NEW TERRAIN: Totally Youth Catches Them Young
Last year, the CEO of Totally Youth was appointed Chairperson of the National Committee on “Girls in ICT”. The “Girls in ICT Day” is an international day, celebrated globally on the fourth Thursday of April, every year. It is the brainchild of the International Telecommunications Union - ITU, under its Resolution 70 “Gender mainstreaming in ITU and promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women through information and communication technologies”. The Girls in ICT Committee operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Communications, to mainstream girls in ICT.
With graduate unemployment growing each year at the rate of almost 60,000 a year and the ICT sector being the biggest employer with the highest paying jobs, Totally Youth sees the national Girls in ICT programme as a “killing two birds with one stone” opportunity. The CEO of Totally Youth therefore launched the “Girls in ICT Weekend Club” in February this year, as her “member-project”. Under the Girls ICT Weekend Club, Totally Youth trains 24 – 50 girls every fortnight free of charge, at its premises using its own facilities. By April this year, Totally Youth had trained 160 girls in “ICT as a tool for learning and rewarding career and business paths”. On 17 April 2013, under the auspices of the Ministry of Communications, these girls competed in the first-ever (globally), Girls ICT Marathon, designed by the CEO of Totally Youth. Winners received laptops, modems and mobile phones donated by sponsors.
Totally Youth is “catching graduates early”, to help reduce unemployment in the future. Through the Girls ICT Weekend Club, we can ensure that more girls will choose to study ICT, go into ICT careers or opt to set up their own ICT businesses and employ more graduates. Totally Youth believes that this is an all-round “win-win” situation: reducing unemployment, mainstreaming girls in ICT and gender mainstreaming in employment and entrepreneurship.
OLD TERRAIN: Totally Youth Welcomes Participants
Since March, we have received three incubators – a group of four young men and one young woman, to set up an ultra-modern transport business and two young women to go into the beauty sector. Three interns have also joined us to prepare for careers in the financial, agricultural and education sectors. In April, we welcomed our first volunteer-intern, who is developing her marketing skills while learning office management and ICT4 Operations. All except one, are graduates from tertiary institutions.
All participants have been provided with free office space, free access to laptops, Wi-Fi Internet, Knowledge Space. They have access to free and regular mentoring, counseling, capacity building and assistance for proposal, contract, application and resume development as well as grooming for interviews and negotiations. The two Beauticians have free access to a furnished and stocked Beauty Centre and are already generating income. The income they generate is split up into living expenses, business tools acquisition to help them set up their own beauty shops and contributions into a revolving fund for inputs. Our radio and TV project have so far been limited to discussion shows which has increased the number of calls for assistance from so many unemployed youth, some of whom we have been able to assist in different ways.
Sadly, the job market here in Ghana continues to shrink for qualified young graduates. Most new jobs are seasonal (construction, road mending, farming, etc) for which most of our participants are over-qualified. Real new vacancies are so few and far between, they can be considered negligible in terms of the number of unemployed graduates (over 210,000). All the above, puts serious constrains on the finances of parents and guardians, who are forced to continue looking after one or more graduates for several years. This trend has caused a tremendous increase in our e-mentoring programme, since most of our participants cannot afford the daily transport and meal costs to come over to our premises. Participants lose out on practical hands-on work to acquire needed work experience.
The daily cost for transport and one meal now ranges from US$5.00 to US$10.00. TY provides such support to participants based on availability of funds, thanks to the generosity of our donors. Sadly, when a participant fails to alert TY while on the premises, it costs TY twice or more to get money to such participants at home, to ensure that they can start coming over again. It has therefore become critical for TY to start its Catering Centre as soon as possible. The Centre will provide transitional employment for unemployed graduates, capacity building and subsidized meals for participants as well as regular revenue for programmes.
Consequently, our major appeal this year is to request our benevolent and generous donors to help us set up our Catering Centre, which will serve nutritious and healthy meals to TY members and the general public and ensure higher impact and sustainability of our programmes. We already have the canopy structure of our Event Space, 10 outdoor tables, 30 outdoor chairs and 50 serving bowls. We will need a minimum of US$ 25,000 for equipment, service, operations and transitional internships for participants.
