To encourage Ukrainian youth activist who are eager to improve their communities, the International Republican Institute (IRI) in partnership with the Vermont-based Institute for Sustainable Communities, started a one-year youth empowerment program called the Youth Community Action Program.  The program focuses on encouraging young people to become active in their communities as Ukraine continues its transition to democracy.  To launch the program, IRI supported Start Point Camp Rah Rah, a seven-day leadership and civics retreat for 18 to 24 year olds, from August 15-22.

Camp Rah Rah included classes on leadership, civic responsibility, critical thinking, public affairs journalism, tolerance, diversity and debate.  All classes were combined with team building and skills development activities.  During the retreat, participants identified problems within their communities and designed community development projects to solve the problems.

The week concluded with a mock news conference and a competitive election for Camp Mayor. The mock election included party building, campaigning and voter education activities learned in the civics classes.  The camp journalism class graduates used their newly-acquired skills to follow the election and cover each of the political party’s platforms.  After the all-camp vote, ballots were tabulated and a winner was announced by the Free and Fair Elections Committee, a committee appointed by the camp participants.

IRI will continue to work with the students and conduct follow-up programs as they return to their communities and begin to implement their individual programs developed at the camp.

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