A deep-rooted desire to help put an end to the dehumanization and devastation of genocide and mass violence inspires the work of Global Youth Connect. We believe that investing in youth and enabling them to serve as active bystanders to promote and protect human rights is a critical strategy to help prevent and minimize the escalation of conflict as well as heal divided and traumatized communities seeking to rebuild after conflict. Based on our experience, we believe that the concepts and strategies of human rights education offer today?s youth the most powerful tools of understanding and motivation to take action. There is no question that today?s youth are growing up in a world with both globalizing and polarizing influences. We are being drawn both together and pushed apart at the same time. We can see the ways that lived experiences in other parts of the world affect our own communities and vice versa. And, we can see the ways in which our misunderstandings, disconnection and mistrust can breed the seeds of conflict, within our own communities and across national and ethnic boundaries. Some young people have unfortunately already chosen negative weapons: hatred, violence and intolerance. But just as many more young people are choosing the path of peace and human rights. It is these peaceful efforts that we must encourage and celebrate. We must support youth in overcoming cultural and other differences and tackle the causes of discord and violence between nations, cultures, communities, and individuals. Therefore, GYC is committed to empowering youth who are courageously standing up to ensure respect for the rights and dignity of others and to encouraging the development of collaborative projects aimed at eliminating the root causes of conflict.
GYC's training programs, known as "learning communities," guide young participants through an experiential learning process. Together, participants develop common frameworks of understanding, enhance their substantive knowledge of human rights, strengthen their leadership skills, build supportive relationships, and develop collaborative projects to address issues of peace and justice. The term "learning community" derives from the popular education movement and refers to a group of learners who together construct knowledge through shared dialogue, reflection and action. To complement its educational program, GYC also provides opportunities for youth to take action through substantive, cross-cultural volunteer projects. Participants are encouraged to work within the structure of existing organizations, as well as to create new and innovative projects. Our programs are supporting and engaging the world's youth to be pro-active in resolving the toughest abuses of rights, promoting human dignity and building a peaceful global community. We currently have programs to connect youth from the U.S. to youth and human rights issues in several post-conflict countries: Bosnia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Rwanda. We also plan to launch a local initiative in the Hudson Valley to train, connect and inspire high school students around global human rights as well as increase activities and opportunities for our program alumni/ae.