At-Risk Youth in Suriname Gain Skills to Get Ahead

Speeches Shim

Chevaly Tartullian
Chevaly Tartullian
Carol Gaskin
Internships, vocational training offer pathway to productivity
“Don’t stop believing in yourself. There is always hope. The end is always the best.”

January 2017—When 22-year-old Chevaly Tartullian talks about her kids, her face lights up like a child’s in a candy store. She lives for them.

The young mother of three daughters, who range in age from 1 to 5 years, wants nothing more than to see them become strong and self-sufficient young women who make positive contributions to the development of Suriname.

“I want them to be even more successful than I am. I want them to have a great future so that they can be independent. I will always support them because I know how hard it is,” she pledges, reflecting on her decision to leave school early due to pregnancy.

In the past, Tartullian did not view herself as a positive role model for her children. Like many Surinamese youth, she faced increasing poverty, limited opportunities, and little or no job prospects, which contributed to a sense of hopelessness. USAID’s Youth Development and Juvenile Justice Program, also known as Kari Yu, changed all that.

“I can’t lie. It was a great success. I was happy!” she recalls with a mega-watt grin. “It was a great start. Previously, I was at home with a baby with no one to help me. Kari Yu gave me hope that you can always go to someone. You are not alone. There are people who care,” she says.

Kari Yu promotes greater youth access to employment, vocational education, and other opportunities. It targets at-risk youth, school dropouts, and youth in conflict with the law. Designed to bring together government, the private sector, civil society, and youth, the program develops innovative projects to support youths’ social and economic engagement.

Three months after successfully completing Kari Yu’s five-week “Youth to Youth” component that focuses on peer training in basic life and pre-employment skills in March 2016, Tartullian got a job in administration at a garbage collection company.

“I love my job. I have my own money. It is not much, but I can live with it,” she says. She is responsible for keeping the agenda, ensuring that everything is done on time, and managing customer credit accounts and the company’s social media accounts.

Describing herself as an honest, hardworking and caring mother who loves adventure, Tartullian is quick to accept responsibility and deal with the consequences of her mistakes. “When you realize that it’s your own mistake, you can’t run from it,” she says. “Don’t stop believing in yourself. There is always hope. The end is always the best.”

Tartullian is determined to create a better life for her children and hopes to one day open her own butcher shop. “Most people like meat. I have to drive miles to get fresh meat—that’s why I came up with the idea,” she explains. 

Asked where she sees herself in five years, she replied: “Opening my own business, owning a car. Happy! Especially, happy!”

Approximately 2,500 youth completed the three-year Kari Yu program, which officially closed out in October 2016. Over 730 secured employment and an additional 32 started their own microenterprises. Over 125 youth who left school early returned to school and other educational opportunities, and over 450 youth have completed or are now engaged in private sector internships.

Reforms made under the program’s juvenile justice component have improved the training and rehabilitation of youth in detention and strengthened the services available to them in their communities after release. Government workers also received training to ensure that the positive impact on Surinamese youth is sustainable.


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