One unemployed graduate affects the financial health of both parents and siblings. Therefore, your support to one participant can stop at least one home from breaking up or can fix one broken home – minimum three lives. We can therefore not thank you enough for your continuous support to unemployed young graduates through Totally Youth. We believe that your support and the plight of unemployed graduates continue to encourage others just like you, to donate what they can to this noble cause. THANK YOU.
TOTALLY YOUTH WELCOMES 2013 PARTICIPANTS
This year, Totally Youth has received over 100 phone calls from unemployed youth mostly in and around Accra, and the calls are still coming in. We have counseled and mentored over 30 of them on career choices, business development and lifestyle. We have also registered some of them in our Incubation Programme: Mami - Beautician, Emmanuel – Export Business, Richmond - Writer and our Placement Programme: Alex – journalist, Emmanuel – Trainee Teacher, Ben – Marketing, Frank –Electrician. And 10 more participants are on the waiting list for registration at the end of February 2013.
Once again, inability of participants to pay their daily return bus fare and lunch, has made it impossible for us to help most of the over 100 young people we have spoken to. Since they cannot get to our premises, they are unable to participate in our capacity building and facilitation Programmes. Furthermore, a sizeable subset cannot use our e-services (email and Skype), due to financial constraint and/or lack of access to a computer and the Internet. The mobile phone has proven useful in this situation since we can initiate the call and save them money, but it limits them to counseling and mentoring only. We are therefore looking at the feasibility of creating a radio and television programme so we can reach more unemployed youth with our capacity building programmes. We will keep you updated on our Radio and TV Project as it unfolds. We will appreciate your support and advice on this project.
On Saturday, 16 February 2013, Totally Youth organized a Girls In ICT Club workshop as its contribution to get more girls taking ICT courses and entering ICT careers and businesses. 26 girls were introduced to ICT careers and business prospects. They also had hands-on computer and Internet exercises. This workshop was done free of charge to the participants and we hope that it will encourage more girls to opt for ICT paths since there are more job openings across sectors and higher salaries. This could ensure less unemployment among girl graduates. We will not have been able to organize this workshop without your support. So together, we are now tackling youth unemployment from both ends, especially for girls.
Thank you so much for your continuing support and I hope very much that you will be joined by others this year to continue this laudable work. From our experience to date, we have no doubt whatsoever that unemployment leads directly to youth poverty, depression, homelessness, drug/alcohol abuse, public riot/violence, unwanted pregnancies and crime. Getting even one young person gainfully employed is therefore a big deal. And together, we have done more than that. THANK YOU.
We thank all our donors for their great support this year, especially our recurring donors. Without your support we would not have been able to help so many people.
We have increased the number of email, skype and phone participants, since we have only an office in Accra and our participants are all over the country. These avenues have allowed us to mentor and counsel so many participants who cannot afford to come to our premises. The sad part is that even some of our Accra participants sometimes do not have enough money for transport and meals to come as frequently as they would wish. These avenues therefore serve this group as well.
The good news is that we have been able to place over 50 graduates into jobs over this last two months through our Employment Partner programme. We are very happy and proud about this achievement because the number of unemployed graduates is now around 200,000 with this year's graduates joining the pool. We were able to place a higher number of young women too and that was a great achievement for us.
We are ready to take in new participants starting next week and we look forward to a great new year, since we have had a lot of opportunity to advertise our services to unemployed graduates all over the country. We sincerely hope that our funding will increase to enable us to open an office in the Northern or Ashabti Region in 2013 to help those who are too far away to come and use our Accra facilities.
We are so grateful for all the support we have received both at home and abroad and we hope that all our sponsors will stay on and help us to continue the fight against youth unemployment which invariably, leads to poverty, stress, depression, homelessness, single-motherhood, drug abuse, violence as well as fraud and other crimes among the youth.
