SPOTLIGHT: VeryLoudYouth with Nkemdili Megwalu – @VeryLoudYouth

megHello folks and welcome to 2015. There is no better way to start the year than highlighting the work of  people and nonprofits doing great things on the motherland. We recently came across the nonprofit called VeryLoudYouth during one of our aimless wanderings  RESEARCH on the web. After browsing through their website and checking out their awesome programming, we decided to make contact. VLY’s founder –  Nkemdili Megwalu was very gracious with her time, and has provided some insight on the vision, programs and future goals of the organization. Enjoy! 🙂

  1. What is VeryLoudYouth?

VeryLoudYouth is a platform whose goal is to develop and connect youth to their peers, starting in Nigeria. Our vision is to inspire a global family of young leaders who apply themselves to improve their peers and community.

I stumbled on Education and Youth Development during my Master’s program in Texas when I began working for a program dedicated to help underserved students stay in school and achieve their potential. During this time, I learned that young people motivate change in each other more effectively than adults can. I began to encourage my students to express themselves creatively and through writing.

One day, during a creative writing workshop, a 13 year-old girl shared her collection of poems with me. In these poems, she relayed her struggle in school and how much she missed her abusive mother. This young girl depicted the dark private world of her peers — children with nothing to eat and nights spent kicked out of their homes. She told stories of struggles that reached a place I remembered as a child in a poor suburb in eastern Nigeria, without running water or reliable healthcare. Her stories reinforced my desire to drive positive social change beyond the classroom.

Large group

  1. What are your key programs? 

Our framework is centered on training and advocacy. An important objective for VeryLoudYouth is to address the growing need for quality education especially for youth in rural and low income urban communities of Nigeria.

On training: in 2013, we started an after school program at one elementary school in Oba village in Anambra State, Nigeria. This program focuses on the social development of children 9-13. We hope to strengthen our Elementary program (starting 2015) to include a reading club, math tutorials, and service learning projects (2016). The aim is to empower these students to become VeryLoudYouth Ambassadors and Volunteers by their Secondary School years.

On advocacy: our approach is to challenge young people to use written communication, music, videos, pictures, and other popular media to transform their world. Through media and writing contests — and with the help of parents, school leaders, teachers, professors, and informed members of the community — Secondary School students will express informed opinion on concepts that explore privilege, education, healthcare, food safety, and other concerns they wish to highlight.

  1. Target audience; Who are the people you are trying to reach? Why that particular group?

We recruit talented young people who are unlikely to realize their potential for various reasons including a lack of resources and role models. By challenging these young people, we may begin to address the ideology that crime and corruption is the norm; and that poverty is some sort of disease. Our message is that we each have the power to change or create our fate; to create the lives we dream of; and we should all be positive role models.

Class

  1. What are some of the initial challenges you faced starting out and how did you overcome them/or currently overcoming them?

Some of our challenges include finding volunteers. Most do not trust that a stranger or a start-up is truly invested in their livelihood. Overcoming this setback is precisely what VeryLoudYouth is about: developing social-minded young leaders who will in turn influence their peers to improve themselves and their communities.

  1. How do you fund your programs? Current needs for Very Loud Youth, etc.

We are currently awaiting 501(c)(3) status. Our programs are funded by in-kind donations from individuals, groups, and local (Nigerian) companies. We are now seeking partners willing to:

  • Donate new and used books for children up to 13 years-old.
  • Refurbish classrooms at our partner schools.
  • Fund prizes for essay contest winners.
  • Promote our mission.

6. How can people get involved?

7. Parting words

While youth empowerment is necessary everywhere in the world, Nigerian youth face acute challenges. Young people make up over half of Nigeria’s population, yet they are the most vulnerable. Our youth must believe in their own power to create change and that they can succeed in their own country. We can prepare our youth to unleash (in a positive way) the human capital of our great country. To do this, Nigerian youth should be (1) convinced that their voices can make a difference; and (2) be empowered to actively influence the policies that affect them.

The VeryLoudYouth team and contributors would like to thank Philly Nigeria for this platform to tell our story.

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