Youth Grants

Kids say the darnedest things. And, much to the chagrin of their elders, they often make a lot of sense. Perhaps it’s their fresh perspective on life, free of cynicism, that calls forth their different take to traditional issues.

That’s a bit of the concept behind the international youth program, Oxfam International Youth Partnerships, begun in Sydney, Australia, in 2000. It’s a part of a bigger organization, Oxfam International, also based in Australia. The organization was founded as the Food for Peace Campaign in 1954 by an Anglican clergyman concerned about the extreme level of poverty in Asia after World War II.

The scope of the original organization has expanded over time and now includes youth grants programs that give voice to the young people of the world. Program participants, called Action Partners, range in age from 15 to 28 and they meet as a parliament in Sydney on a regular basis.

The first meeting took place in October 2000, included 250 Action Partners, and was called the International Youth Parliament 2000. The program delegates discussed the issues of how to break the cycle of poverty, cultural activities, and youth in conflict. The impact these issues had on the delegates’ communities was discussed as well as the impact on larger areas such as their region or country and the world in general.

The enthusiasm exhibited during the first international parliament, led to a program of offering two-year youth grants to interested delegates who could use the funds to advance their own skills or invest in a project of particular interest to the individual Action Partner delegate.

The success of the meeting in 2000 and the work accomplished by way of the youth grants led to an even larger meeting of parliament in 2004. Held, again in Sydney, in July 2004, 301 carefully chosen delegates attended. The chosen delegates from around the world were all young people working actively to bring about change in their local communities and were backed by the support of their local governments.

Again eligible to apply for youth grants for projects they advocated, the delegates this time expanded their scope of discussion. This youth parliament debated issues as far reaching as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, human rights, health, ecologically sustainable agriculture and development, indigenous rights, labor, employment, youth culture, education, and empowerment.

A gala event, called Taste for Change, was held in Sydney in 2006 as a fund-raising opportunity for the Oxfam youth grants program. Celebrity chefs prepared the feast, performing artists of local renown entertained, and $70,000 was donated to support the program.

The third evolution of the Oxfam International Youth Partnerships, and more youth grants for favored projects, was begun in 2007.