Thank you and Happy Holidays to each and every single one of our current and potential donors. God bless.
During the last few months, we have witnessed and enjoyed the success of a number of our participants. We have also had to say farewell to two of them, who have attained the enviable status of TY Alumni. We congratulate our successful participants – those who are still with us and those who are leaving. We wish all those leaving a continued fruitful, enjoyable and professional work experience with requisite rewards. We are proud of all of you.
Akosua, our graduate Engineer has made it into the world of work. She has been offered employment in one of our largest international telecommunications Companies. She is currently completing their in-house orientation. It was a great day when she finally got the call. She could not contain her joy and Skyped me all the way in New York from our ICT Centre to give me the news. She has promised to be a dedicated professional and to put to use all that she has learnt at Totally Youth. Akosua keeps in touch now via phone and Skype.
Summ, our Radio Presenter has also moved on to a better job with accommodation and transportation as perks. He is enjoying a whole new routine at a new Radio Station out of Accra. He is on air every day, entertaining the youth with his music and entertainment show, which he produces and hosts. He no longer needs accommodation at Totally Youth which opens up the opportunity for another participant to move in. Summ stays in touch via telephone and email and so far so good with his new job. He believes that his preparation at TY has strengthened him as a professional and he has promised to make us proud.
Nakki – our Events Manager is doing well with his Ghana High School Music Awards which he has now transformed into the Fashion and Music Encounter – FAME, to include a fashion segment in a bid to get sponsorships for both young musicians and young fashion designers. Nakki received his first, signed sponsorship packages recently – one for free broadcast of his programme on one of our private television networks and the other, for financial support to contribute to the cost of production of the 16 episodes of the programme. He has also received fabrics from two donors for contestants, which will be designed and made into outfits by the contesting young fashion designers to fit the young music contestants as part of the show. A hotel is offering its dance hall for the recording of the show on barter basis. The production team is made up of young self-employed graduates from our national film school. This is therefore a show by the youth for the youth with the youth. It’s great to see young talented professionals at work. Nakki is still with us at TY and we are very proud of his achievements. He has access to TY Shared Office Space, Wi-Fi Internet, Computers, Event Space, Knowledge Space (DSTV), ICT Centre and transitional accommodation. He receives mentoring and counselling whenever he needs it. In support of his show, the contesting fashion designers will use TY’s Fashion Centre to design and make the outfits for the 12 Music contestants for each episode.
THE FIGHT FOR YOUTH EMPLOYMENT IS A MUST
We miss both Akosua and Summ already, but we are very happy for them, their siblings and their parents. Since they are still in touch with us, we are continuing our counselling and mentoring by email, Skype and telephone. Totally Youth is proud of its alumni and we believe, even more so than before, that when given the right kind of support and conditions, our youth excel as committed, motivated and disciplined professionals. Furthermore, youth unemployment leads to unnecessary youth depression, drug and alcohol abuse, unwanted pregnancies, broken homes, homelessness and streetism, which must be stopped at all costs. Youth employment guarantees our youth the basic needs of life – food, shelter and clothing, which no-one can live without. Let us continue to FIGHT FOR YOUTH EMPLOYMENT as our contribution to world peace and development.
OUR SUCCESS - YOUR SUCCESS
We say a Big THANK YOU to all the Totally Youth Friends of the Youth for Helping us Help the youth Help themselves. We make a winning team. CONGRATULATIONS.
Lessons learnt by Totally Youth
Kofi has just graduated from Legon with a BA degree. His parents are both on retirement. Having spent 22 years taking care of Kofi from nappies to graduation gown, they have deservedly been looking forward to this special day – Kofi’s graduation day. Now he can work and bring money home to help maintain the family lifestyle they have built over a period of 40-plus years. They can now mend the leaking roof and pay for Mom’s knee operation. Kofi’s siblings are also happy. Congratulations pour out freely from family, friends, neighbours and acquaintances, close and far.
