As the Tools for Recovery tour draws to a close, Tim Kamaboakai from Liberia YMCA reflects on his time visiting YMCAs across the UK to talk about the Tools for Recovery campaign to rebuild lives after Ebola.
For the past two weeks, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of visiting Y Care International and many YMCAs in the UK. Y Care International has been a longstanding partner of the Liberia YMCA, with over 20 years of collaboration and support for a wide range of projects ranging from education to employment, health and governance. I came into closer contact with Y Care International when I managed a project supporting youth livelihoods and governance in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
I’m highlighting this because this was a very important turning point in my career: being able to work more closely with disadvantaged young people and communities, but also benefitting from technical support, mentoring and guidance from Y Care International Staff. This experience greatly enhanced my competence in value-based youth and community work, project management, financial oversight and organizational development issues, among others. As such, a visit to YCI was more than exciting for me as I am aware of the numerous projects in over 20 countries across the world.
As always, the reception was very warm and welcoming and I’m elated that staff took time over the weekend to take me around London and show me places of interest. London is a city bustling with his history and a rich diversity of cultures, which is reflected in the infrastructures, the people and the way of life.
The tour took us to Stoke, Rotherham, Liverpool and Winchester, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Swansea. It was a great experience meeting many YMCA staff, volunteers and beneficiaries very passionate about the work they do, but also highly interested in learning about what YMCAs around the world are doing. The highlight of this tour was meeting the General Secretary of YMCA Europe, Juan Simoes.
YMCAs around the world are doing incredible work in their communities, responding to the challenges faced by young people. One key point to note is that the YMCAs have a clearly defined target: young people; and this target is engaged in diverse ways. I shared our YMCA’s focus in Employment, Governance, Health and Education and it was interesting to know that though we work in completely different parts of the world, our focuses are similar, directed at the same target group, but in different contexts in which we work. This makes it easy to drive the point that we are building a better world, investing in young people by addressing the issues that affect them. Together, we are empowering young people to be agents of change by thinking globally as they act locally to build a better world.
I was deeply moved by the level of interest in the Ebola crisis. This has been on the news in every country, taking the headlines, but has silently faded as the peak of the emergency diminished. Though ebola is gone from Liberia, the effects will have a long lasting impact on the economy and socio-cultural aspects of our lives. The families that have lost love ones and do not even have a place of memorial to decorate their graves, the children now without parents and the survivors that now face stigma.
There are also many people that rely on the informal economy and subsistence farming, all of which were affected. It is the resilience of these people that has helped us to defeat Ebola and it is this resilience that will propel them to revitalize an economy that was already stagnated; thus, maintaining the already fragile peace in the country. However, there is a need for massive support and investment in helping these people to engage in sustainable farming or business ventures that would enhance their resilience to future challenges.
It’s important to draw people’s attention to this reality as many people in the UK and other parts of the world have forgotten about the aftermath. YMCA staff and volunteers are determined not to let people forget the long term effects, which is driving the ‘Tools for Recovery’ campaign. Tools for Recovery will increase public health education and awareness, improve sanitation of communities, and provide skills training & business support so young people can engage in some form of income generating activities. Every penny raised through this campaign will be matched by the UK government under the UK Aid Match, so please give today.
My mission to the UK is over and I will be returning home with very fond memories of the people, the events and the places; but most importantly, the level of engagement and understanding that has renewed my commitment to foster the empowerment of young people for the African Renaissance.