Amizade is thrilled and honored to announce that we have been awarded a youth and adult leadership exchange program, “Youth Ambassadors Program with South America: Mobilizing Youth Through Leadership Development, Social Entrepreneurship, Environmental Protection, and Community Service” by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This two-way exchange program is committed to the recognition and support of the talents and assets of South American and Appalachian youth and aims to engage youth in the innovative development of their communities. The guiding mission for the Youth Ambassadors Program with South America (YAPSA) is to foster individual and collective leadership, critical and analytic problem-solving, and teamwork for youth to see themselves as community leaders, as agents of change, and become actively involved in civic life.

In collaboration with Awamaki in Ollantaytambo, Peru, and the Lions Club of Cochabamba, Bolivia, Amizade will coordinate this dual exchange program which will begin in the summer of 2015 when 12 youth and 2 adult educators from Southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia will travel to Bolivia and Peru for 23 days. This will be followed by a reciprocal exchange of 24 youth and adult educators from Bolivia and Peru who will travel to the US for 23 days in the fall of 2015.

Having worked in Appalachia, Bolivia, and other parts of South America for 20 years, Amizade recognizes that youth are often not provided the education and training to succeed. YAPSA will stimulate and empower the group to envision an ideal community, as well as to explore a variety of methods that citizens can use to work with other stakeholders towards that ideal. Youth Ambassadors with South America will be developed as a culturally sensitive workshop based on Amizade’s 20 years of developing and implementing academic, intercultural immersion, service-learning, volunteerism, and community development programs in 16 countries around the world. In addition, Amizade will work in collaboration with the Lions Club as well as our existing Amizade staff in Bolivia and Awamaki in Peru to ensure that YAPSA addresses the needs of the youth leaders from South America while integrating the unique perspective and context provided by the Appalachia region in the United States.

The guiding goal of the YAPSA Program is to build individual and collective leadership, critical and analytic problem-solving, and teamwork for youth to see themselves as part of a community, as agents of change, and become actively involved in community service and civic life. YAPSA will target a diverse group of goal-oriented young adults and key adult educators from Bolivia, Peru, and the North Central Appalachian region of the United States to develop leadership and social entrepreneurship skills, explore themes of environmental protection, and promote collective action to contribute to and participate in advancing positive systemic changes in their communities.

Although youth in each of these countries face issues unique to their own country and community, a number of cross-cutting and common issues affecting youth, such as environmental degradation and protection, can be explored together by adapting concepts, tools, and ideas to specific circumstances faced in each delegate’s home community. YAPSA will take advantage of the diversity of experience and issues the delegates will bring with them from their different countries while identifying and building on universalities that youth face throughout the region. Amizade has found it beneficial to select delegates in small regional clusters, providing a supportive structure to implement change upon returning to their respective home communities.

Stay tuned to Amizade for more details including how to apply to be a participant or a host family!