If there is such a force called impact that drives and propels a person, then Osakuade Ifeoluwa is living his life with by that force. Ifeoluwa started Young Shapers Club in 2016 with his friend after visiting an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Durumi Abuja. Seeing the terrible living conditions of women and children who fled their homes and properties in Borno, Maiduguri, because of terrorist insurgency, he decided to do something to change the reality of these young children.
He talks about the how challenging it was at the beginning for these IDPs to settle down due to the fact that the land they built tents on and converted to a refugee camp was owned by the government, which posed a few challenges they had to overcome before allowing them to settle there.
After organizing a Christmas party for the children in 2016, they began teaching them lessons with the help of volunteers in the evening after working hours. However, he noticed that the children could be very violent amongst themselves and on further investigation came to realize that the intense grueling violence the children were exposed to- even some of their own fathers had been killed before their very eyes- instilled that trait in them. Since they took them evening lessons and couldn’t afford to enroll them at the time, he decided to get them occupied during the day.
Ifeoluwa then started an entrepreneurship club, built a poultry from one of the shanties on the camp and put the children in charge of it. The children were being taught entrepreneurship practically, encouraged to sell their eggs and mature chickens to visitors with the money used to take care of their miscellaneous needs. However, the entrepreneurship project didn’t last for long when he travelled overseas for a course coupled with attrition of volunteers caused largely by the language and religious barrier. The more powerful adults in the camp took over, sold off the items and spent both the profit and capital rather than reinvesting the capital.
Over the years, YSC has achieved quite some growth rate which includes enrolling about 17 children in school in 2017 to 122 children in 2018! Some of the children were enrolled in public schools and others in private schools based on their capability and needs. With a total of about 400 children in the camp, there is still a lot more to be done but finance is a really big challenge the YSC team faces to keep the children enrolled in school. The challenge is definitely not insurmountable as one of the priorities of the YSC team this year and going forward is building an investment fund that will not only help these children remain in school but also enrol more children.
Ifeoluwa says he doesn’t expect much from the government anymore after a failed attempt to to get the officer in charge of education for IDPs to step in. He emphasizes on the need for young people to rise up to the challenge of providing innovative solution for young children in the IDPs. In his words “If young people do not rise up to the task of rehabilitating these young people, particularly in the areas of providing them access to education, then we should be prepared to face the threat they would pose to society the next few decades down the line when our generation would be in government.”
One of the very strong beliefs of this remarkable young leader is that all young people have a role to play in doing social work and shaping the society into the greatness we want it to be. Even though he acknowledges how difficult it might be for young people who are working and trying to transition in society, especially in developing countries, having started Young Shapers Club even whilst working a regular job, he asserts that they can get involved- whether it is volunteering to teach 2 hours a week or using their weekends. Still, he advocates for young people to take on social projects they are passionate about to ensure they drive lasting impact and not just jump on the bandwagon of ‘volunteering’ or doing social work because it is trendy and looks good on their resume. Alluding to his experience on the field -where he sees young people who hire media houses just to distribute snacks, sweets, biscuits, without thinking of lasting, meaningful impact- he advises young people to pay attention to pursuing impact, thinking long term because that is what guarantees a secure, peaceful society.
Apart from teaching STEM education to the children with the aid of electronic tablets donated by the Israeli Embassy in Nigeria, the Young Shapers Club also partners with another organization, Smart Kids Zone where the children go to learn coding and other technological skills during their holidays that can help them stay relevant and function in today’s world. Speaking of collaboration, Ifeoluwa believes there is a lot that can and will still happen in terms of collaboration, albeit stressing the importance of the need for organisations purely driven by impact and not just putting up a face for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Currently, YSC doesn’t have the capacity to migrate the children into regular living conditions and into families but from time to time, the children are brought out of the camp to help them assimilate into regular society living. YSC measures its impact in terms of the educational growth of the children, their outlook and interpersonal skills and so far, Ifeoluwa says there has been quite significant improvement as compared to when they first encountered the children in 2016 so much so they can easily pass across as regular children. And the team is looking forward to utilizing technology more in their learning and other extracurricular activities.
Ife advises other young people to take up the challenge, dispel their fears and start out social projects they are passionate about. In his words, “Just start. You don’t need all you think you need to start; the forces of nature that know your intention will support you to succeed”. He firmly discourages expecting so much from people at the initial stage as he believes that when you start and are consistent, people will believe in you and support you because your results will be evident.