At a time when too many young people in the Virgin Islands are being left behind, the Youth Empowerment Project’s new centre in Virgin Gorda will mark a major accomplishment for the non-profit organisation, its many participants and supporters, and the wider community.

Ground was broken last month on the 3,000-square-foot building, which is expected to be finished by the end of next year.

Too often, the sister islands are forgotten by public- and private-sector initiatives alike. But YEP’s plan to develop programming benefiting at least 100 VG children at a time via the new centre is a welcome exception. The VG plan is four years in the making and will better accommodate the occasional YEP programming that began on the island in 2021.

Ever since YEP was founded in 2007 with the help of private benefactors, the organisation has been building up a proud legacy of offering educational and enrichment programmes for young VI residents.

Its activities — which focus on health, culture, sports, the environment and community service, among others — have been a welcome presence in Tortola’s East End and Long Look communities.

The non-profit, founded by Guana Island owner Dr. Henry Jarecki and still enjoying the support of his family, is a great example of a strong community-led group giving back to the territory’s youth.

The new centre also marks a continued public-private partnership of the sort we believe is sorely needed in the VI. In addition to the Jareckis’ support, the VI government donated the land for the Handsome Bay centre and the Sir Richard Branson-backed Unite BVI Foundation is fundraising to help cover its build-out and programme costs.

It’s admirable that after 17 years of operating and influencing VI youth YEP continues to innovate and expand. The group’s VG initiative — which includes a culinary education pilot programme — is a clear example of positive progress.

As the VI and communities across the Caribbean are challenged by rising crime rates and the need to develop engaged, educated workforces, youth programmes such as those offered by YEP, the VI government, many churches and others give young people a sense of purpose and beneficial ways to spend their time.

In this manner, they help raise engaged community members and in turn benefit the entire territory.

We hope that these valuable initiatives will continue to be welcomed and supported. We would love to see the community collaborate to bring YEP centres to other locations across the territory, including Road Town, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada.