Bonaire youth media makers draw royalty to their community and their cause

GroupOn a small island in a big sea, the power of digital storytelling has attracted a huge following. Bonaire is an island nation in the Caribbean, part of the Netherlands, and the Bonaire Youth Outreach Foundation (BYOF) recently hosted the Dutch king and queen for an engaging display of youth media.  Dennis Martinus, founder of the Bonaire Youth Outreach Foundation and an AYV Lead Educator, talked with us about his organization’s work and the royal visit.

“Our passion is to help expand youth media in the Caribbean.  BYOF feels that there is a lot of creativity in the Caribbean, but for one reason or another it’s not shared with the world.” – Dennis Martinus

What role does your organization play in the community?

Bonaire Youth Outreach Foundation is a youth-led, adult-coached organization that tries to equip young people as the future leaders of tomorrow. At BYOF young people ages 13 to 21 get the opportunity to participate in the community and develop leadership skills through several activities and projects.

Through media making our young people not only receive an opportunity to create change in the Bonairean community, but pursue their personal dreams.  Living on an island can make young people feel very isolated from the rest of the world, especially when the population is less than twenty-thousand inhabitants. However, we have seen AYV help young people gain self-confidence and also make friends with other youth from all over the world.

IntroductionWhat did you present to the Dutch King and Queen?

At the invitation of the Island Governor of Bonaire, Edison Rijna, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Maxima attended Rincon Day (Dia di Rincon). On this day thousands of visitors come to the oldest village, Rincon, for a celebration of our culture and traditions.

As patron couple of the Orange Fund, the King and Queen used the opportunity to visit our project “Mi tambe por!” (I can too!).  It is part of the Orange Fund’s four-year program called Opportunities for Caribbean Young People.  Our project helps young people from disadvantaged backgrounds stay and finish school, enhance their talents, and connect with family coaches for personal and educational development.  Three youth explained to the royal couple the positive contribution that “Mi tambe por!” makes to their daily life and education.

Of course we took the opportunity of this royal visit to share BYOF’s experience and accomplishments with Adobe Youth Voices.  Creativity Scholar Angelo Alberto exhibited his AYV Awards gold award-winning project, Bullied.  Tansy Piar showed her very clever AYV Awards silver award-winning project, Nothing is Impossible, which encourages the viewer to believe in their dreams.  And Jeanvier Janga, a Creativity Scholar and AYV Awards finalist for his work Change Starts with Oneself, used the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.”  He emphasized that in order to create change in a community, one has to start making positive changes in oneself first.

How have you taken opportunities to deepen and spread youth media programming?

BYOF leads the Youth on a Healthy Weight project on Bonaire. It’s a project that uses media to encourage young people to reduce obesity and live a healthy lifestyle. With the production skills that the young people have acquired at AYV Bonaire, they are creating posters, video clips, and also a twelve-episode TV program on healthy lifestyle for their peers.

Also, AYV Bonaire has developed a professional program where young people make projects for companies. So the National Office for the Caribbean Netherlands (RCN) recruited AYV Bonaire to produce short videos on business ethics in the workplace. This opportunity opened the way for AYV Bonaire students to travel to several Caribbean islands in order to capture footage for the videos.

Participating in the AYV awards has helped turn the AYV Bonaire program into a movement. Promoting our media pieces via social media is like Bonaire against the whole world. At first it seemed like an impossible task, but when BYOF won two awards in 2012, we immediately sought local media attention. That really helped the voting in 2013, when our organization won 6 AYV awards in 5 categories.

“BYOF started very small with youth media. We used DSLRs to make nice-looking movies with local volunteer actors. Surprisingly, people are very receptive to pay to see local actors in a locally produced movie. With the money raised, we invest in better equipment in order to become self-sustaining. So now BYOF is synonymous with media on Bonaire.”

Jeanvier Janga speaking to the king