FREEPORT, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas — Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, the Hon. Mario Bowleg welcomed the first group of recruits for the Bahamas National Youth Guard Program on Monday, January 16, 2023 at the Police Training College, congratulating the young adults on becoming pace-setters in what is expected to grow into a premier natural disaster preparedness program in the country.
The Youth Minister told the over 80 recruits that they will determine how successful and established the program becomes in the future by the way they go through the three-month training course and become certified.
“In our Blueprint for change, we had made it known that it was our intent to put in place a National Youth Guard program, which would bring young people together, who would be trained and prepared to help the country respond to natural disasters of any kind,” said Minister Bowleg.
“That program starts right here at the Police College in Grand Bahama. It will be a three-month training program and the first 100 cohort of young men and women from throughout the country, will learn the necessary skills, not just for life, but technical skills that will allow them to be in a position to respond to natural disasters.”
The National Youth Guard Program is geared towards young Bahamians between the ages of 18-25 and will be facilitated by officers from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Royal Bahamas Police Force. Other agencies involved in the program, to create more cohesive training, includes the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI), Disaster Reconstruction Authority, Bahamas Red Cross, and a few others.
The first crop of recruits arrived in Grand Bahama on Monday, January 16, 2023 via a Defence Force vessel. More than 80 participants from islands throughout The Bahamas were joined by other participants from Grand Bahama for the start of the program at the Grand Bahama-based Police Training College.
“I am happy that these young people have volunteered to give service to their country,” said Minister Bowleg. “I am grateful that in the future, once we’ve completed a number of these training programs, we will have a good corp of men and women who will be ready and able and willing to serve in times of need.
“The good thing about this program is that while these young adults are being trained for service they will all be receiving a stipend of $250 per week. That’s an incentive and I know that these young people can appreciate that.”
Although the first session of training with the recruits has already begun, Minister Bowleg said that the official launch of the program will be done by the Prime Minister and himself at a later date. He noted that this pilot program will be used as a springboard for future training programs. Once completed, there will be an evaluation of the program to determine what, if any, changes would be needed before proceeding with future training programs.
“The next training program will probably be after the next fiscal budget,” said Minister Bowleg. “Of course, hosting this program comes with a cost. The budget that has been allocated for this program is $1.5 million. So, as we see the need to continue to recruit and grow this program, we will do so.
“But I’m sure that Bahamians will appreciate this program and support this effort, given the fact that The Bahamas lies in a hurricane belt. This kind of program will help create the kind of manpower that we would need beyond the police and defence force in times of natural disasters.”
Sandena Neely, Head of the Division of Youth, said the Bahamas National Youth Guard Program training will be a comprehensive program that will develop individuals to assist in every aspect of the country’s national disaster plan – from prevention and mitigation, all the way to response and recovery.
She added that for the three months of training, the recruits will participate in physical training, drills training (defence force and police force), instructions on character building, resilence, nationhood and citizenship, disaster management, shelter management, conservation training and classroom instruction.
“Once these young persons finish these three months of training, they will be so skilled and so equipped and will have certain certifications that will set them up for good success even in the future,” said Ms. Neely.
“Once they’re done with the three months of training, they will go through a three-month internship in their respective islands throughout The Bahamas. Once they conclude that first six months, they will be on call, like reserves for two years. Whenever there are a disaster or emergency that may occur, these agencies who are partners and stake-holders will have a reservoir in the National Youth Guard to call upon for these young people to come and assist on their respective islands.”