Generation Democracy Testimonial: “Panama Found Me”
Upon receiving an invitation to IRI Generation Democracy’s Regional Academy in Panama City, Fabrice Dugas saw an opportunity to help his organization, Groupe ECHO Haiti, which promotes youth innovation and participation in national development efforts. By the end of the conference, he realized that meeting with other youth from elsewhere in the hemisphere could give him skills and confidence to accelerate his work in Haiti. Here is his story taken from the thank-you letter he sent to IRI:
The past four days have been life-changing. IRI’s Generation Democracy forum was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that caused some interesting changes in me. I think that I was able to find the better version of myself that I had been seeking for a while to grow to be the kind of leader Groupe Echo Haiti needs in order to carry out its mission. This was not a coincidence; all of this happened because I met with and was inspired by 24 dynamic and powerful young leaders from Latin America.
Hearing them talk about what they were doing, the level of their activities and the areas of intervention grabbed me. I was sold, inspired, proud—and my jaw dropped. Through them, I was able to find the courage to get out of my comfort zone. My misconceptions about development work—that politics is something to avoid, that it is hard to mingle with strangers—were debunked. I liked it.
As soon as the other Haitian delegate Nicolas and I connected with others, the bond was so quick that one might ask if we really came from different countries and backgrounds. Language was no barrier; it was used to find similarities and differences among our cultures. This bond grew throughout the forum, as we inspired each other. To see young women and men in political positions was the best of the best. This inspired all of us and myself – it proves that age is just a number. These young leaders are the living proof that you do not gain experience by going to school: you create experiences by engaging and staying true to your cause—no matter what.
Ordinarily, I am a very shy, introverted person that fears criticism and mistakes. I have been like this most of my life and have thus missed interesting opportunities to explore or show enough of my true potential. Hearing [participants] talk about their experiences made me realize that sometimes fear is only a state of mind. At the end of the day, we fail only if we do not take lessons from it. Courage and strength is what keeps you going.
I think after this I will be more engaged. Haiti’s present might seem dark but there may be a little light in the future—it just needs to be seized. I think I gained the energy I needed to do more at the Generation Democracy Academy to inspire others, to empower others, to fight for the Haitian youth. Because if all of these young leaders can do it, so can I.
The International Republican Institute made it all happen by carefully choosing impactful young leaders, by also providing an interesting and dynamic program that helped the participants stay involved. The Ideathon concept and the module on how to get youth involved in the fight against corruption were most important for me. To see how young people are politically involved and deciding for themselves what they want to do is interesting. This is another tool of youth engagement that I think should be duplicated in many countries.
When will [the Generation Democracy participants] see each other again? It’s a question. However, I would like to tell them until we meet again please stay safe, let’s stay in touch and most importantly please stay engaged. The future needs us.
Since 2016, IRI has worked with municipal officials and civil society organizations in Greater North area of Haiti to strengthen their institutional capacity, promote citizen engagement initiatives, further local economic development and encourage youth participation in political processes. IRI is currently partnering with the University of Limonade to create a public policy center and academy where students can research and report on public policy issues based on their interests.Top