HUCO Youth aims to become a role model and teaches young people how to manage plastic waste.

Waste is one of the biggest problems that can pose a threat to humans and animals, and garbage is a threat to the environment, especially plastic waste. Hudi Laran Community (HUCO) Youth Group is offering a solution to the problem. Founded in 2017 in Hudi Laran, a suburb in Dili, HUCO Youth aims to become a role model and teaches young people how to manage plastic waste. They voluntarily collect plastic waste that is randomly thrown into waterways and roadsides. When the group created, HUCO Youth did not have the thought of earning money - their main goal was to reduce plastic waste in their area.

Coordinator of HUCO Youth, Olga Teresa Corbafo tells why there was an initiative to establish the group: "I live in Hudi Laran, I must have good relations with neighbors, especially young people. I was afraid if I did not have a good relationship with my neighbors, and I also enjoyed doing sanitation and hygienic work [where] I see the problem of waste is quite large. I cannot solve it myself, [so] I began to think of inviting children in the area together to create peace because often people hear that the area of Hudi Laran is a conflict and violence [zone], "Olga said.

With the reasons to bring peace and reduce plastic waste, Olga Corbafo founded HUCO Youth, inviting young people to be able to make changes in their lives. Olga continues by saying, "we do recycling activities with plastic waste that can be used again. Initially, I only called several people, tried to push them and finally we started to produce several products from plastic bottles." She confessed that getting close to young people who have limited education and experience to get involved in community volunteering activities is very difficult.

However, almost everything changed when HUCO Youth connected with UNDP Knua Juventude Fila-Liman (KJFL), a one-stop shop for youth entrepreneurship, employability and youth voices. For Olga, UNDP-KJFL is changing youth behaviors to become more responsible through business in recycling. She proudly said, “I was able to gather and take them to Knua Juventude Fila-Liman, [and] when they returned, I saw from their faces, they looked happy. They told me that KJFL is a very unique place, because [it] values the activities we do. KJFL is an inspirational place." Olga was greatly impressed with the sudden change in her association.

UNDP-KJFL invited representatives from the HUCO Youth Group and participated in a three day Social Business Camp along with other participants. Since then, they began to have more innovative ideas and started to turn plastic bottles into chairs, tables and trash bins. "The results of making chairs and tables then we sell them, and some people buy at a price of $ 50.00, we try to work hard [to promote to market] so that people know our products," Olga said

Young people at HUCO Association have benefitted from many empowerment activities at UNDP Knua Juventude Fila-Liman, including public speaking skills, pitching and leadership training. The Coordinator said that young people who joined the group and participated in every UNDP-KJFL event, they learned something new in their lives. "So far in our homes, we have never had the opportunity to speak in public, but when we started joining HUCO Youth and learning at UNDP-KJFL, we began to get a little experience and learn something good for our lives," Olga said.

Lorenco Crispin de Jesus Araujo, born in Baucau, shared the same thought. He said, "I want to join this group because in our area of Hudi Laran, there is always conflict and violence between young people. We thank Olga for calling us to join together, in order to reduce violence and conflict.”  Lorenco claimed that before the association established, he always spent most time sitting on the roadside and consuming more alcohol with his friends.

[I] felt the activity had a good impact on us. We started to drink less and began to actively carry out cleaning activities, we felt more calm as conflict began to diminish. [Morover,] some young people are beginning to realize that we are doing good things" Lorenco said proudly. He and his friends are creatively making chairs, tables, flowers and slippers from empty, discarded plastic bottles that they collected from the waterways. As a young man, he felt very sorry for the time he wasted. But he hopes for a bright future and calls to other young people to get up to show creativity

Olivia Rodrigues (18) told the same story from a different perspective. She admitted that HUCO Youth trained her to love the environment and live in peace. However, she learned to be a creative and innovative youngster from UNDP-KJFL. According to Olivia, KJFL is a place for young people to get new experiences and can add capacity to the social business world.

"We learned about how to create jobs, one example is HUCO Youth. We work voluntarily, and money is not the main problem but through voluntary activities, we can get new experiences and can change our lives in the future. I am still young and love to learn and get new experiences at Knua Juventude Fila-Liman, "Olivia sai

UNDP Knua Juventude Fila-Liman has inspired Lorenco and Olivia, not only to be responsible young people, but an active contributor to social problems in Timor-Leste by reducing unemployment rate, minimizing conflict and plastic waste.  HUCO Youth is only one example of the many beneficiaries. For Lorenso and Olivia, UNDP Knua Juventude Fila-Liman has empowered them to be able to create a business together with HUCO Youth colleagues. They are confident that even though this business is just starting, slowly it will be successful.

UNDP Timor-Leste is exploring opportunities, and bringing more productive resources, to expand to municipalities and help rural youth.

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