Contributed by Rasak Adekoya, Co-founder, Brand Your Waithood
If you have yet to unravel one of the challenges of inclusive youth development in Africa, permit me to ask you these questions: What was your dream profession as a child? What did you eventually study in the university? And, right now, what are you practicing as a profession?
Sometime last year, Brand Your Waithood took time to ask 232 youths from eight different countries these questions. The responses we got were shocking. Guess what! Only one person wanted to become a medical doctor, studied medicine and practises as a doctor. Fifty-four percent of the others had responses to two of the questions that intersect, while others had none the same. For you, are your answers the same?
In finding out the explanations for this, we realised that lack of mentorship has been the reason that many made wrong choices as a child, and a poor education system has led to many youths going to tertiary institutions to study what is not their choice. They will tell you: If I don’t get what I like, I will like what I get. And for the third question, several struggle to practise what they have studied as well as find it difficult to discover themselves.
This delayed period in transitioning from childhood to adulthood is known as waithood. Waithood is a stagnation period in the lives of young people as they transition from childhood to adulthood, a state of helplessness and dependency. During this stage, chronologically, you will see youth who have marked the status of youth by their age, but they are yet to live the responsibilities of adulthood: earn a living, provide for their offspring, establish families, pay taxes, etc. This has led to youth protest, riot and aggression against their government, since they think it’s the government’s responsibility to do all.
Intuitively, one could imagine that among the best ways to get out of waithood is to volunteer in any field of your interest. Volunteering is an act of investing your intellectual capital (skills), time and other resources to make an impact on individuals, your community and organisations. On the other hand, you are submitting yourself to positive changes, self-development, inclusive leadership skill and sustainable growth.
It is an avenue for you to discover the secret of life hidden in a place you never look at, a place that you only come to when you have exhausted all other possibilities and hide yourself, where the secret of life is hidden — this is your heart. By extension, volunteering during waithood will help you to be active rather than passive in an area of interest.
It is a means for you to break local and global barriers by connecting to diverse people; establishing trust and friendship; and opening doors of unlimited opportunities in the course of sharing what you have learnt, acquired for the benefits of maintaining and sustaining peaceful coexistence. Moreover, if you want to contribute to the strengthening of institutional capacity to gain social, political, cultural and economic inclusion and participation, volunteering is a path to advance your insight. When you volunteer, you are exposed to practical know-how and experiences from an employer or employers.
It has severally been said that success belongs to doers, not mere knowers. Africa Volunteering Week August 12–18 every year serves you as a platform to practicalize and put to the test what you have learnt as well as to improve through real-life experiences. This helps you to build your resume and prepares you for your professional career and future opportunities.
Your greatest success can be measured by the number of people whose lives you are able to affect positively. Whether incentive is involved or not, it is a life-fulfilling activity to be part of the inclusive development of an individual, an organization or your immediate community. In addition, it is an avenue for you to develop confidence in taking on challenges to try new things and develop community identity.
According to experts, when you focus on someone other than yourself, it reduces stress and makes you healthier. This implies that your mood — such as optimism and joy — controls your fate and ultimately controls your immune system.
Dear Millennial, every generation has been charged with a responsibility and a task. There have been generations before yours, and there will be generations after yours. Yours is not the beginning, and it will not be the end. But you can be more than a generation that just passed through. You can be the change. Every generation has had their fair share of tasks, responsibilities and opportunities. What sets them apart — or not — is what they DO with what they have, not what they SAY about what they have. While you pass through waithood, while that youth in your community is still waiting, while clamouring for your government to provide you the dividend of democracy, take your time to volunteer your skills and resources now. The advancement of you, your community, your country and Africa is a personal responsibility. Trust me, if you volunteer, you and your community will be better for it.
For more information on Brand Your Waithood, visit:
Africa Volunteering Week: http://brandyourwaithood.org/africa-volunteering-week/
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AfricaVolunteeringWeek/
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blogs contributed by members of the YALI Network.