The people behind the statistics - the refugee crisis in syria

The people behind the statistics - the refugee crisis in syria

In 2015, when a photograph surfaced of three year old Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish shore, it sent shockwaves through our country. This was not a black and white image from a time that did not belong to us. It was a crystal clear image of a child dressed just like any child we might pass laughing in the street and it cast the plight of the refugee crisis into broad daylight. We could no longer turn a blind eye. That was, until the next day when this confronting image slipped straight back into the forgotten archives of our memory.

As we pause to observe World Refugee Day 2016, we face a global crisis with the greatest displacement of people since WW2. These events will be written into the history books of generations to come and yet we continue to ignore, worse, criticise the millions of people begging for our aid right now.

The negative attitudes that are prolific throughout Australia were further highlighted to me a few weeks ago whilst working in my local cafe. I was completely disturbed by a comment made by an elderly gentleman as he scanned through the newspaper whilst waiting for his coffee. Shaking his head, he murmured “ahh these bloody refugees”.

To say I was shocked is an understatement. Have we become that desensitised to refugees that we have lost our perspective of what these numbers represent? When we see figures of hundreds of thousands, millions of people forced to flee their country, has our ability to sympathise become so tainted that we no longer comprehend these numbers as humans just like ourselves?

It would be ignorant for me presume this man may not have his own reasons that have built up over time resulting in a resistance to foreign entities. Perhaps he has lived through wars that impacted him in a way I can only imagine.

However it is these negative stigmas associated with refugees that need to be broken down, and soon.

March 15 marked five years of war in Syria. Since 2011, over four million people have fled Syria, more than half of those children. The conflict has resulted in the deaths of up to 470,000 human beings just like you and I. As Filippo Grandi UNHCR High Commissioner states “Syria is the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time, a continuing cause of suffering for millions which should be garnering a groundswell of support around the world”.

These refugees are the definition of desperation. Try to imagine travelling across the waters of the Aegean Sea, piled into a rubber boat with 50 other people. A boat with a safety capacity of 15. Sandwiched on top of one another, young, unaccompanied children surround you and the air temperature plummets to freezing with no land in sight. What dire circumstances must these people be fleeing for this to be their best option?

Let’s not forget these journeys of life or death to new countries follow loss of belongings, homes and family members. These people have essentially been stripped of their identity to date. This is just one picture of the millions of unimaginable circumstances people are being faced with.

If it takes is a confronting A4 photograph sprawled across the front of the newspaper to humanise these numbers, then that is what we should be doing every day. Because there are over four million of those photographs waiting to be taken and more importantly, stories to be told.

Let’s learn from the injustices that have come before us and refuse complacency at the very time we have the greatest responsibility to act. I have faith that older gentleman in my café can shed the negative stigma he holds and one day, when he hears the word refugees and sees those numbers, remember they are human beings with the same human rights as himself.


Life, Love and Personal Growth

Life, Love and Personal Growth with Karl Lokko

To stand in a room full of strangers and be completely transparent about your life – where you have come from and where you are heading, is no easy feat. At YGAP’s latest community meeting guest speaker Karl Lokko opened his heart to close on 100 people, providing a glimpse of a life most will never know, and it was awe inspiring. A former gang leader from London, who admits he was“running to a dead end”, Karl lived a life consumed by drugs and crime. He was the embodiment of our global systemic failings – dismissing and pleading ignorant to minority groups so clearly crying out for help. Karl opened with a poem and with every rhythmic sentence that followed, the room was transfixed.

Karl’s earnest description of his decision to become a gang member in order to protect himself and his family sounded so pragmatic. From a young age he distinguished that his unblemished report card would not stop kids in gangs from harassing both he and his family so “if you can’t beat them, join them”. With this decision came years of pain and trauma, dealing drugs, being shot at more times than he had birthdays, being stabbed in the back and watching his best friend die from a bullet on the pavement next to him.

It was a life too heavy for anyone to deal with, let alone a child. Karl admitted he knew his actions were diminishing his future but that he had reached a stage so far gone, he was unable to care – “living life like a gamble, my life a casino”.

This is where pastor Memi entered the story – a woman with whom Karl credits a large part of his reformation out of the gang world. The mother of his right hand man, Memi played a pivotal role in coercing six members of the gang to leave, reminding them “life – it aint got no reset button”. She was able to see past society’s label of them as “worthless criminals”, rather acknowledging they were simple children that had taken a wrong turn and with some guidance and love, could be redirected.

