The world today projects an image of young people as lost in the throes of tumultuous physical and emotional change, unresponsive and self-consumed. As many people are aware, this is an unjust representation of the adolescents of our generation. This is why the Baha'i community has developed a junior youth programme to allow young people to find their own identity.
A Junior Youth Group is a spiritual empowerment programme for 12-15 year olds. It is designed to enhance their powers of expression and reinforce moral structures that will serve them throughout their lives. Society often perceives junior youth as unruly, incapable and immature adolescents ‘going through a phase’ with a lack of purpose. As a result, they often feel pressured to live up to these perceptions rather than channelling their surging energy into constructive means. The programme recognises that junior youth have a desire to contribute to the construction of a better world and helps them to achieve this. It aims to develop the spiritual capacities, powers of expression and social interactions of the participants. A Junior Youth Group encourages and assists adolescents to realise their potential as spiritual beings rather than material consumers, and to contribute to the betterment of their neighbourhood. The curriculum is offered by the Baha’i community and, although it explores themes from a Baha’i perspective, it is not religious instruction or indoctrination; rather it focuses on empowering the junior youth to make their own decisions and not succumb to pressure from their peers. These groups have been successfully established across the world, with an aim to collaborate closely with the parents in order to nurture the growth of their children into responsible members of the community. The reason this programme is different to the current youth clubs available in Shetland is the element of service. Together, alongside the study of moral texts, the group creates various different service projects ranging from community clean ups and fundraising to the simple act of helping out a neighbour. This is one of the ways the group helps to raise the awareness of the importance of collaboration and community building activities.
The people who facilitate these groups are called ‘animators’ and there is a constant availability to train people interested in junior youth groups. The vision includes treating junior youth as valuable and equal members of the community. They are not just here to be occupied; they have the potential to be positive agents of change. It is important that those who wish to partake in the training have a respect for junior youth and are enthusiastic to contribute to their development.
There are currently 3 junior youth groups across Shetland, with two more in the pipeline. Anyone interested in training to be an animator (16+ only) or being part or a junior youth group can contact Anya Charleson (Shetland Junior Youth Coordinator) on 07595941848 or 01595696004 (firstname.lastname@example.org)