Unity Connect: International Youth Ambassador Program

Published on: February 3, 2016

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Above, left to right: Eric Matoni with 2013 IYAs Justin Norman, Chloe Scarborough and Macy Stevens

In 2012, LoveLight (a program of The Light Center, Baldwin, Kansas) was in South Africa serving the community of Riviersonderend. During their time of service, Robin Goff, LUT, and Maura Rehfus got an idea for an International Youth Ambassador or IYA for short.

The concept centered around having former Youth of Unity (YOU) young adults support the YOU-style camp in South Africa.

Robin Goff announced at the International Youth of Unity (IYOU) Event in July 2012 the intention to raise scholarship funds for two former YOUers to go in service to the community in South Africa. This scholarship would cover all the ground costs, estimated at $2000 each. The former YOUers would need to raise the funds for their own airfare.

The Start of Something Good

This idea unfolded like petals of a flower as in the spring of 2013 the opportunity to apply for this scholarship was sent to attendees of past IYOU events. The first applicants were applying for the scholarships for this inaugural trip when, out of the blue, funds allowing for a third IYA to be supported were received.

During this trip, Justin Norman, Chloe Scarborough and Macy Stevens were leading the camp with support and planning assistance from Eric Matoni from the South African community.

L to R: 2014 IYAs Hallie Brown and Sam Gair with Robin Goff and Kelly Dowman

L to R: 2014 IYAs Hallie Brown and Sam Gair with Robin Goff and Kelly Dowman

In 2014 two new International Youth Ambassadors were chosen and traveled in December 2014. During this trip the youth leaders from the community showed that they were capable of powerful support within the community.

To be able to tell you about how amazing this is, I must share how this process works. Much like in YOU groups across Unity, it begins with an adult leader facilitating an event and then moves to the adult leader facilitating and a young leader following the adult in support. Then it moves to the young leader facilitating and the adult supporting this young leader.

And in the most beautiful way, it finally moves to the young leader facilitating and a new young leader following in support with the adult(s) there to hold the light and the high watch. This is a powerful model that is repeated in so many healthy programs for sustainability.

Sinekamvu Hans, Theolene Barrtman and Emile Terry from Riviersonderend, South Africa at the 2015 International Youth of Unity conference.

Sinekamvu Hans, Theolene Barrtman and Emile Terry from Riviersonderend, South Africa at the 2015 International Youth of Unity conference.

Because of the wonderful organization and understanding of this process, the Riviersonderend Community Foundation has moved to the point of a youth-led program.

The summer of 2015 brought new possibilities to the International Youth Ambassadors concept. Two of the youth and a sponsor traveled from Riviersonderend, South Africa, to be at the International Youth of Unity conference. The IYA program is now working in both directions with taking YOUers to other countries and also bringing youth from other countries to IYOU.

2016 IYAs Kianna Mattie and Raven Jayne

2016 IYAs Kianna Mattie and Raven Jayne

The next two IYAs have been chosen and the trip to South Africa is taking place January 1–13, 2016. Following this trip, a total of ten people will have received the scholarship and these people will have supported YOU through the power of the IYA program.

As you can imagine, the excitement about the possibility to do even more has been in the air and in our hearts. This program needs your support.

The Next Step

The International Youth Ambassador program would like to see Unity groups that are outside the US find a passion for getting YOU-age youth, with a parent if under 18, to go to the International Youth of Unity event and take the experience and power of IYOU home to their local communities.

Want to know more? Step into your truth and know that you can make this transformation for our youth.

Martin Dowman
Compassionate Social Action Consultant at Unity Worldwide Ministries
Martin Dowman is a 12-year Youth of Unity sponsor currently at Unity Church of the Hills in Austin, Texas. He is the program manager of LoveLight and is working to complete the licensed teacher program, focusing in Youth & Family Ministry, in 2015.

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