Giving youth a voice
Ryan Robinson Perinchief got fed up with people talking about issues affecting Bermuda's youth without including them in the discussion.
He was determined to do something about it and launched Future Leaders Bermuda, a programme aimed at getting young people involved in finding solutions to the island's problems.
Two years on, the 22-year-old's efforts have led to him becoming the first Bermudian nominated for the Commonwealth Youth Awards For Excellence in Development Work.
“It's truly an honour, and not something that I take lightly,” said Mr Perinchief, one of 16 “high-achieving contenders” shortlisted from 500 nominees this year.
“There are also many other young Bermudians out there who are doing great things in our community, so I am hopeful that this exposure will result in more Commonwealth nominees from Bermuda in the future.”
The awards showcase Commonwealth citizens between the ages of 15 and 29 who are leading initiatives ranging from poverty alleviation to peace building.
“Poverty, gang violence, education and the environment are all issues that will impact the youth more than anyone else, but a lot of them either felt like they weren't being listened to or didn't know enough to make a difference,” said Mr Perinchief, a law student and former youth parliament member.
“I felt like I had to do something to help instil a sense of passion and ownership within the community. I felt that if young people were given a safe environment to not only talk about these issues, but learn about them hands-on and attach them to real people, they'd be in a better position to become leaders in the future and take action from an informed, empowered and youth-led perspective.”
The approach has paid off for many, not least those who are closely connected to the challenges young people face.
“We've had a few young males who may live in areas that have seen the brunt of gang violence and other social issues.
“They often come into the programme not really wanting to be there, but every time, without fail, as soon as we start reading about the causes of gang violence, they switch right on.
“As soon as we start getting to the root causes it turns into empowerment and then from there they just can't get enough.”
The programme also helps students learn about themselves as individuals, enabling them to formulate their own opinions and values.
“A lot of them also develop a better sense of confidence by the end of the programme. Once summer ends, we try to keep them engaged in various activities which arise throughout the year with other organisations in the community.”
The son of former cabinet minister Wayne Perinchief has not ruled out a life in politics.
“I want to be a leader who empowers others — not based on my job title, but as a lifestyle,” he said.
He was raised in Pembroke and attended the Bermuda Institute before graduating from the Berkeley Institute.
As a teen, he spent four summers with Johns Hopkins' Centre for Talented Youth, studying bioethics at Lafayette College, psychology at Roger Williams University, global politics at Princeton, and civic leadership at the University of California.
He is now in his final year of his law studies, at Durham University in Britain.
His father and his mother, Tammy Robinson, have been great sources of guidance and inspiration throughout his life.
“My father taught me to be resolute. My mother taught me kindness. Both of them taught me integrity; I appreciated that from a young age.
“My parents exposed me to a lot of different things and gave me a lot of independence while still providing me with a wholesome upbringing. I still look up to them.”
Discipline, focus and sacrifice have been the qualities that have got him where he is today, Mr Perinchief said. He hopes that Future Leaders Bermuda will help do the same for others.
“Generally, a lot of the students go on to join Youth Parliament, the debate team, or simply realise what they want to be when they get older.
“Of course we can't take credit for everything, but we're happy to just do our part in giving young people a place where they can express themselves freely and not be ashamed about having a passion for learning.”
Winners of the Commonwealth Youth Awards For Excellence in Development Work will be announced at a ceremony in London, England on Wednesday. For more information visit thecommonwealth.org