Kofi now heads on to National Service. There is basically no room for negotiations. You are lucky to get a placement. Insisting on where you want to go is an invitation to stay on the “waiting list”. At best, you will be tossed around a few times and at worse you may end up on a “floating list”. So Kofi accepts the first placement offered and goes off to do his National Service. Mom and Dad are now basking in a sweeter aroma of blissful retirement. They can now spend some money on themselves and ensure that their utility bills are paid regularly so that any “dum s” can rightly be placed at the doorstep of the electricity company.
All too soon, Kofi completes his National Service and starts the hopeful journey of looking for a permanent job. After all, he is a qualified, confident and determined young man. Being Internet savvy, he hits the job search engines, Asks, Yahoos and Googles his way to interesting job offers. He submits various online applications and uploads his one-size-fits-all CV. This is the electronic age, so he is bound to strike oil sooner rather than later. However, after four weeks, his confidence starts to ebb, so he turns round and wades through numerous ads of the paper kind, including the specialised job magazines, for more vacancies. He religiously writes and sends off hard copy and e-copy applications and CVs for the ever-changing requirements of each ad. However, for lack of experience and mismatch of qualifications, Kofi’s efforts perish. He is getting nowhere. The third month is on the horizon, Mom and Dad are still hopeful, supportive and encouraging. By the sixth month, out of 50-plus applications, only two got Kofi to the interview stage, but he never got the call. It’s a year now and Kofi has officially become an unemployed graduate. Next year, 70,000 newly graduated youth will join him on the job market.
There must be something wrong somewhere. Some evil spirit, witchcraft, fetish or juju must be interfering with the divine interventions meant for Kofi. Pastoral assistance must be sought. Frequent visits to the pastor, intensified prayers, diligent fasting, thanksgivings, offerings, tithing, retreats and letters to God, all become part and parcel of the daily life of Mom and Dad, Kofi’s siblings and above all, Kofi is now the first to volunteer for church projects. He even does weekend-cleaning in the pastor’s house. His faith grows stronger and his hopes are high again. God’s time is the best. His time will come. However, slowly but surely, Kofi’s activities in the church become just a conduit for getting a job and not a means of worshiping God. He soon becomes disillusioned and easily finds excuses for not getting involved in church activities. Frustration sets in for the whole family.
A year and a half after National Service, Mom and Dad (M&D), are extremely worried. They start consulting with influential friends and acquaintances to “see-what-they-can-do”. Sometimes, Kofi tags along with them to see some of these potential employers/facilitators. After several of these who-you-know projects, it becomes clear that some other options need to be explored. But which one? Tensions mount at home. Kofi thinks that M&D do not understand his plight and that they are putting too much pressure on him. M&D are sure that Kofi does not understand their financial constraints and does not appreciate the fact that they are simply not in a situation to continue paying for the rent, utilities, meals, etc. as well as for Kofi’s clothing and “leisure”. A vicious cycle of hide-and-seek and Family Feuds over Kofi’s continued unemployment ensues. Advisors are brought in, mostly to get Kofi to try harder! What are they thinking? Kofi has been and is still moving heaven and earth to get a job. He is totally stressed out from the stares of the “neighbourhood watch” and their continuous noise of “Have you got a job yet? Where are you working? Are you working in the same place as Ama? Are you still doing your national service? ”. He is doing his best, the best way he knows. He is using everything he has been taught by our educational system.
Kofi somehow finds money to attend a number of inspirational and empowerment seminars. He experiences the rush of the “can-do spirit” flowing through his heart and veins. He can do whatever he sets his mind to. He is fully energised, but months after the last seminar, with several complimentary cards in his possession, his situation remains the same; he still hasn’t found a job. Finally, with the last spurt of the can-do-spirit, Kofi heeds the advice of his peers who have started their “own business”. His peers “enlightened” him to the projects they have completed, especially in Events Management and e-Business. Some of them are quite successful. Kofi is hooked. He now tells M&D that he is going to set up his own business and sweetens the message with the enticing information received from his peers. His confidence is peaking. He registers his single-proprietor business and becomes the CEO. He has arrived and is looking for his first “project” to bring in the money. He starts the “business hustle”. He comes up with a good business idea which he guards with his life, because someone might steal his great idea. He however knows that he now has to look for capital, because he has not got a pesewa to finance his idea. M&D are sceptical. They know that it is not easy for individuals and entities to donate to just any business. Unfortunately, M&D cannot give Kofi any money to start the business. They listen to his resource mobilization plans, which are based on the “success” of his peers, and they hope to God that Kofi knows what he is doing. Kofi’s business idea after all, has potential.
