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One-on-One with Youth Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Leader, Valarie Honoré

by Maia Muttoo May 13, 2019

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Valarie Honoré is the founder of three Dominica-based NGOs focused on youth empowerment and entrepreneurship.

Her organisations are I Have a Right Foundation, Signs of Unlimited Love (SOUL) and Travel for a Cause.

She has led other social initiatives including Dominica’s National Students Against Violence Symposium, Student Leadership Programme and Creative Arts School Tour.

Valarie is also professional fellow of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI). Moreover she served a One Young World Ambassador, European Commission Peace Ambassador and Dominica’s Country Coordinator for the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network.

Yello spoke to Valarie about her work and why it’s important to foster youth empowerment.

Why did you choose to focus on empowering youth?

At the age of eight, I was sexually assaulted by a close friend of my family. At that time, I didn’t feel like I had a voice, so I lived with that secret for many years. It was not just the secret that I lived with; I lived with hurt, pain, unforgiveness, anger and suicidal thoughts.

When I was 14, I came across an article in the newspaper that transformed my life. It was a call to action, it highlighted that we each have an opportunity to create the world that we desire.

From that moment, my life was never the same. I made a commitment to channel my hurt into a passion for change.

I decided to focus on children and youth because I understood the significance of empowering children and youth to maximise their full potential to become contributing members of society.

In the chaos and hurt in this world, I believe that there is a need for hearts that can genuinely give time and energy to improving the wellbeing of others and making our communities a safer place.

What have been the most challenging aspects of your social entrepreneurship journey thus far?

The most challenging aspect of social entrepreneurship is having the necessary support to advance this work. As a young person and a social entrepreneur, it is challenging to receive an equal voice at the decision-making table and be seen as a partner in development. It is my goal to build strategic partnerships among all sectors.

Which of your accomplishments has been the most rewarding?

As a social entrepreneur with a passion for volunteerism, youth empowerment and sustainable peace, I founded the I Have a Right Foundation. It empowers children and youth to have a voice and be actively involved in matters that concern them. It also brings a new and innovative approach which is needed to provide quality support and interventions within rural communities.

Protecting the rights of children and youth, and developing the leadership skills, confidence and values will enable them to participate meaningfully in the decisions that affect their lives.  In turn,  their communities can help to break intergenerational patterns of poverty, abuse, exploitation and violence.

In November 2016, I participated in President Barack Obama’s final Town Hall meeting on youth leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation in Lima, Peru.

My work was also recently represented at the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 Global Study on Youth, Peace and Security, and at the Commonwealth Portraits of the Caribbean Project on Countering Violent Extremism in the Caribbean.

I also recently represented Dominica, leading the Caribbean community’s delegation, at the 19th World Festival for Youth and Students in Sochi, Russia.

You come from a family of agriculturalists. How did that help you when establishing the SOUL (Signs of Unlimited Love) Enterprise in 2009?

SOUL emerged out of a community youth group. In exploring ways in which we could become self-sufficient, the idea came that we could join our resources to not only create income for ourselves but for our wider communities. We all came from a background of traditional agriculture.  Our members are from families who cultivated bananas, plantains, citrus and other root crops as a livelihood; our lives were built on this industry.

As SOUL we saw ourselves as the core of our nation’s survival.  And while our vision to foster social and economic development through the production, processing and marketing of agriculture produce has not yet been materialised due to uncontrollable barriers, we hold true to the mission. We believe that food security is the responsibility of the younger generation.

With the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017, what was the recovery process like, and how did the organisations you run or are involved with, work to rebuild? 

Hurricane Maria was indeed devastation. The recovery process was encouraging as many local, regional and international organisations came together to bring sustainable solutions.

The main initiatives my organisation supported and hosted were:

  • Establishing child-friendly spaces across Dominica in partnership with UNICEF and IsraAid. My team and I joined as volunteers to provide psychosocial support to children and a safe space for fun learning and extra-academic assistance.
  • Travel for a Cause: hosted regional and international volunteers to support community projects such as mobile libraries for children, replanting back yard gardens and farms for rural families.
  • In January 2018, we launched Project Hope 2018 and hosted over 40 volunteers in initiatives such as a mural of hope, literacy programmes, and girls’ empowerment camps.

 

To learn more about the I Have a Right Foundation, visit One Young World’s website.