Getting youth back on track
Today’s young people are facing a rising tide of obstacles to success, enough to make even the most determined kids desperate. An unfortunate cycle of unemployment, despair, poverty, and the destabilising effect this can have on homes, leads, in the worst cases, to patterns of criminality and de-socialisation. These social issues, always hitting the headlines, are not new. But, argues our Foundation Director, what is different today is the scale of the situation: larger and more far-reaching.
Here, Vincent Faber explains why Trafigura’s risk-positive culture is inspiring the Foundation to reach out to youths in the most challenging situations. We’re working with partners that have the tools to transform helplessness into hopefulness.
Across the world, today’s social systems are failing young people. Those that don’t succeed in education or are hampered by troubles at home quickly fall into a cycle of failure. Vincent Faber gives some insights: “Between the ages of 13 and 26, youngsters can fall into two categories: they become overly self-reliant, turning into street kids or joining gangs… or they enter a cycle of failure, dropping in and out of school and employment, becoming what the UK government terms “NEETS”, or ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’. In all cases, their self-esteem is knocked, their faith in others is crushed and their view of the external world becomes negatively biased. Unsurprisingly, these kids are difficult to deal with, expressing defiance, distrust and disagreement. In essence, they have fallen out of a mainstream, socialised life. And they need a helping hand to show them the way back in.”
“We believe, more than anything, that young people need skills, jobs, and the grit to stick at it. Employment and a decent income is the foundation of a dignified life.”
A solution? To blend ‘soft’ and ‘hard’
Over the past five years, the Trafigura Foundation has deliberately sought to partner with organisations geared towards reinserting youth into society. Today, around 50% of all the Foundation’s projects are designed to help youth rebuild self-esteem and relate to others in a healthy way. We work with partners that typically use sports, education or mentoring to achieve that. As Vincent explains, “The causes behind these kids’ challenges may be complex, but the solutions are often quite simple and applicable worldwide. Many of these programmes are about regaining trust in others or earning how to deal with disappointment without immediately abandoning hope. A commonality between the projects is their blend of hard skills – learning a new trade, setting up a small business or training in sports – supported with soft skills: the how’s and why’s of turning up on time, getting to work or school, engaging in a group, how to deal with conflict.”
A future for youth
It is our partners’ offering of sports and skills that is both appealing and highly successful. For example, Fight for Peace (FFP) in Rio di Janeiro uses a blend of boxing academies and education to get favela kids out of crime and into competitions. ADIE Créajeunes in France offers young people workable ideas to set up a micro-business, and the practical considerations that go with it. Our Trafigura Work and Learn Centres in North America equip adolescents, among other things, with bicycle repair skills which provide an income, community service and a lo-fi, but essential mode of transport. A recently signed project, Golazo, in Brazil, is similar to the FFP model, harnessing football as a tool for re-integration. In Mexico, Jovenes Constructores gets adolescents providing services in the community as they learn a building trade and refurbish municipal spaces, for free. Closer to home, Bateau Genève in Geneva re-skills young homeless people in carpentry and metalwork on a stationery steamboat.
“These programmes recognise that it is not kids that are the problem; it is the complex web of systems they find themselves in.”
Dignity and autonomy: the foundation for a decent life
Proud of the great work that these programmes are achieving, Vincent Faber explains how the Foundation’s chosen partners reflect Trafigura’s own values. “As a company, we’re not averse to risk, and that’s why we’re willing to tackle this segment of society that few want to touch. More than simply offering our financial support, our partners appreciate Trafigura’s entrepreneurial attitude; they call on our business expertise to enrich their programme’s business models.” He asserts; “We’re committed to supporting such projects because we believe, more than anything, that young people need skills, jobs, and to be taught how to stick at it. Employment and a modest income are the foundation of a decent life; you’re empowered to plan for the future, start a family, look after your health, start saving… to become embedded in society. These programmes recognise that it is not kids that are the problem; it is the complex web of systems they find themselves in. By adding our vision to the work of our partners, we can unleash potential and sow the seeds of a more stable society”.