, Costa Rica, United States, Turkey or Iran.

"And all of them speak of things that you can relate to. You almost feel like if you come from the same country. You speak a common language. You speak of the same things and you understand each other. So the world suddenly felt so small."

 

… to share experiences and ideas

Brenda felt that the Youth Forum was a great platform to share her experiences with other activists and to develop new ideas.

"Actually every idea was talked about, questioned if it was applied somewhere else and discussed how it worked and was it effective. It is a way for everybody to elaborate ideas. It felt nice to see that at least you are not alone in the fight. That somewhere someone is doing the same thing that you are doing." 

 

… being heard by official delegates

Together, the group worked on a statement to be presented in front of government officials at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).

"The best part of the forum was to stand in front of the delegates, to realize that every country is represented here and every country is listening. And we actually made a statement. It is a platform to speak up and I felt these people were actually listening to me."

The main message of the statement was that "together we (the youth) can and will change the situation in our communities and truly support the health and wellbeing of our peers!". The youth group shared concerns as well as creative ideas and suggestions on how to tackle the issue on a global as well as community level.

  

… being able to influence things for real!

To Brenda the experience at the Youth Forum was encouraging. After returning home she sent a copy of the statement to the national representative of Kenya as well as the national authority that runs campaigns against alcohol and drug use. Brenda was eager to share ideas and suggestions the group developed at the Youth Forum. Her action was taken seriously:

              "They actually implemented one of the things that we suggested."

It feels rewarding for Brenda to realize that one of their suggestions, the inclusion of role models in prevention campaigns, got implemented in the real life. She feels that it as a great first step in the right direction.