By Youth for Youth: Empowering Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Managua, Nicaragua

There is a dearth of effective, evidence-based programming to support youth experiencing homelessness, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where the majority of these young people live. Programs focused on youth engagement and leadership appear to be promising means to effectively engage and promote positive outcomes in this population. By Youth for Youth (BYFY) is a peer-led youth leadership framework developed to promote youth engagement, empowerment, and skill development. To date, BYFY has been successfully implemented with promising process and outcome indicators for youth experiencing homelessness, both in Toronto and with Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay. In this article, we present the application of BYFY with 30 street-involved youth in Managua, Nicaragua. We highlight the key implementation factors leading to BYFY’s success in Nicaragua as perceived by facilitators from the implementing organization, Covenant House International, and youth leaders. Using a General Inductive analysis of interview data, field notes, and artistic output generated by the project (rap video, graffiti art, street theater), we identify the processes that appeared to underlie positive outcomes observed in participants, including creating a sense of safety and providing opportunities to challenge negative self-perceptions. This article provides evidence for a scaleable model for youth engagement and empowerment that (a) is practical to implement in low-resource settings and (b) is effective at engaging street-involved youth across diverse cultures and contexts. We summarize practical implications and actionable measures that can be taken by stakeholders to capitalize on these findings.

Publication Date: 
Journal Name: 
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry