#Youth Speak Out: Updates from the Eighth Regional Consultation of Child Helplines in the Americas and the Caribbean

A reflection on my experiences from the Eighth Regional Consultation of Child Helplines in the Americas and the Caribbean

A blog by Ana

From 7-10 November, the Eighth Regional Consultation of Child Helplines in the Americas and the Caribbean took place in San Jose, Costa Rica. Co-hosted by the national child welfare agency, el Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the event set the stage for three days of discussion; including the ways in which helplines, international organisations and government agencies are able to share their best practices and ideas to move forwards.

The voices of #Youth were active throughout the consultation, with interventions in the opening and closing sessions, as well as a panel discussion on children on the move. #Youth also put in place a session specifically on the participation of young people in child helpline processes.

We kicked off the first day of the consultation by speaking out about the role of young people, not only as beneficiaries of the services that child helplines offer, but also as important partners and stakeholders. In the introductory remarks, I drew attention to how #Youth today are on the front lines of many situations addressed by helplines. We are uniquely positioned to provide feedback and new ideas on the issues that affect us most. I issued an invitation to all the partners present, asking them to really involve #Youth in any upcoming projects and to consult #Youth in their feedback sessions. This would really bring our ideas to the discussion table!

#Youth are uniquely positioned to provide feedback on the issues that affect us most

Over the next two days, we updated our child helpline partners on the different ways that Child Helpline International has been listening to the voices of #Youth. In a session on child helplines and children on the move, I was able to update our colleagues on a new project Child Helpline International is carrying out together with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in order to create a Counsellor’s Training Module for Supporting Forcibly Displaced Children. This is a project in which two members of #Youth, Heba Alibrahim and I, are currently providing input.

I was also able to brief the delegates on the launch of Child Helpline International’s Free Our Voices Toolkit and how it could be used as a resource in the region.

The second day of the consultation, I was called on to moderate a panel on the participation of children and teenagers in child helpline processes, projects and decision-making. In this session, regional partners such as the National Runaway Safeline, USA, and Kids Help Phone, Canada, provided valuable examples of how their organisations are involving young people at every stage of their processes; be it from planning, fundraising, evaluation and even directly involving them on the helpline. It was refreshing to hear of so many innovative ways in which young people were present and having their voices heard!

Taking advantage of the participation of partners such as Facebook and Tigo, we were able to speak out on our perspectives regarding the safe use of technology, possible strategies to reach more children through technological innovation and the importance of feeling connected to the world around us. It was also a fantastic opportunity to learn about the efforts our partners are making in order to keep children and young people safe from the risks that go hand-in-hand with greater connectivity.

The consultation concluded and I gave my final remarks at the closing session. Along with thanking our partners for their work and collaboration during the consultation, I also issued them an open invitation to reach out to #Youth. As young people, we are eager to play a role in changing the world for the better and ensuring that no child’s voice is left unheard.

we are eager to play a role in changing the world for the better