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Cook Islands youth leaders urged to tap into $16,000 grants

Wednesday 6 December 2023 | Written by Joanne Holden | Published in Local, National

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Cook Islands youth leaders urged to tap into $16,000 grants
Young Pacific Leaders’ Cook Islands alumni celebrated the initiative’s 10-year anniversary in Rarotonga on Saturday. Photo: Supplied/23120506

Grants of US$10,000 (NZ$16,239) are up for grabs for Cook Islands alumni of a Pacific youth leadership development programme, to design and implement projects which will help address issues in the region.

Domestic violence education, managing marine resources, and digital development were among the ideas Young Pacific Leaders (YPL) alumni floated for the Small Grants Programme during a gathering to celebrate the initiative’s 10-year anniversary at the Lazy Trout Cafe in Rarotonga on Saturday.

YPL alumni Maru Mariri-Tepou said grant applications opened on Friday and would close on January 7, 2024.

Mariri-Tepou successfully applied for the grant in 2021, using the $16,239 in funding to run the Youth Empowerment Development Programme.

She was part of the first and only Cook Islands team to receive the grant.

“Unfortunately, you can only apply once – but I would like to help out fresh alumni with applying.

“At the gathering, they were all asking for my experience.

“When you get the grant, you need to have a project that lasts six months and it has to be a team of three. They are flown into Auckland for training on how to use the funding, and then one person goes back to Auckland to give a report on how it went.”

The grant was established by the United States Department of State, for alumni of its YPL initiative to launch projects in their communities related to the pillars of education, environment and resource management, civic leadership, and economic and social development.

Mariri-Tepou said about 25 young Cook Islanders had been part of YPL since it began in 2013.

With alumni spread around the world – from those who live in Atiu, Aitutaki, and New Zealand, to those who represented the country at the Pacific Games in Solomon Islands and the United Arab Emirates for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) – nine people attended Saturday’s gathering.

“The whole idea behind the gathering over the weekend was to find out who the alumni are, meet one another to share our experiences, and forge a new network,” Mariri-Tepou said.

“Alumni passionately shared their journeys, challenges, honest feedback, goals, and commitment to giving back to our beloved Cook Islands.”

Mariri-Tepou, who had attended five YPL events since getting involved with the initiative in 2019, said it was “easy” to sign up.

“We encourage more of our youth to keep their eye out for these opportunities and apply.”

The YPL programme is open to people aged 25 to 40 from more than 20 Pacific Islands nations, with a goal of building relationships between young government, civic, and business leaders to address challenges and expand opportunities in the region.

Upcoming opportunities are posted to nz.usembassy.gov/young-pacific-leaders/ as well as to the initiative’s Facebook and Instagram pages.