In this section:

QYLs speak...

Image credit: St. Kitts National Youth Parliament

Javon Liburd: Youth and politicians

Javon Liburd: Youth and politicians

Working with "the youths of yesterday"

Javon Liburd is a member of the St Kitts National Youth Parliament and founder of J3H, a non-profit that rewards outstanding students from village schools. He considers why young leaders may be reluctant to work with politicians, looks at the benefits of doing so, and finds out how to work effectively with "the youths of yesterday, the leaders of today".

It’s funny! We live in a world heavily dependent on decisions made, and policies implemented, by politicians. Yet we as young people usually choose not to be affiliated with them.

After speaking to several young people around the world, I’ve found many fear connecting with politicians.

“I avoid politicians because they always say what you want to hear, filling you with false hope, and ripping that same hope away from you,” says T Nyonga in the UK.

Common reasons why young people are hesitant to work with politicians are because of their “lies”, “empty promises”, and “exploitation”.

E Newton, from New York says:

“I reached out to a politician once and I swore to never get involved again... She exploited me and my organisation and never fulfilled her end of the bargain.”

It’s either you’ve been burnt, or heard testimonies of the burn, that guides your stance with politicians.

“I know politicians. It’s not that I’m afraid of them, but based on some of the things I know and some of what I heard, I rather stay away from them,” says K Cassey, from Nevis.

How politicians can help

Success is discretionary. Politicians are not a necessity to your cause, but their influence would bring great impact, if sought after properly.

As young people who are committed to volunteer work, seeking and exploring the best means of assistance should be top on your list.

For example, in St Kitts and Nevis, a group of young people started a beautification campaign.

Man standing by rubbish bags looking at graffiti

A man from the Earth Skn Initiative looks at graffiti. Photography by Earth Skn Initiative.

But this idea – backed with a solid campaign – wasn’t enough to encourage persons to lend their time and assistance.

With the government constantly pushing the idea of a greener economy, the group thought it best to solicit the assistance of the Minister of Youth, who then willingly supported the project and encouraged civil servants, and persons from the different stratums of the societal hierarchy to participate. This led to a massive clean-up of different areas of the island.

The youths of yesterday

Note well – for a politician to be successful, they need a following. Tapping into that following, without bias, could be very beneficial to your cause.

A politician’s role is to serve the people of the community or country in which they were elected – by creating, enhancing and implementing policies and initiatives their electorate can benefit from. Politicians are the youths of yesterday and the leaders of today.  They were in your shoes once.

Dr Terrance Drew is a politician from St. Kitts and Nevis.

“I can truly understand the rush of emotions going through anyone’s head when considering approaching a politician for any kind of assistance. I’ve been there,” he says. “You have to trust yourself, and throw some of that trust into the world and give people the benefit of the doubt.”

Profile photo of Dr Terrance Drew

Dr Terrance Drew. Photography by Karessa Willet

He adds, “The best way to approach a politician is to proposition them. Up your negotiation game. Research your target, know exactly what you want and go for it. Don’t limit yourself and don’t limit your organisation because of personal anxiety. I dare you to do it”.

Making your approach

It is ideal that your approach triggers the needed emotions within the politician – guilt and empathy.

Pinpoint and express commonality between what you do and what they have expressed they stand for.

Disclose what you’re looking for and leave room for anything else they’re willing to contribute.

Empathy is said to be one of the strongest emotions. When triggered, one’s actions and chain of thought are channelled directly from relatable and relevant emotional experiences.

Example of an approach

“You’ve expressed that you’re passionate about young people and their development in life. I am pleased to hear this. I run a Non-Profit Organisation for young people, assisting them with skills to better themselves in life.

“We’ve had financial issues along the way and I think your assistance and support would be a tremendous help. Even though we are all given the same opportunities, education wise, we don’t all grasp it the same way, there are persons who are more inclined to succeed in the technical and vocational field. These are the skills we teach and their lives are changing.

“Your support will help to provide the necessities needed to continue offering this programme.”

Be on your toes

Communication with a politician can make a huge impact on your cause. Their guidance and support can assist in the structuring and enhancement of your organisation.

Be on your toes during dialogue with a politician. They’re always searching for the most they can get out of someone or something. Do the same.

Keep pushing for different things or for them to connect you to the right people.

Some young people fear exploitation. It is a very bad thing when a politician does nothing for you but uses the group or cause to their advantage.

But it can work out in your favour. Politicians are people who persons listen to regularly and with the mention of your organisation, more people are hearing about what you do.

I encourage you to take a step, and explore the odds of being in communication with and soliciting the support of politicians.

If this connection fails, you lose nothing, but if this connection is a fruitful one, then you have so much to gain.