Connecting the dots with Nex’Us. They got next!
Everything about the Nex’Us Platform has been youth-led and in its creation the multi-sectoral team of partners and agencies has created a tool that demonstrates the capacity of youths to innovate and lead. Nadir, Kathryn, Kaelen and Nyree are the inspiring faces at the helm of the development of the Nex’Us Platform. Even though they have vastly diverse backgrounds and interests they found common ground and connection in the mission of the Nex’Us platform.
Seventeen-year-old Kaelen is a male from the Southside of Belize City. According to statistics, he should be incarcerated or deceased, victim to gun violence due to drugs and turf wars. Instead he is today adjusting to his new life in Jacksonville, Florida. Kaelen is preparing for the new academic year where he will study Management and International Affairs and play college volleyball at Edward Waters University. As Belize’s first student to receive an international volleyball scholarship Kaleen says his view on life is ‘What you put in you get out.
“In volleyball you have to put in the time – it is all about repetition and practice. If I did not put in that time and spend all those weekends in the gym perfecting my craft – I would not have been here. It is the same with life. It really is about what you put in you get out.”
Kaelen’s involvement with Nex’Us began as a youth facilitator being trained to teach other youths about fitness and the importance of physical activity to their health. Fitness is important to him as it was through his athletic discipline, he has been able to access scholarship opportunities.
As a trained facilitator Kaelen will now be tasked with training his peers online hosting sessions on principles of fitness, conducting baseline assessments and training for a life of fitness.
As the secretary of the Adolescent and Youth Alliance the youth executives of Nex’Us Platform, Kaelen has supported the process providing administrative support to the team. Kaelen credits his supportive family for his achievements and he hopes to be able to use the Nex’Us Platform to educate about health issues like STDs and STIs among youths.
“I am looking forward to speaking more on STIs and STDs so that my peers can be aware. If we create a safe zone everybody can be comfortable, so we can speak honestly about it.”
Kaelen believes that despite the criticisms of his generation’s dependency on technology the Nex’Us platform will be a strong reason to influence this perception.
“Sometimes young people are not involved enough and so I think Nex’Us gives us a good opportunity to reach them. I think this will be great and I just want to be a part of greatness.”
Kathryn joins the group from San Ignacio, Cayo. In the upcoming academic year, she will enter second form at Sacred Heart High School. Her introduction to the Nex’Us Platform came through her membership in the San Ignacio Child Advisory Body. Through CAB Kathryn has been educating her peers about health, education, and violence prevention. Kathryn is an aspiring pediatrician who wants to devote her life to helping children stay healthy.
“When I was younger, I felt that going to the doctor was a fear for all children so I believe that if I can help by encouraging children that a visit to the doctor is for their own good and for them to be healthy.”
Kathryn explains that her engagement with Nex’Us came at the right time. She has been experiencing a rough year and holds on to her faith to help her through. Her Christian upbringing allows her to lean on her spirituality as she believes she can do all things through Christ who strengthens her.
“This helps me a lot because recently I have been having a hard time. This verse gives me encouragement that things can be better and that nothing is impossible for my life.”
Naturally for Kathryn mental health is an important topic and she has been trained a facilitator on Nex’Us. She is keen on using Nex’Us to teach her peers how to cope with the stressors of life. As a facilitator she has learnt important mental health principles and is equipped with knowledge to help her peers differentiate between the facts and myths of mental health. She has learnt how to both practice and teach mindfulness and how to conduct mental health check-in sessions with her peers.
Kathryn speaks of her personal challenges and how her faith has helped her, but she always accepts that she can use the tools she is learnt to keep her mindset health and to support those who need help. She also appreciates being able to use her knowledge to practice coping skills for challenging times.
“In our sessions on Nex’Us I can speak from my experience with depression and anxiety. I can teach others about mental health because it can be something extremely hard to deal with.”
For Kathryn this was an opportunity she could not pass up. “I felt it’s good to try new things and at the same time I am helping my peers. I like that this will help me with my education but it’s also developing my skills.”
Furthermore, it was a timely opportunity, as Belize grappled with COVID-19 pandemic, to be able to contribute to how children handled this critical shift in their routines.
