“I’ve even started teaching my mom how to save energy, which has not only been good for the planet but has also helped us lower our electricity bill.”

Moving to a new country is never easy, especially for a teenager. The challenges of adapting to a different culture, finding belonging among peers, and the relentless quest for personal development can be daunting.

For 15-year-old Jeliannys, this became her reality following her family’s unexpected relocation to Trinidad. Suddenly, she was miles away from her friends, struggling with a new language and unsure how to meet children her age.

Luckily for her, she stumbled upon the Heroes Foundation in 2023 through an exciting Instagram post and jumped at the opportunity to get involved.  For, you see, Jeliannys didn’t just bring her youthful dreams and uncertainties to Trinidad; she also brought an impressive commitment to growth, an open heart, and a readiness to embrace new experiences.

The Heroes Development Programme (HDP) is renowned for its holistic approach to youth development and is delivered by the Heroes Foundation to migrant youth in Trinidad and Tobago with support from the Pan-American Development Foundation (PADF).  It is designed to empower young people to discover their inner hero and overcome life’s challenges. 

The Caribbean-focused curriculum was developed with support from UNICEF and provides a blend of psychosocial education, skills development, and sustainability education, delivered in safe, creative, and fun sessions.  It also encourages participants, both migrant and local youth, to engage in integrated development activities and collaborate on initiatives for positive behaviour change in their communities.

As Jeliannys shares, HDP played a pivotal role in her journey of adaptation and personal growth. 

“Joining the Heroes Foundation has been a great experience for me,” she reflects.  “Since arriving in Trinidad, I’ve struggled to connect with people my age and find learning opportunities. Fortunately, the Heroes Foundation has provided me with good channels for this.”

Jeliannys presenting in front of her fellow participants and PADF partners in Trinidad and Tobago.
Jeliannys presenting in front of her fellow participants and PADF partners in Trinidad and Tobago.

A key highlight for her has been the sense of community she’s built with other migrants and local youth, facilitating an enriching exchange of cultures and ideas.  “The sessions have been very informative and also incredibly enjoyable,” she shares, noting that her favourite session so far has been on energy, climate, and environmental sustainability.  “These sessions opened my eyes to how I can save energy and help the environment right from my own home. I’ve even started teaching my mom how to save energy, which has not only been good for the planet but has also helped us lower our electricity bill.”

As she anticipates more enriching experiences with the Heroes Foundation, Jeliannys’ story emerges as a source of inspiration for other young people navigating similar transitions. Her journey underscores the power of the right support, dedication, and willingness to engage in fostering not just adaptation but positive personal transformation. 

“Participating in the various activities has expanded my knowledge and lifted my spirit,” she shares.  “I am grateful for the support and camaraderie I’ve found here, which has helped me overcome the sense of isolation I felt just a few months ago.”

Looking ahead with optimism, Jeliannys reflects, “The Heroes Foundation has been very positive in my journey, and I look forward to continuing this enriching experience.  It’s not just a programme; it’s a community that has made me feel at home in a new country.”

Jeliannys sharing her advice on how to take care of the environment.
Jeliannys sharing her advice on how to take care of the environment.
Jeliannys and Manuel at a Technology Skills Workshop hosted by Heroes at the National Library in Port-of-Spain.
Jeliannys and Manuel at a Technology Skills Workshop hosted by Heroes at the National Library in Port-of-Spain.
Jeliannys sharing tips on how to stay safe online.
Jeliannys sharing tips on how to stay safe online.
Jeliannys with participants from the Heroes Development Programme, the Heroes team, and PADF representatives.
Jeliannys with participants from the Heroes Development Programme, the Heroes team, and PADF representatives.