The Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Programme is a three-year programme for 12-15 year-olds which fosters a positive transition from childhood to adolescence. Junior youth engage by joining or forming a group, which often comprises 5-10 young people in a given locality, and usually meets at least weekly.
It begins after having had the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program in this neighborhood in Toronto, Canada for six years. After having gone through the junior youth program the older youth are now serving as animators to the younger youth.
These programs instill in junior youth and youth the sense of a twofold moral purpose:(1) to take charge of their own intellectual and spiritual growth(2) to contribute to the transformation of society.
The key issue to consider then is what the sources of unacceptable patterns of behaviour are that sometimes characterize some junior youth. Two factors require particularly careful thought in this regard. First, the effect of negative social forces on many communities has led to the spread of various social ills that have great influence on how young people view themselves and society. Second, junior youth are heavily affected by the behaviour of adults towards them. Although at this age they are gaining insights into many profound matters, adults sometimes insist on treating them like children. In addition, the difference in words and actions that some adults at times exhibit can be a source of confusion to young people who are looking for standards by which to shape their lives.
Stressing the effect of negative social forces on junior youth does not imply that young people are basically fragile. They can, with help, face these forces. They can develop the powers of the soul and mind that not only enable them to transcend such challenges but also make them contributors to building a new society.
There are Junior Youth Groups all around the world using this curriculum, and the program is open to all. Individuals interested in volunteering as Animators are trained to use the material and facilitate groups. They are supported by program coordinators as they advance in their service. As the program grows in any area, so does the community of individuals engaged in the process of learning about how spirituality and community building go hand in hand. Contact us if you want to find out about the JYSEP in your area.
Saturday, December 18 was a successful day. Two animators and one person from the Area Teaching Committee of OH-03 went to the homes of the Junior Youth and invited them to start. One mother brought her child to the group promptly at 1 p.m. For this first gathering only two Junior Youth attended, but they had a lively session consulting about what they saw as needs for the community and learning about the implications for spiritual empowerment in their lives. With Christmas coming so quickly, it was a challenging time to start a group, but plans are now being made for regular gatherings with this group.
These materials have been created to help the junior youth develop:1. A strong sense of moral identity2. The ability to better express themselves3. The capacity to gain a deeper understanding of the world around them
At various stages in the development of community life, one activity may flourish more rapidly. This should be strengthened, as an advance in one aspect of the community-building process will advance the whole. At our current stage of growth, the junior youth spiritual empowerment program has proven vital and beneficial to enhancing the entire scheme of community-building.
What is imperative is that the quality of the educational process fostered at the level of the study circle rise markedly over the next year so that the potential of local populations to create such dynamics is realized. Much will fall on those who serve as tutors in this respect. Theirs will be the challenge to provide the environment that is envisioned in the institute courses, an environment conducive to the spiritual empowerment of individuals, who will come to see themselves as active agents of their own learning, as protagonists of a constant effort to apply knowledge to effect individual and collective transformation. Failing this, no matter how many study circles are formed in a cluster, the force necessary to propel change will not be generated.
Whatever the nature of the cluster, it is imperative to pay close attention to children and junior youth everywhere. Concern for the moral and spiritual education of young people is asserting itself forcefully on the consciousness of humanity, and no attempt at community building can afford to ignore it. What has become especially apparent during the current Five Year Plan is the efficacy of educational programmes aimed at the spiritual empowerment of junior youth. When accompanied for three years through a programme that enhances their spiritual perception, and encouraged to enter the main sequence of institute courses at the age of fifteen, they represent a vast reservoir of energy and talent that can be devoted to the advancement of spiritual and material civilization.
In some cases, the inclinations of the junior youth group will pass beyond their capacities. And if the stars are aligned correctly, an animator will be skilled in just that area. In other cases, it is exactly the animator's skill in a certain field that makes the junior youth participants eager to try it out.
For example, in the Triangle cluster in North Carolina, we had the blessing of having a bunch of djembes (hand drums), and we also had a number of animators who could play the drum. It is only natural that our junior youth want on-the-spot lessons in drumming. So a mindful animator might teach them a drum beat pattern to the "O Lord, my God! Open Thou the door..." prayer, for example, so that they in turn would be able to play that beat during the devotional portion of the meeting. Therefore, the skill of the art is not external to the experience of the group, but gracefully integrated.
Powerful learning organisms that they are, junior youth are daily developing competency with all kinds of matters, and many of them possess special skills in various arts and crafts. It is only natural to capitalize on this capacity by asking them to bring those skills into the group.
For example, if one of them is an aspiring musician, you might ask him or her to play for the group or perhaps for an event sponsored by the group. Better yet, if two or three play instruments, they can be encouraged to learn a piece together and then present. (Notice this is different from forming a band, which may divert attention from participation in the junior youth group itself.)
It is no insult to say that junior youth, on the whole, have not developed the skill set necessary to take a project from beginning to end without assistance. This is where the animator plays a critical role, in introducing just the right amount of encouragement and planning both to achieve the immediate objective and to instill an example of commitment and a pattern of step-by-step task management that will serve them for years to come in their own personal endeavors. Otherwise, junior youth who cannot take a project from beginning to end soon become adults who cannot do the same.
An example will serve well here. A junior youth group lost one of its members in a tragic incident. The group decided, after prayer and consultation, to create a memorial garden for their friend. This was no small undertaking, but it was agreed upon by all. So the animators helped the junior youth fashion a 5-stage plan over a seven-month period, and though the animators were skilled at making plans, they had no experience with memorial gardens. BUT one of the junior youth had a parent who was a landscaper. As it happened, he agreed to participate.
The short of the story is the junior youth worked hard, made all the important decisions and pursued with perseverance the fundraising, the physical construction of the garden as well as a befitting dedication service. From beginning to end it was a blessed process, but more on point: While that father worked sacrificially on the project, it was because of the consistent involvement and interaction of the animators that the junior youth did not feel overrun. Instead, it was always clear that this was their project, their gift to a dear friend. 2b1af7f3a8