Kenan Foundation Asia has championed people-to-people engagement across Thailand’s Deep South for the past nine years through USAID assistance. The USAID Chumchon Harapan, meaning “Community of Hope” project, fosters social cohesion in the region by empowering youth leaders to become community connectors.
The program trains youth on leadership and community citizenship skills. The youth then develop community projects, with support from local leaders, and engage their peers at school to contribute to activities that address shared community challenges. Youth-led community activities bring together members of different backgrounds who have a mutual interest in supporting their children. The projects help community members empathize with their neighbors and promote communal solidarity. The process fosters dialogue about shared community development objectives and leads to increased trust among community members.
After training, the youth become part of USAID Chumchon Harapan’s youth leadership network that is embedded into schools across the three provinces in the region. Through the project, Kenan is also building the capacity of local universities and schools, transferring ownership of the project to these local institutions. This will enable the USAID Chumchon Harapan youth alumni network to grow into a sustainable mechanism for building trust and solving shared development challenges. Youth in this network receive ongoing training and serve as representatives in community meetings and peacebuilding initiatives to bring community members together, promote youth participation in community cohesion, and participate in government peacebuilding meetings and other forums. The network, bolstered by support from the activity’s university partners, will have the capacity, resources, and experience to transform participants into a self-reliant force for cooperation and community development in Thailand’s Deep South.
USAID Chumchon Harapan is expected to benefit more than 1,450 youth and 600 local leaders from schools and communities across Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat provinces. The youth leaders’ community activities will benefit an additional 6,400 community members. Through this, the project will increase the capacity of youth to serve as connectors in their community, and improve citizen participation in public decision making in communities where the project is implemented.