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The 2017 Queen's Young Leaders recieve their award from her majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

LONDON, Jun 29 2017 – Today, Her Majesty The Queen presented a young person from Barbados with a Queen’s Young Leaders Award at Buckingham Palace, to honour Jamilla Sealy for the work she is undertaking to protect the environment. His Royal Highness Prince Harry joined The Queen in congratulating the winners at this special ceremony.

The Queen’s Young Leaders Awards programme, now in its third and penultimate year, celebrates the achievements of some of the most exciting young change-makers from across the Commonwealth, who are all dedicated to transforming lives in their communities. From tackling bullying head-on in schools, to preserving the environment, to promoting gender equality, these young people are taking the lead in driving change in their communities.

Guests including Sir Mo Farah, Liam Payne, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and Anita Rani and former UK Prime Minister and Chairman of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Sir John Major, joined the latest cohort of Queen’s Young Leaders at Buckingham Palace to congratulate them on their remarkable achievements.

The celebrations continued after the ceremony at Australia House in London, where the Award Winners, guests including Australian comedian and presenter, Adam Hills, and Prince Harry came together to help launch the search for the final Queen’s Young Leaders.

“It’s such a huge honour to receive an Award from Her Majesty The Queen in recognition of the work to help others at home. It’s been an amazing week here in the UK meeting all of the other Leaders – I’ve learnt so much and I can’t wait to put it all into practise. Being part of the Queen’s Young Leaders family is really exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future now holds,” Sealy said.

The Queen’s Young Leaders programme was established in 2014 to help talented young leaders to realise their potential and achieve even greater success in the future that will benefit people’s lives across the Commonwealth for generations to come.

As part of the Awards programme, Queen’s Young Leaders, including Barbados’s Jamilla Sealy, gain unique access to training, mentoring and networking designed to improve their leadership skills. Ahead of receiving their Award from The Queen, this year’s Award Winners attended a reception at 10 Downing Street, visited UK headquarters of global social media company Facebook, and met with senior executives at the BBC World Service. They also met the Commonwealth Secretary-General, took part in workshops at the University of Cambridge, had meetings with UK business leaders, and visited projects that are changing the lives of vulnerable people in the UK.

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jun 05 2017 — Watson Saint Fleur is 12 but he’s never attended a day of school. He’s toiled in hardship doing household chores and peddling plastic bags of drinking water along city streets noisy with motorbikes and trucks.

He’s one of Haiti’s “restaveks,” a term to describe children whose poor parents hand them over to others in hopes they’ll have opportunities to escape a dead-end life or at least get more food. It’s a practice deeply ingrained in Haiti, where families frequently have numerous kids despite crushing poverty.

For many, that better life never arrives. Many are exploited as domestic servants in households only slightly better off, working long hours in exchange for food and a spot to sleep on a shack’s floor. An untold number endure regular beatings, are deprived of an education and are victims of sexual abuse. And their numbers have been growing sharply as urban slums expand and poverty in the countryside deepens.

Studies indicate the population of child domestic workers rose from some 172,000 in 2002 to roughly 286,000 in 2014 — four years after an earthquake flattened much of Port-au-Prince and outlying areas, killing as many as 300,000 and leaving some 1.5 million people homeless.

Now child advocates in the hemisphere’s poorest country are bracing for yet another increase of youngsters like Watson driven into unpaid servitude.

The Trump administration is weighing an end to a humanitarian program that has protected nearly 60,000 Haitians from deportation since that earthquake — a “temporary protected status” based on the assumption their homeland could not absorb them following the disaster. If the program known as TPS is not extended, people could be sent back to Haiti starting in January.

Such mass deportation would cut off remittances that keep many Haitian families fed in a country where deep poverty is the primary force behind the restavek practice.

“There’s no doubt an end to TPS will create far more restaveks,” said prominent Haitian child advocate Gertrude Sejour.

Each morning, Watson wakes from his spot on the floor to clean the house for his washerwoman employer before taking to the streets to sell water. He gets smaller portions at meals. He bathes the woman’s 7-year-old boy to prepare him for the local school he’s never attended. He helps set up birthday parties for the woman’s two sons, but has never once gotten a party himself.

He’s fuzzy about how he ended up at the woman’s house, only knowing his mother died in his hometown of Petit Goave. He never knew his father.

“When she hits me, she says: ‘Your mother died, why don’t you die, too?’” Watson said outside the Maurice Sixto Foundation, where child advocates are working with the government social services agency to move him to a group home for vulnerable boys.

