We’re making moves here in Buea - trying to connect students from the US and all over the world with students from our program here. 

We’re expanding the curriculum - connecting classrooms and youth groups in the US and Cameroon.  We want to tell the stories of youth through emails, Facebook, podcasts, and videos.  In a larger sense we’re going to try expand the reach of YAN by targeting our advocacy.  In a smaller sense we’re sending emails and brainstorming ideas.  

YAN isn’t only about computers and multimedia.  At the heart YAN it is about creating a new global conversation about Africa and development; about youth and what is important to them; and, about cross cultural exchange with a purpose.

The issues that impact youth in Cameroon and youth in the US are surely different.  There are also a number of ways, I bet, that they intersect.  Addressing the needs of youth is not only about internet access in school or the relative economic hardships of one or another.  Youth and young adults all over the world struggle with many similar challenges.  Just like in the US, here, youth in Cameroon struggle to make sense of their home lives when their parents split up.  They have to deal with peer pressure.  They think about their futures and what they want to do when they finish school.  They have teachers they love and teachers who are challenging - hopefully that’s the same teacher. ;)

In addition to the core focus of YAN’s program - youth creating advocacy projects related to development goals - we want to share these stories.  In doing so we’re making the world a little smaller (or larger, depending on how you think about it) for youth.  Exploring the ways our lives are similar and the ways they are different brings us closer as a human race and makes the challenges faced in distant parts of the world real for students.  

There in lies the most important part of this global conversation.  In addition to talking about dating, family life, and sports YAN wants to encourage youth to talk about the global issues which - whether they know it our not - impact them everyday.  For instance, what does a teenager in Buea think about the fact that so many are homeless in the US?  How does a middle school student in Washington, DC feel about the fact that their Facebook friends in in Cameroon may get their water from a public tap in the neighborhood?  These differences in daily life are reflections of the larger issues international development seeks to address:  poverty, access to resources - even gender equality.  Do girls in Cameroon think about being a girl differently than girls in the US?  Who has more girl power!?!

Teaching social networking is a great first step - now YAN is taking on the additional challenge - to actually make some connections.  It’s my hope that these connections will extend far beyond the classroom.  Last year a student connected with her father who was living in the US.  This year, it would warm my heart to see real friendships develop between youth who, at the onset, thought they had very little in common.  But, through their work with YAN they connected by a dedication to making the world a better place one person at a time.

If you’re a teacher or a student who thinks you’d like to connect your classroom let us know on the YAN Facebook group page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/137415242938186/) .  We’ll get in contact and see what ways we can share.