Mirror Magazine

Together for a worthy cause
Annual Asian Youth Congress organised by Colombo Plan Drug Advisory Programme in collaboration with Central Narcotics Bureau of Singapore, was held recently in Bali, Indonesia
One of the Colombo Plan Drug Advisory Programme’s (DAP) drug demand reduction initiatives targeting the youth in the Asia Pacific region includes its annual Asian Youth Congresses. To date, the DAP has implemented three such initiatives. The First Asian Youth Congress was held in Bali, Indonesia in May 2002 with the theme ‘Facing the Challenge’. The Second Congress was held in Paradise Island, Maldives in August 2003, with the theme ‘Youth at the Front Lines’. Recently, the third Asian Youth Congress cum Preventive Drug Education Symposium (PDE) was successfully implemented in Singapore at the end of last year.

The DAP organised this initiative, in collaboration with the Central Narcotics Bureau of Singapore, with financial aid from the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), US Department of State and the National Council Against Drug Abuse - Singapore. The congress, like the previous youth congresses was an affirmation of the DAP’s belief that youth have the zest and potential to be the best that they can be – without drugs; and that youth have the power and ability to make a difference - to create a vibrant and drug-free world. Reiterating this belief, the theme for the III Asian Youth Congress cum Preventive Drug Education Symposium was ‘Youths Can Do It!’

During this congress, 150 youth delegates and Preventive Drug Education experts from Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam came together to share best Preventive Drug Education practices, enhance their life skills, learn about illicit drugs and their bodies , and discuss initiatives for implementation. Sri Lanka was represented by 14 delegates from Trincomalee, Negombo, Moratuwa, Matara, Galle and Colombo. The congress provided an excellent opportunity for the exchange of ideas and information through networking. Also notable was the greater opportunity provided for youth empowerment and youth leadership in conducting the congress, with many youth delegates acting as peer leaders, presenters and facilitators.

In Singapore the delegates learned a variety of skills, and now are better equipped to take action for a cause they believe in – drug abuse prevention. Workshops on ‘Life Skills’ empowered the youth to build up their self-esteem, to communicate, to make decisions, to be assertive, to enhance their personal skills… The workshop on ‘Family Therapy’ focusing on parenting skills introduced the parents, the teachers and the PDE officers to the functional family system, to the importance of the family with regard to prevention and treatment, to the myths that parents and teens have about one another, to the five languages of love. The workshop on ‘Stress Management’ challenged the delegates to overcome and manage their stress levels, become relaxed and enhance their performance. The workshops Preventive Drug Edutainment introduced the delegates to the many innovative ways in which they could employ comedy, tragedy, mime, musical theatre, movement stories and puppetry to overcome the many challenges that they as the youth of the 21st Century face. The skills of these young people have now been developed not just to empower them to stay free from drugs; but also to empower them to affect the destiny of other young people whose lives have been scarred by the drug menace.

While the youth delegates did gain a lot from their experience in Singapore; we cannot undermine their contributions to the congress. Actively participating in the workshops and plenary sessions, the youth were able to bring to the Asian Youth Congress something that only they know: the experience of being an Asian youth in the 21st Century - in an era when substance abuse continues to spread at a devastating rate, where youth are continuously pressurised to ‘do drugs’ for a plethora of reasons. Through ‘PDE Think-a-ton’ - a marathon session of brainstorming, they ensured that their thinking and understanding finds its way into the shape of the drug abuse prevention programmes of the future. The youth participants affirmed that schools need to draw-up and implement drug abuse prevention policies in keeping with the national anti-drug policy; include preventive drug education in their curriculum – reinforced through the co-curriculum; and that teachers need to be equipped not only with PDE skills but also with skills to manage drug related incidents as part of early intervention efforts to nip the problem in the bud.

The youth congress was not ‘all work and no play’. It also included daily aerobic classes, enrichment courses on kickboxing, MTV fun dancing, line dancing and language and social greeting; as well as outdoor activities (rock climbing and rifle shooting), a city tour and a visit to the night safari.

As DAP firmly believes that youth need to be encouraged to respect and value not only their own cultures and traditions, but also the cultures and traditions of other individuals. The grand finale of the youth congress was the Art and Cultural Night, which involved cultural presentations by the participatory countries and dance performances by the winners of ‘Dance Works’ an anti-drug dance competition in Singapore which uses dance as a tool to promote the anti-drug message.

Armed with knowledge on drug abuse, ideas on preventive drug education and valuable life skills, the youth participants at the III Asian Youth Congress were empowered to work towards developing a drug-free world and achieve their aspirations, dreams and goals…

Finally, those of you who were unable to participate in the congress can also become a part of this 'Youth Brigade Against Drug Abuse'. Join the Asian Youth Network http://colombo-plan.org/dap/ayn/index.html on drug abuse prevention and become a part of a vibrant drug-free community. The DAP hopes to see many new faces at the Fourth Asian Youth Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention.


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