Social researchers in Haiti say the cultural practice is complex, even though it’s often decried as a form of modern-day slavery. A 2015 study commissioned partly by Unicef found that roughly 25 percent of Haitian children between 5 and 17 live apart from their parents, though most live with relations and not all are child domestic workers.

An estimated 30,000 children also live in residential centers in Haiti. Though often described as “orphans,” the vast majority of the children have at least one living parent and have been placed in the often poorly regulated centers because their families cannot support them or pay for their schooling, child welfare advocates say.

“In some regions of the country it’s even considered an honor to send their children to the city,” said Mariana Rendon, protection officer with Haiti’s office of the International Organization for Migration.

Glenn Smucker, a cultural anthropologist known for extensive work on Haiti, said that children staying with people other than their parents are more vulnerable to abuse and heavier workloads, but that their treatment varies a great deal.

“The longstanding practice of placing children outside the home generally includes an understanding that the receiving household will send the child to school in exchange for doing household chores, in a social and cultural context where children are expected to do work whether they live at home or with others,” Smucker said.

For some kids, the arrangement works out. They’re treated well, often with extended families, and caretakers pay their school fees.

Four years ago, Diana Petit Homme, the second youngest of seven children, was sent by her struggling mother to Port-au-Prince from the northern city of Cap-Haitien. The 14-year-old is now attending a Catholic school and has dreams of becoming a nurse.

“I know my mother doesn’t have the ability to take care of me,” Diana said matter-of-factly.

But many of the youngsters are filled with confusion, sadness and anger when they think of their parents.

About a year ago, Dafnee Beauge’s mother left her with a stranger in a two-room shack, saying she was heading to the neighboring Dominican Republic to earn money. The 12-year-old hasn’t heard a word from her since.

Dafnee daydreams she can magically communicate with her absent mother, imploring her: “Come get me.”

While the youngsters are highly vulnerable to abusive caretakers, that is considered an acceptable risk for many families in a country where over 2.5 million live under the national extreme poverty line of $1.23 per day.

Officials say reintegrating restavek kids with a biological parent has had very limited success. The vulnerability that caused the child to be sent away in the first place, shortage of food and no money to pay school fees, often remains.

“A parent will say: ‘We can’t take them back, leave the child where they are,’” said Diem Pierre, a spokesman with the government social services agency Institute of Social Welfare and Research.

It’s clear that abusive child labor only perpetuates an endless cycle of illiteracy and poverty.

Stephanie Daniel, 20, spent her childhood at a stranger’s shack in Carrefour and is now struggling after years of isolation and abuse. When her employer discovered she had gotten pregnant at 14 following a rape outside a church, the woman kicked Stephanie out.

She’s since given up her child to a friend. Never having been shown love herself, she struggled to bond with the boy. “He didn’t like me so I gave him away,” she said. (AP)

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CASTRIES, St Lucia, May 17 2017 – A young, up and coming YouTube content creator has done a video highlighting the beauty of Caribbean girls.

Lennard Melius believes Caribbean women are underappreciated. In the video, he shares seven reasons why they are amazing.

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LOS ANGELES, May 07 2017 – Nicki Minaj has said she will pay some of her fans’ college tuition fees if they can prove they get straight A grades.

The US singer agreed to shell out thousands of dollars for college expenses in a Twitter giveaway – and said she will pay more in the future.

Minaj, 34, had been posting about a competition which gives fans the chance to meet her.

When one of her 20 million followers asked if she would consider paying her tuition fees instead, the rapper replied that she would if their marks were good enough.

Several more cash-strapped students then posted messages asking for help.

They detailed their financial troubles and some attached evidence of their grades and fees.

Most people asked for hundreds of dollars but one Twitter user named Josh requested 6,000 dollars (£4,600).

The star chose around 30 fans to help.

When she signed off, she promised she would give more students a helping hand in the coming weeks.

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, May 06 2017 – A 21-year-old Barbadian student is the recipient of the Royal Household Hospitality Scholarship 2017.

Johnathan Alleyne, who is completing studies in Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of the West Indies, will join the Master of the Household’s Department at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle for a six-week placement, culminating in Royal Ascot Week at Windsor Castle in June.

Today, Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave congratulated the scholarship winner and presented him with a stipend and return airline ticket to London.

Describing the scholarship as “a fantastic opportunity”, Alleyne said he intended to utilize all of the training and education he gained in London.

“I will try to put it to use not only in my daily life but in whatever posting I have at a hotel in future,” he added.

Alleyne will be assigned to the front-of-house team of the Royal Household.

During his visit to the Caribbean last November, Britain’s Prince Harry had announced that the Royal Household Hospitality Scholarship 2017 would offer nine hospitality placements – one each for Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines – for Caribbean citizens to be trained at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle from May to June 2017.