M&D continue to struggle with the utilities, rent and other payments and Kofi’s clothes and shoes begin to tell the story of stress. Kofi knows that any new request for money from M&D will give them yet another opportunity to start the hide-and-seek and Unemployment Family Feuds. He does his best to keep up appearances, but he has been missing from too many outings with peers because of clothing deficiency and inability to pay T&T to “chilling” venues. The Peer Gossip machine goes into gear and soon Kofi is bombarded with questions: “Chaley why u no come de show? The 553+ thing e big waa, Chaley. Chaley, u go portey tonite?” Kofi tries to find some safe hide-outs to get away from prying eyes and wagging tongues. On his lucky days, he locks himself up in his room and he is left alone; on difficult days, he has no option but to walk the streets. His precious mobile phone goes off regularly now, first because he wants some peace and later because there is no juice in it. Kofi has done the best he can, given his training, the limited jobs on the market and the limited support for youth businesses. He moves to the next inevitable hustle of visiting adults-you-know for T&T and meal tickets. Sometimes he strikes enough cash for the week.
The home front is crumbling fast. Sibling Feuds erupt regularly, because resources which should now be going to them are still being shared between them and Kofi who has had his share already. Kofi should be bringing in his quota so the older siblings with low-paid jobs or intermittent jobs can start saving some money towards their future; Younger siblings still in school can have all the support they need, so they can hold their heads high in school, in hole-less uniforms, with paid-up fees and money for lunch. They nag at Kofi at the least provocation – “why can’t you be like Akweley? She’s with the Employ Bank. She’s even got her own apartment and she’s getting married next month. Wasn’t she your classmate?” M&D invariably sides with them because of mounting financial constraints. “Just get a job like your peers”, they say, “and your siblings will stop nagging you”. Which peers out of the 75,000 are M&D referring to - the 6% with jobs or the 94% unemployed? But M&D are dealing with their home front and times are hard. The family fortunes are dwindling fast. Kofi is too old to be at home. Kofi must look for an out, any out.
Kuku lives in a rented one-room with shared facilities. Things are not easy, but he is getting by. He agrees to share rooms with Kofi with the hope of sharing the related costs. Without any notice, Kofi packs his dwindled-down belongings and moves into Kuku’s one-room. It is a big relief, even though he sleeps on the hard floor. He puts together his business plan and starts going round for loans from banks and financial houses. He very quickly learns that it takes more than his “great idea” and a “self-acclaimed” business plan to get a business loan from banks and financial houses. His business plan does not cut it and he has no collateral. More importantly, there are virtually no resources or grants for young start-ups like his. There must be a way out somewhere. Kofi falls back on the popular advice of his peers – “find individual ‘mentors’ who will give you money to put your idea into business; write a proposal and take it to companies to sponsor you; make big promises to media houses to partner with you so the sponsors will come; team up for an event organized by another peer and share the proceeds”. Unfortunately, these strategies work for only a limited few or only for a period, if they take off at all. More often than not, after such projects, there is very little or nothing to share and every so often, debts are accrued instead of profits. Unfortunately, when the occasional profits are made, percentage shares turn into disbursement riots. Invariably, tensions build up among team members and the business team breaks up. After several failed or barely sponsored events, Kofi’s confidence and hopes plunge to the lowest level.
