Remarks by Mission Director Christopher Cushing at the Graduation of Kari Yu Participants

Good morning (Goedemorgen) and thank you for your warm welcome.  I am glad to be here today representing the United States Government in beautiful Suriname, definitely one of my favorite places on the continent.   I am particularly pleased this morning to honor the graduates of the Kari Yu program which is helping to deliver the promise of a brighter future to Suriname’s youth.   As President Barack Obama once said, “the future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create.”

Through our support for programs like Kari Yu and our regional efforts with the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, the U.S. Government continues to be a proactive partner in achieving a safer region and promoting the growth of the formal economic sector.  The U.S. Government has contributed significant resources to support youth development throughout the Caribbean region.  Under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, or CBSI, we’ve partnered with members of the Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic to jointly collaborate on regional security.  We are working together to achieve three main objectives:  1) promote social justice;  2) increase public safety and security; and 3) substantially reduce illicit trafficking.  So far, we’ve committed over 240 million U.S. dollars to CBSI programming across the region.   Here in Suriname we are proud to have supported two complimentary initiatives over the past three years:  the A Ganar sports for development activity, and the larger more diverse Kari Yu program supporting youth development and juvenile justice reform.

It is no secret that the global recession has forced all of us to seek ways new ways to grow our economies, whether we are employees, small business owners, entrepreneurs, or policy makers, whether we are focused on finding or creating jobs or creating a more stable and sustainable economic climate.

One important area of concern is the growing levels of youth unemployment.  This phenomenon is evidenced in all countries in the region.  Statistics indicate a significant contributor is the mismatch between the education currently offered and the skills demanded in 21st century global markets.  We must therefore together take urgent measures to ensure that youth are provided with skills allowing them to seize opportunities in the formal sector.  Education supports personal attainment not only through the acquisition of technical skills but also, and perhaps more importantly, the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills.  This strengthens the ability of our youth to improve and to make better persons of themselves.

I am certainly delighted that we are able to play our part with providing you our graduates with an opportunity to pursue and achieve your personal goals through the training and assistance received under Kari Yu.  The program has achieved some excellent results to date including:

  • 1,019 youth have participated in the Kari Yu! program;
  • 203 youth received employment as a result of participation in Kari Yu!
  • 239 youth received and maintained an internship opportunity in the private sector;
  • 30 juvenile justice reforms have been introduced and 112 operators have been trained to implement these reforms;
  • A referral network to support the social and economic reintegration of youth in conflict with the law has been established.

The Kari Yu program is an example of tangible support that can change the course of a young person’s life.  It has provided you with an opportunity to identify a productive path in society and take ownership of your future. For some of you this may have been a second or third chance to get it right in life.  You were taught that there are genuine alternatives to crime and that violence is not the only path to financial and physical security.  The U.S. Government is proud to be a part of this partnership aimed at securing a future where crime and violence are not seen as desirable options for a family’s economic well-being.

Providing quality life skills and education that prepares youth to meet the demands of the market and society increases their awareness of the world, builds their self-confidence, and enables them to become productive and successful members of society.  In supporting this kind of training, we can ensure that more of today’s youth will become gainfully employed and contribute positively to their country’s future.

The students graduating from this program today have indicated their determination to chart their own path to success.  Their focus and determination to build and improve their skills represent a significant step in the right direction.  Graduates, as you go forward in life, I would encourage you to allow the positive lessons you have learned from the training program become habits in your everyday life.  When you couple the desire to achieve with technical skills, the world will be there for you to conquer as an employee, business owner, or member of society

Ladies and gentlemen, the U.S. Government looks forward to the continued success of our partnership with Suriname.  Working together, we can ensure that we are providing you with the critical tools that you need to realize your hopes and aspirations, and in so doing build a safer and more secure country.