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Young people are key drivers in humanitarian action and development. Being meaningfully engaged as today’s and tomorrow’s leaders, volunteers, and members of affected communities, they foster community resilience. As contributors to the MRC’s vision to prevent and alleviate human suffering and promote and protect human dignity and peace, they enable the targets of the Agenda for Humanity and the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved.

The population of young people has consistently risen over the last decade and they have become a growing constituency of communities affected by humanitarian crises. Their specific needs, rights, and potential are however often overlooked and even more so, they are missing at the decision-making tables where the communities they live in are being shaped.

The MRC recognises meaningful youth engagement as a strategic vehicle for transforming institutional cultures that directly and positively impacts the Malaysian Red Crescent operational capacity to deliver on our humanitarian mission. Hence, adequate investments in meaningful youth engagement are inevitable for the transfer of experiences, leadership renewal, and progress overall.

Definition of Youth

For the MRC, the terms “youth” and “young people” cover all people in the age range of 10 to 30 years. This includes children (10 to 12* years old), adolescents (13* to 17 years old), and young adults (18 to 30 years old). Youth are a heterogeneous group with diverse backgrounds, expertise, skillsets, and needs which requires appropriate human development approaches for meaningful engagement.

The term “youth engagement” refers to youth-led action and youth development. It speaks to active and meaningful participation of youth and inclusion of their voice in the humanitarian work across governance, management, programmes, and service delivery. It also recognises three interconnecting and fluid pathways of engagement: youth as leaders, youth as volunteers, and youth as members of affected communities. As an approach, it goes beyond a symbolic inclusion and is practiced through equal partnership in both the intergenerational co-operation and peer contexts.

Youth as Leaders

Young people, including members, volunteers, and staff, taking a lead as agents of change in different capacities and duration are considered young leaders. In their leadership, they are not limited by a title or position. Their specific abilities and unique qualities shape their leadership to inspire and influence positive change in the world around them.

To harness positive contributions of young people, the Malaysian Red Crescent creates empowering and stimulating environments that enable participation of youth in decision-making and follow-up action. Allowing young people to self-organise through youth-led structures fosters leadership development and enables youth to have own voice. In addition, nurturing intergenerational cooperation while ensuring equitable participation in governance, management and service delivery on local, regional, and national levels benefits individual development and strengthens the MRC’s operational capacity and institutional growth. Investing in systematic and competency-centred learning for young leaders is key for transformational impact on the quality leadership in MRC.

Youth as Volunteers

Young people who invest their time to contribute to a greater good for their communities, not motivated in any manner by desire for gain, are considered young volunteers. They plan, design, deliver, review, and innovate the Malaysian Red Crescent programmes and services. Young volunteers enrich the delivery of these programmes and services by bringing their unique skillsets stemming from their education and life skills. The volunteer management approaches, especially recruitment, accompaniment, and retention, must be tailored to reach diverse groups of youth, including those from affected and marginalised communities.

Young volunteers are treated in accordance with the IFRC Volunteering Policy while recognising that they may have different and/or additional needs to those of adult volunteers. They are particularly vulnerable when volunteering in the field and the Malaysian Red Crescent is accountable for their security, safety, protection, and physical and mental well-being. National Societies must provide young volunteers with access to youth-friendly information, training opportunities, and resources for their work.

Youth as Members of Affected Communities

Children, adolescents, and young adults who participate in and benefit from Malaysian Red Crescent programmes and services are not passive recipients of aid. On the contrary, they are involved in the planning, design, delivery and review of programmes and services reaching them. Resilience strengthening is at the core of the Malaysian Red Crescent’s engagement with young members of affected communities so that they are better able to bounce back, contribute, and take a lead in addressing humanitarian issues. In the fast-paced world, vulnerabilities are becoming increasingly invisible, therefore the Malaysian Red Crescent programmes and services must also address the hidden vulnerabilities that children, adolescents, and young adults face, including mental health and well-being.

Volunteering with the Malaysian Red Crescent for 7 years has been an extremely fulfilling journey with valuable knowledge gained and precious friendships formed. It allows me to reach out to underprivileged communities, provide aid to them, and contribute a little bit in my own way to help improve their life. Besides that, as a youth volunteer, MRC provided a platform for us to connect with other like-minded young leaders to do our part in serving humanity as well as utilise our powerful voices to raise awareness about important issues.
Michelle Chew
Youth volunteer