Kuku’s patience runs out and he starts a Roommate Feud. Kofi has not been able to contribute to the rent, utilities and food for quite a while. Kofi leaves the room untidy most of the time because he has to rush out to one meeting after another, with his “peer business team”. Tensions boil over. Kuku allows Kofi to leave his belonging in his room for a while, but will not allow him to stay over. Kofi starts sleeping-over at one peer lodgings after another. He does not want to go back home to face more Family or Sibling Feuds. His situation has not changed for the better. He cannot make a triumphant return home. Sometimes he is forced to sleep rough, because he cannot go home with anyone from his peer-support groups. Their parents, guardians or landlords have issued warnings. Kofi cannot go home to M&D either for obvious reasons. Kofi has no job, he has no business, but he is a CEO with a degree and a great business idea.
Kuku’s unemployed girlfriend was moving in with him. He asks Kofi to remove his belongings from his room. Kofi stuffs all his belongings into his backpack. He slumps down at the corner of Kuku’s street, dejected. Hours later, Kuku comes by on his way to town. Are you still here? Why don’t you just go back home? And say what? The prodigal son is back? What did they give me to go out into the world with? What have I squandered? Well, they gave you an education and you squandered it by not becoming employed. Go home and plead. At least you will get a bed to lie on. Kofi goes back home, after a furious Family Feud, he thankfully gets back into his soft bed. Weeks later, a family friend advises the use of an employment agency. Mom pays the fees, Kofi fills in the forms, goes through three days of “intensive” grooming, followed by two weeks of “hectic” placement attempts. After four weeks, the agency informs Kofi, he has exhausted all his options. They can no longer help him. It is the end of the road for Kofi, he has tried everything. He will do anything, anything at all, to end this nightmare.
So who do we blame for Kofi’s predicament? All of us: – parents, educators, employers and policy makers. At the end of such an ordeal, confidence is low, self-esteem is lost, pride is gone and trust is out of reach. There are several variations on the Kofi story and there are many Kofis in Ghana now. There are better-off Kofis, similar Kofis and worse-off Kofis and there are Amas too, all needing just the right amount of push to get them started. Many of them have great and practical business ideas and they are all employable through appropriate capacity building.
If the plight of unemployed young graduates is not tackled immediately with the utmost urgency, all the Kofis and Amas could easily turn into stressed-out, depressed, homeless, suicidal, drug-using, fraudulent, corrupt and crime-prone young people. The current official figure of unemployed young graduates, stands at 75,000 and 70,000 graduates are produced annually (ref: www.gebssghana.org). Consequently, there will be an estimated 140,000 unemployed graduates next year. There are many young graduates with practical business ideas and there are many more who are trainable for jobs. They just need a safe, transitional and productive haven between graduation and employment to become responsible and accountable adults.
Totally Youth is currently the only one-stop-shop incubator supporting young graduates in a holistic way. At Totally Youth, participants join peers who are confident, hopeful and hard at work, building their future. Some are learning how to develop their ideas into business concepts, how to develop business plans, how to develop business proposals to raise funds, how to sustain their businesses; some are learning how to research for appropriate jobs, develop requirement- and achievement-oriented CVs; how to write requirement-oriented job applications and how to sustain their careers. Some are incubating their businesses and steadily seeing results while others are in transitional internships. All Totally Youth participants have access to shared office space, Wi-Fi Internet, computers, tools, equipment, event space and secretarial support. They have access to dedicated professionals for capacity building, mentoring and counseling to ensure that they succeed at what they have elected to do. We also provide transitional accommodation to participants who may otherwise sleep rough. We are currently supporting 20 graduates at our premises and numerous others via the internet and telephone. With your support, we can help many more.
Totally Youth is the only complete resource centre of its kind in Ghana. Donating in cash or kind towards our programmes will go a long way to help us meet our target of supporting 5,000 unemployed youth into self-employment and jobs. Adopt a graduate for US$ 2,400 lumpsum or donate any of the amounts indicated on our Global Giving site to help us give young graduates the assistance they need to achieve success. Your benevolent donations can be made to our Global Giving account at: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/totallyyouth/. Thank you very much for your generosity and for understanding the dangerous consequences of youth unemployment
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