African youth make a difference in society. Unfortunately, their positive influence is overshadowed by media portrayal of them as victims of corrupt regimes and dysfunctional economies or a potential source of socio-political destabilization. This is one side of the story and definitely not representative of all African youth. The other story, often neglected or hardly acknowledged, is of young African agents of positive change in their communities. This story is emerging in various forums that recognize youth as agents of social change.
Let us all lead through simple acts of Gratitude
How do you see the role of youth in philanthropy?How did you benefit from participating at the EAAG annual conference?
“The EAAG conference opened my eyes and deepened my understanding of philanthropy. I realized that we could do little things to change communities. I agree with the chair of the EAAG that we need not wait until we are rich or wealthy to start being philanthropic or start giving… I was inspired to see myself as an East African. As I interacted with participants from other countries, it was clear that problems we face in our different countries can be addressed through working together. I made new friends and our discussions helped me reflect on the issues civil societies face in Kenya… At the conference, I learned that the problems of we face as Literate Kenya are also faced by other youth organizations in the country and there are hands to hold us through the journey. We agreed to form a movement that will incorporate youth in philanthropy in East Africa as a way of pulling together resources for communities and ensuring there is a lasting effect in our programs. The Chief Executive of the EAAG, Nicanor Sabula, supported our idea.”
“A total of 8 youth from different countries were nominated for the [EAAG] Youth in Philanthropy award. I am proud to congratulate a fellow Kenyan, Ephantus Maina, who got the award. Young people have always been despised as individuals who cannot do much in the area of giving. The youth are changing. We are no longer leaders of tomorrow. We are leaders of today. By learning and interacting with knowledge and skill, we will make a difference.
What message do you have for African youth?
I would like to rally the youthful generation of this country to adopt a cause and commit to giving. In addition we need to realize that what we consider small may make a difference in the life of another Kenyan, East African and African. We have always had the thought that donors are guys from abroad who have lots of money and give after they have become wealthy! Africans, East Africans, Kenyans and more so the youth can become donors… I must commend Safaricom Foundation for demystifying the concept of philanthropy by asking Kenyans to give back to their communities through Talent and Expertise… This is a new dawn for the young generation and for East Africa. To all the youth and citizens of East Africa, Let us all lead through simple acts of Gratitude, Lets all be philanthropists! Tusaidiane! Tuchanuane!”
Scofield Murilu, Director of Operations, Literate Kenya.
At the 2012 East Africa Association of Grantmakers (EAAG) annual conference (Entebbe, Uganda), several young men and women from eastern Africa showcased their philanthropic activities. A session on Youth and Philanthropy focused on national and regional initiatives promoting youth volunteering as a way of building social capital and cohesion. Agnetta Nyalita, an alumnus of one such initiative, shared her inspiring story of how she became a youth volunteer and founder of an organization. She represents an increasing number of African youth volunteers who are devoted to finding solutions to social and economic problems in their countries and beyond. They are changing the face of youth volunteers in Africa. They are inspiring their peers and younger generation to give their time, energy and talents towards improving the lives of their community and wider society. In one of her postings on her blog “Hands on Africa,” Agnetta shows that youth volunteering develops the self as much as the community.
Happy Kidney Foundation- Raising Renal Health Awareness in KenyaThe EAAG presents a Young Philanthropist of the Year Award in recognition of the outstanding contribution young east African philanthropists make to their communities. The nominees for the 2012 award are among an increasing number of young founders of civic organizations and foundations addressing a range of social and economic problems in their communities. The award winner, Ephantus Muhonyo Maina, founded the Happy Kidney Foundation an organization that meets the need for public awareness and education on the prevention and management of chronic diseases.
Literate Kenya, a nominee for the Young Philanthropists Award, organizes book drives in support of that lack textbooks. One of the organization’s founders asked his friends to help him get textbooks for a cousin who could not afford them. When they went to present the books to his cousin, they learned that pupils in her school did not have textbooks. They organized a book drive with the aim of collecting enough books for the school. This experience led to the formation of Literate Kenya. It organizes book drives for schools in different parts of Kenya.These and other examples show there is a group of young Africans who see the problems they face at the individual personal level as an example of what others are experiencing in the community or nationally. They have turned their efforts in finding solutions to personal problems as an opportunity to find solutions for similar problems in the community, country and region. This has led to the creation of organizations dealing with issues that seem to fall through the cracks of macro political and economic reform processes. Often these issues directly concern the youth, such as gaps in public health information, choosing healthy lifestyles, quality of education and livelihood opportunities.Young African philanthropists at the EAAG conference exemplify ways in which they benefit their community (Copeland-Carson 2012, 144). They are not waiting for elders to give them permission nor international donors to give them money, before they act on their ideas for change. They have found ways to act despite great personal economic constraints, their elders’ skepticism about their leadership abilities, and international donors’ doubts about their capacity to do something of value. They find creative ways of mobilizing talents, energy, and time of their peers and younger people to address a variety of problems in their communities. They do so not only nationally but also globally, like Edna Akullo, one of the founders of Self Help Foundation Uganda, who brings together young people from countries in and outside of Africa to help her improve lives of children affected by war in her community. They use social media and the internet to mobilize support, showcase their work and share what they have learned. Blogs like Agnes’ “Hands on Africa” and Literate Kenya Blog provide an interesting perspective on how young African philanthropists, social entrepreneurs and social change agents understand their role as social change agents. They see themselves as leading change and making a positive lasting contribution.Bertha Kadenyi Amisi
 Copeland-Carson, J. 2012, “Pan-Africanizing Philanthropy: Toward a Social Theory of An Emerging Sector” in Transnational Africa and Globalization, eds. M.O. Okome & O. Vaughan, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp. 125-153.