Recipients get the opportunity to work alongside the Master’s Department within the Royal Kitchens, the front-of-house and housekeeping sections during official events. (BGIS)

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Facebook’s Emily Vacher was in Jamaica Monday to launch the social media site’s new missing children alert partnership with the Caribbean nation’s child protection unit. Vacher is demonstrating hour Ananda Alerts, similar to AMBER Alerts, will work on its site.

KINGSTON, Jamaica, May 02 2017 – Jamaica on Monday launched a historic partnership with social media giant Facebook to find missing children.

Ananda Alert was named after 11-year-old Ananda Dean, who was found murdered after disappearing after school in 2008.

“The reality is every child is our child. We all have a responsibility,” said Floyd Green, minister of state for education, youth and information in Jamaica. “You have to keep refreshing the conversation so that people know when a child is missing, you don’t have to wait.”

Green, who noted that May is Child Month in Jamaica, said the Facebook partnership is ultimately “about strengthening our child protection system,” and acting quickly on social media to increase the odds of finding the 10 percent of missing children who never return home. The country’s Ananda Alert works similar to the AMBER Alert emergency response system in the United States.

“We have seen that the number of missing children is trending down, and the number of murdered children,” he said. “That is something we want to keep going down.”

Last year, 1,725 children were reported missing in Jamaica, according to the Missing Person Monitoring Unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Of them, 1,456 returned home, but 269 did not.

That’s too many, said Nathalee Ferguson, head of the Ananda Alert Unit.

“No government would ever be satisfied with even one child unaccounted for,” Ferguson said.

Jamaican child advocates say that while the Ananda Alert, the first such missing children’s system in the Caribbean, has been a great tool since it began in 2009, it still faces public awareness challenges. They hope that by harnessing Facebook users in Jamaica, they will make the public more aware of the alert system and recruit users to help in the effort to find abducted and missing children.

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KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 08 2017 – The Ministry of Education has announced plans to partner with social media giant, Facebook, to broadcast Ananda Alerts – a system for reporting missing children.

In his contribution to the 2017/18 Sectoral Debate in Parliament earlier this month, State Minister in the Ministry, Floyd Green said Facebook team will be visiting Jamaica in May for the official launch of the partnership.

“This partnership will enable the broadcast of Ananda Alerts on the pages of all Facebook users in Jamaica, which will ensure that we have a larger pool searching for our children when they go missing,” he said.

Meanwhile, Green informed that the backlog of sexual-offence cases at the Child Development Agency (CDA) has been cleared.

As it relates to the planned merger of the CDA and the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR), he noted that the move aims to “remove the bureaucracy from child protection”.

“The CDA and OCR merger is not a cost-saving measure. The focus will be on efficiency, roles and effectiveness. The motivating factor is to have a child-protection sector which appropriately responds to the needs of our children,” he pointed out.

He added that in the new dispensation, the Registry functions will be sufficiently protected to guarantee the necessary legal safeguards in child-abuse cases.

The Ananda Alert system for reporting missing children was launched on May 19, 2009.

It was named in honour of Ananda Dean, an 11-year-old student of a Corporate Area school who went missing on September 17, 2008.

The two-week search for her ended in despair as her headless, decomposing body was found in bushes. The system was devised in the hopes of increasing the chances of recovering missing children by getting information out to the public faster.

Under the Ananda Alert programme, when a child goes missing, a report is made to the nearest police station or by calling 119.

The police will then alert all Ananda Alert stakeholders including the media houses, mobile companies, local authorities, parish councils; and these will then mobilise community groups.

After 12-hours, photos of the missing child will be placed on electronic/mobile billboards, in shops, supermarkets, community centre, church halls, schools and post offices.

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LONDON, Mar 15 2017 – Tricia Teekah from Guyana has been named Commonwealth Caribbean Young Person of the Year.

Teekah co-founded the Guyana National Youth Council with the aim of enhancing youth empowerment, engagement, inclusion and participation.

She led the ‘Vote Like a Boss’ campaign, a youth voter education initiative which used private sector partnerships to educate young voters. The campaign reached more than 16,000 young people within a month and more than 1,300 young people participated in an online geo-mapping exercise on voter issues.

She also pioneered the formation of a core committee for the establishment of a National Students’ Movement in Guyana and lobbied for student bodies in secondary and post-secondary educational institutions.

On learning of her award, Tricia said: “I hope it will inspire young people not only in Guyana and the Caribbean region but across the Commonwealth to be bold and to take ownership of the future of their communities and the world at large.”

