I had an opportunity to interview Mr Michael Boampong, the Executive Director of Young People We Care, based in Kumasi, Ghana. YPWC is no ordinary NGO and Michael is no ordinary young man, by anyone's standards. Operated by young people, for young people, YPWC exploits new media to create links with like-minded individuals and organisations around the world to enhance opportunities for young people here in Ghana.
Welcome Michael, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m the founder of and currently work as the Executive Director of Young People We Care (YPWC). I completed a four-year undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Coast, majoring in Economics and Geography, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Sciences. I’m passionate about youth empowerment and believe that youth must be empowered now to ensure a brighter tomorrow for everyone.
I am also an advisory board member of the Bangladesh Youth Parliament, and the Country Representative of UNICEF Rural Voices of Youth. I am currently doing national service with the United Nations Development Programme, Ghana.
YPWC, founded in 2005, is a youth-led and -focused organisation that is headquartered in Ghana, with satellite offices in the United Kingdom and Canada. The organisation is operated by young people aged ten to thirty-five years and adult partners working on youth-and development-related issues worldwide.
Basically, we aim to educate, inform and inspire youth participation in global issues, to build sustainable partnerships aimed at youth development, and to provide young people with the tools and resources to take action themselves.
We believe that through informing and engaging youth, they will be inspired to get involved and take action to improve their local communities. For example, we have held workshops on communication skills and report writing for youth in far-flung regions of Ghana with sponsorship from Disney, which might seem surprising but it’s brilliant to see the youth in those areas organizing themselves and responding to these inputs.
And we believe that this is how we can change the world. So, we try to create a platform for youth to translate what they have learnt into action and involve them in decision making on key developmental and global issues.
The online volunteering programme provides opportunities for volunteers to provide support and assistance “virtually”, in other words, they volunteer via the internet. The virtual volunteer programme is innovative and, of course, cost effective for all involved. Volunteers can work from anywhere and don’t have to travel all the way to Ghana just to help out; they can volunteer in their pyjamas in their rooms anywhere in the world.
Our online volunteering programme started through the UN Online Volunteering system in 2006. You can see that the site is divided into two parts: one for the volunteers and the other for the organizations.
When I started YPWC, it was hard for partners to trust the capability of our team because we had no record of successful project management to go on. Realizing that it would be hard to mobilize funding to get the organisation started, I decided to search for assistance from experts online for things like the design of a website and the brochure. These would normally cost a significant amount of money. That’s when I came across UN Online Volunteering and it has proved very helpful for YPWC. Currently the monthly newsletters and the YPWC website updates are carried out by UN Online Volunteers. Acknowledging the impact of UN Online Volunteers assistance to YPWC, in August 2008 the UNV featured YPWC in their newsletter. Honestly, the assistance and expertise given by virtual volunteers has changed the face of YPWC. It has provided greater opportunities and benefits for us and those we work with, despite the limited funding we received from donor organizations and individuals. We’re still working with online volunteers today.
Occasionally we post volunteer opportunities online through the official YPWC website or the UN Online Volunteer website. Interested volunteers who meet our criteria for a particular project or assignment are contacted and given a final work schedule and details about any support they might need. The great thing is that they can sit in a small or big town anywhere across the globe and help. You can work as a virtual volunteer without stepping outside your home; you only need to have a reliable internet access on your computer. We have an online group that volunteers join and that’s where we do a lot of chatting, cross-checking, and planning.
In the past months, our online volunteers have helped to create bi-monthly newsletters, moderate online discussions on the theme of migration, proof-read documents, and assist with website construction and management. Currently they are helping in the creation of a Youth Action Guide as well.
If anyone wishes to know more, they can contract Shimrit Janes, one of our lead volunteers, at Janes@ypwc.org.
We communicate via email and also through social networks. On urgent matters we use SKYPE phone calls or have instant chats.
I work with our YPWC staff to create opportunities for online volunteers. I assist online volunteers if they need more details about volunteer opportunities. I provide input to ensure that the tools or materials being created will actually meet the objectives of the project for which they are being designed.
They come from all over the world: United Kingdom, Canada, Cameroon, Philippines, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Bulgaria, India, and USA.
We know that blogging is very effective in sharing and spreading knowledge and ideas, especially for those who traditionally do not have a “voice”—and that usually means youth. As such, the YPWC Blog has been created to meet one of our main objectives: to provide a “youthful voice” for the leaders of tomorrow.
We’re encouraging YPWC’s staff, volunteers and friends to write and engage in discussions concerning the thematic areas of YPWC’s work like youth and migration. We hope it will provide an ongoing platform to showcase YPWC’s work and that of those connected with YPWC, too.
We are now inviting writers to come and post. If you are interested, please visit our info page for more details.
How will it work? Who’s managing it? What do you hope to achieve from it?
We are looking for original content. We do have guidelines about posting that will be provided upon acceptance to post, including obtaining permission from copyright owners before posting copyrighted materials, and verifying facts before posting–all the usual conditions. We're OK with posts on our blog being posted elsewhere, provided YPWC is credited and the actual blog post is linked to.
The Blog is being managed by YPWC’s Online Community Manager who can be reached at Oluwakorede.Asuni@ypwc.org
For now we are not connected with any Ghanaian bloggers, which we hope to change. We have received applications from Nigerian bloggers, which is excellent.
Currently, our most active social media network is Facebook. You can check out our page here.
I hope to specialize in migration issues in future and continue to connect with youth everywhere to take action for change.
Thank you very much for taking the time to share your fantastic experiences working with young people in Ghana and telling us how you are making the most of new media.