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Andrew Simmons – All about positive change

Andrew Simmons – All about positive change

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After years of dedicated work tackling environmental and youth issues here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Andrew Simmons has again been given international recognition.

Simmons was recognised by the United Nations at the Mauritius Conference on Small Island Developing States this January for work done on building sustainable communities through working with youth organisations and establishing the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN). {{more}}

Simmons who left here on Monday after a short vacation did not attend the Mauritius forum. He returned to London where he holds the post of deputy director in the Youth Affairs Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Originally from Enhams, Simmons has been based in London for the past seven years where he implements youth projects for small-island states.

Andrew Simmons is the definition of a grassroots organizer. As a teacher in 1978, he established JEMS Progressive Community Organization to help local communities stop the destruction of the King’s Hill Forest Reserve. Since this successful effort, Simmons continues to encourage community participation in local decision-making, and has helped implement water projects and a number of other activities, including clean-up campaigns and leadership training for youth.

His relentless campaigns to raise environmental awareness and promote conservation have been his motivation over the years.

“It is an excellent feeling to be recognized for such work. Only six years ago, people were asking what were we talking about… we were not taken seriously,” the former director of the Community Development Division here told SEARCHLIGHT.

“Though St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a small place, it is not the size of the country that makes the difference, but what we produce,” Simmons said.

Simmons, a past director of the St. Vincent Teacher’s Credit Union (SVTCU) and vice president of the National Youth Council (NYC), will this year be responsible for the Commonwealth Youth Empowerment programme. This programme will address issues pertaining to youth in over 50 countries.

As the programme officer at the Youth Affairs Division of Commonwealth Secretariat in London, he advises youth projects on development and poverty reduction throughout Asia, the Pacific, Caribbean and Africa.

Simmons mentioned to Searchlight that he would be engaged with governments in small states to develop policies that will empower young people. He believes that participation of people at the village level is the best way to bring about positive change in small-island nations.

“Coming from a small rural village myself, I hope my work itself will be looked at by young people. I want them to feel if Andrew can do it they can do it too,” Simmons said.

The youth empowerment programme will promote his model of getting youth organizers to engage local community organizations through finding and resolving problems affecting the environment and youth.

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