“Because of the pandemic you rarely see children out. We are depending on technology to keep us connected. I feel positive about this work because it helps us to teach good things.
Nadir hails from southern regions of Belize from the Punta Gorda district. He is currently the President of the Nex’Us Platform and has been involved in various adolescent and youth initiatives. He is no stranger to activism and has seen his young life littered with opportunities to represent his school, community, and Belize. He wants to be a micro-biologist specializing in virology. His most recent was his role as the Leader of the Opposition in the 2019 Children’s Parliament. He speaks of his experiences as contributing to his unique perspective on life.
“My education background is in science, but my life experiences have been shaped by social work and activism. Somewhere in the middle is me.”
His duality is a central trait of Nadir and he embraced it as being the best of both worlds. A quote by Albert Einstein resonates with his as the motto he lives by.
“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will forever live its life thinking it’s stupid. That is by Albert Einstein. In a society like Belize, we need to understand that you cannot judge people by demographic. People can often surprise you with their varying potential if you are able to not judge them by your standards and beliefs.
For Nadir, the youths of Belize ought to take the lead. This is the reason he has volunteered his time to the Nex’Us Platform.
“As a young individual in my country I choose to be a representation of youths. I want to be a voice to prove that young people can be impactful and have things to contribute. Our society is one where only the older populations get to make choices but as the future of this country, we need to also be involved.”
Nadir credits his family and his upbringing for his mindset.
“My family has always allowed me to share my thoughts without the fear of repercussions. I appreciate that and so I speak to them respectfully. Nex’Us creates a safe space where youths can have the opportunity to say what they want and to learn particularly important things about COVID-19 and how to improve their health. Children can learn while being in the comfort of their home. They are kept off the streets and free from violence.
The future virologist is looking forward to using Nex’Us to begin his career or health education.
“I look forward to teaching about NCDs (Non communicable Diseases) and obesity because it is important to be healthy. Have a balanced diet will help you live longer. A simple thing like knowing your BMI (Body Mass Index) is important if you want to be a healthy person. Knowing the right foods to eat to have a better lifestyle is important even among young people. Prevention is better than cure. I like that I get to teach these things. “
Future educator Nyree is also from Southside Belize City from the area known as Faber’s Road. She is a current student of Wesley High School and has also had experience with peer education. Nyree has worked with local television stations to produce a news story on the challenges of Educating in COVD-19 ear. She is a member of the Kid-O-Rama Show who are a group of talented children who use the media to teach their peers about child rights. She wants to work in the Ministry of Education to use her voice to raise awareness about children’s issues. Even though she is young she believes life has shown her tough lessons. Her mantra is “everything happens for a reason.”
“Everybody has times where you try so hard for something and it doesn’t work out. God let things happened for a reason. If it’s something bad it is to teach you so you can be better for the next time so just pick yourself up and keep pushing.”
With support from her family she has been able to manage her challenges. For this reason, she also wants to teach about mental health for young girls. Nyree is also interested in teaching about mental health and sees Nex’Us Platform as a fantastic opportunity to use technology wisely.
“Many teenagers are going through tough times and so it is important to me to let them know that someone is there for them. I can say that I have experienced it myself so I can share with you. The feeling that I have been there, and I can help you out of it. That is important!”
Nyree feels that the digital transformation brough about by CIVID-19 should be embraced and parents should accept that it is here to stay. Instead of fighting it parents should learn how to manage it.
“Nexus is an innovative idea because children are using the internet. They are on it for social media and other apps. Instead of these negative influences from the bad apps where children feel bad about themselves, they can go online to Nex’Us and find good energy. They can be doing something productive instead of wasting time.”
Four different personalities, dreams, and aspirations all bridged and connected through Nex’Us Platform. Had it not been for this digital space they may not have met. However, through Nex’Us they are now united in one mission to use technology to teach and reach. It is the hope of UNICEF Belize that with the continued support of Astra Zeneca more children of Belize can make these connections to encourage, educate and inspire each other.
1](The Child Advisory Body is a component of the Sustainable and Child Friendly Municipalities Initiative (SCFM). UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Labour and Local Government partner to provide children the opportunity to be a part of the decision-making processes in their municipality. The goal is to improve the quality of the life of children in the community.)
Posted on: September 4, 2021