“Receiving this award for a project crafted on the principles of democracy, human rights, youth political participation and engagement is a reflection and commitment of the Commonwealth Secretariat to Article 13 of the Charter of the Commonwealth. It promulgates the rewards and fruits of teamwork, partnership and private sector collaboration in light of the tremendous success of the project.

“This award will increase awareness of a relatively new, youth-led and independent National Youth Council in Guyana and its innovative initiatives that are intended to encourage youth contribution to development and creating a sustainable environment. It will be leverage to further engage all stakeholders to strengthen partnerships and collaboration.”

The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work, an initiative of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s youth programme, celebrate outstanding young adults aged under 30 who are leading initiatives ranging from poverty alleviation to peace-building.

This year’s winners, drawn from over 200 entries, are recognised for spearheading projects that will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals – a set of 17 global targets that governments have committed to achieve by 2030.

The awards ceremony was held on March 15 at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth’s headquarters in London.

Awards were presented by Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who praised all this year’s finalists for their efforts to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

This year’s winners were drawn from a shortlist of 17 finalists from 13 countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Guyana, Jamaica, Malawi, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, Uganda and United Kingdom.

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BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Feb 27 2017 – The Nevis Debating Team has won a decisive victory in the 2017 edition of the Leeward Islands Debating Competition (LIDC).

The competition, now in its 45th year, was held at the Nevis Performing Arts Centre from Thursday, February 23 to Sunday, February 26.

The full Nevis team consisted of Gabriella Brantley, Rol-J Williams, K-Jel Smithen, Jaheel Linton, Mckebou Tross, Rickila Hanley and teacher, Ms. M. Jahnel Nisbett.

Asked to propose the moot: “The atrocity of our age is the billions of dollars spent on sports,” Brantley and Williams defeated their rivals from neighboring Antigua with a final score of 578 to 489 to win the competition.

Brantley was judged the Best Speaker in Sunday night’s final while 16-year old Smithen took home the award for the Best Overall Speaker.

Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris has extended his congratulations to the team.

Seven islands participated in this year’s competition. They were St. Kitts, Montserrat, Antigua, Anguilla, St. Maarten, the British Virgin Islands and host island Nevis.

The 45th Leeward Islands Debating Competition was hosted by the Literary and Debating Society of the Nevis Sixth Form College.

The LIDC, founded in 1972 by George Irish of Montserrat, began with three participating islands; Montserrat, St. Kitts and Antigua. It has since evolved into an annual event.

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New school in Anse a Pitres, Haiti. December 6, 2011. (Christian Fuchs ÑÊJesuit Refugee Service/USA)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec 07 2016 – More than 30,000 children will benefit from a grant awarded to the University of Notre Dame by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to improve early-grade literacy in Haiti.

The grant is a part of a broader national campaign of the Haitian Catholic Church and its partners to improve literacy outcomes in 1,000 Haitian Catholic schools in the next four years (2016-2020). The USAID grant, which will cover 150 schools, will start in September in Grand Anse and Sud departments in southern Haiti. It will be led by the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Haiti, in partnership with the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education (CEEC) and the Ministry of National Education and Training (MENFP).

This initiative was always intended for the Grand-Anse and Sud departments, but following Hurricane Matthew in October, the need has become even more critical. Rev. Timothy R. Scully, C.S.C., the Hackett Family Director of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives, said: “Read Haiti will allow us to serve these stricken communities by improving educational outcomes for some of the neediest children.”

By the third grade, 49 percent of Haitian students cannot read. Read Haiti will build upon the success of earlier literacy efforts by Notre Dame, CRS and CEEC in 47 schools in the northern part of the country using a curriculum that includes textbooks, class libraries and structured teacher guides to improve children’s skills in writing and reading in Creole, the native language of 95 percent of Haitians, with a transition to oral French. The project will also fund efforts to train and coach teachers, improve teacher-training modules and work with the Ministry of Education and other partners to support improved literacy learning throughout Haiti.

USAID Haiti Mission Director Jene Thomas highlighted the importance of USAID cooperation with the Ministry of Education of Haiti in the area of early grade reading. “Strengthening early-grade reading and writing is a priority for the Ministry of Education, and we are proud to support this effort to ensure Haiti’s children have the basic education skills they need to advance and, ultimately, contribute to Haiti’s progress.”

USAID awarded $6.3 million to support the initiative.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to show what is possible,” said TJ D’Agostino, associate director for ACE. “Public-private partnerships that leverage the commitment, reach and global networks of the Catholic Church promise to make a transformative impact on the Haitian educational system.”