By Anielka Jirón. Thirteen-year-old Maribel and Winnie and Tyrese, who are both 10, share more than just a lovely friendship. The three of them are from the municipality of Laguna de Perlas in the Southern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCS), study at the Beulah Light Burn School, speak Creole English and are aware of the problems affecting the children in their municipality.
During the social innovation camp promoted by the Innovation Laboratory of the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University (BICU) and UNICEF, they all let their imagination run wild to propose innovative solutions to the two problems they identified as most urgent: the lack of recreation spaces and the insecurity resulting from the consumption of alcohol and drugs by local adolescents and youths.
“I’m frightened of dark places,” Winnie explained, referring to the orange-coloured spots she placed on the map during the walk the camp participants made from Laguna de Perlas to the community of Aguas to identify both safe and risky sites. “There’s no electricity in the park at night, so there are youths there smoking drugs and drinking.”
The optimism that characterizes Winnie enables her always to see the positive side of things. “Problems always have a solution,” she said. “If we talk to the young people and give them a chance to change, they will. I’d tell them not to use violence and that there are many people that can help them have a better life.”
For Winnie, one of the alternatives that would allow these young people to have a life project is sports and cultural activities. “When we play, we distance ourselves from bad things,” she argued. “In this camp we learned to come up with ideas to take to the municipal authorities.”
“The activity was really fun for me,” said Tyrese, “because I learned more about drugs and violence. The part I liked the most was when we played and drew.”
Tyrese is boy who does not talk very much, but he is very good at drawing. He expressed his ideas for living in a better world using different forms and colours, demonstrating how innovation is based on empowerment and a leading role for children in social transformations. “I imagine a park with many games and no violence,” he explained.
The social innovation camp is an initiative that helps create a favourable environment and contributes to the development of local competencies for children’s self-protection from social risks and the violation of their rights.
The BICU Innovation Laboratory is an arena that promotes social innovation through talks and open conferences; workshops with young people on competencies for the 21st century; innovation camps in rural communities; exchanges with foreign universities; and internship fairs for Bluefields students, all with the aim of seeking solutions to the social problems faced by children in the RACCS.