You could say Pastor Memi indirectly led Karl to where he stands today as a, activist and social influencer. He speaks so earnestly of the power of love and support, “that talking is growth and growth is healing” and to never underestimate what compassion can do for a fellow human being. He condemns the notion that we are defined by what we do, instead recognising that people can make bad decisions or be dealt a bad hand, but that this should not define their status as a human being.

Rather than respond reactively to problems we are faced with in society, Karl aspires to channel the approach of Pastor Memi – changing attitudes and offering support. Short-term answers don’t yield long-term sustainability. Throwing money at a social problem won’t eradicate that issue. In his own words, “there’s youth running round like there’s no jail”, so incarcerating a misguided teenager won’t necessarily deter others or break the cycle of offending. Karl is a shining example of someone who has seen both sides of the spectrum and chose the path less travelled, dedicating his future to helping others see the light of hope in darkness.

His final words still echo – “If we can’t see hope in the mirror, how can we see hope in the sinner?”

A huge thank you to Jane Tewson and the team at Igniting Change for bringing Karl into our lives. An unforgettable experience.

SOURCE: HTTP://WWW.KARLLOKKO.COM/


This Mother’s Day I challenge you

This Mother’s Day I challenge you

There are days created specifically to celebrate people that have been fundamental pillars in our lives. Today we stop to acknowledge mothers globally carrying out what is arguably the most important and challenging job in the world. Whether its shaping our future leaders or simply teaching children how to tie their shoelace, mums are on the front line, handing this world over from one generation to the next. So, this Mother’s Day I challenge you to imagine a world where your mother’s life was lost in the process of bringing you into the world. A world where due to something that could have been avoided, your life was lost and with it, her chance to love a child. A world where if you both survived, she was denied the basic support she needs to grow you into the best version of you she possibly can. Every day, at least 20 women in rural Kenya die during childbirth. Lack of access to medical facilities and timely maternal health information are the key reasons for this tragedy. Their ability to mother and love a child is defined by their socio economic status and geolocation. When I think about Mother’s Day I think about arguments with my siblings – what tea towel to buy, what photo we should have framed or trying to remember what flowers mum doesn’t hate. The squabbles over who would be tasked with making mum breakfast in bed, when looking back, she probably would have rather eaten at the table. Now, a few years older and I can look back on my childhood through an objective lens. I would tell my younger self to stop focusing on these trivial notions and appreciate the woman standing in front of you. This Mother’s Day, I challenge you to think of all the times she made sacrifices for you or lost sleep worrying about you. I also challenge you to think about what pending motherhood might look like for a woman in rural Kenya. She will make those same sacrifices, have the same worries, but she also might die bringing her child into the world or be robbed of the chance to love a child who doesn’t make it out alive. Now let me tell you about a group of Kenyans who did something incredible for mothers (and fathers) in Kenya. A group of local leaders with a solution to a local problem. With YGAP’s support they developed Totohealth, an SMS and voice technology reducing maternal and child mortality while also detecting developmental abnormalities in early stages of pregnancy and a child’s life. Totohealth enables parents to receive targeted, personalised messages linked to their stage of pregnancy or child’s age, highlighting warning signs in their health or development and providing access to timely care if required. With 21,126 parents currently registered across 6 counties, Totohealth’s reach has been instrumental in providing these women with a hopeful future as mothers. It is a privilege women in developed nations are blessed with and Totohealth’s goal to provide every mother an opportunity to safely bring another human life into the world inspires us every day. This mother’s day I’m going to tell my mum I love her and thank her. My challenge to you is to do the same – on behalf of the children who don’t get that chance and the mothers who will never hear it from a child they lost.


YGAP Impact Tour 2016

YGAP Impact Tour 2016 - Francesa Blundell

Day One – Sunday 31st July

‘If you can’t find any miracles in life, be the miracle for those around you’

Today the most impactful experience for me was definitely our meeting with Shile Thsalabala. Shile is a wonderful person who really opened my eyes to the fact it does not matter what mistakes one has made in the past, everyone still has the right to not only change themselves, but to change the environment around them for the better; by changing one’s mindset.

Sihle lives in and works to improve his township, Langa. We visited Langa and the digital educational enterprise Sihle runs. Everyone within the group was impressed and astonished by the professionalism and quality of work that he does. Sihle toured us around the old school and very proudly showed off the classrooms and equipment that he has installed into his coding school. It was so heart-warming and truly inspiring to hear his story and to be told that it was whilst serving time in prison for eleven years, Sihle realised that a change in lifestyle and decision-making was vital. The fact that he could move away from a life of crime and give back to the community was so profound. Whilst serving time in prison Sihle did more than change his attitude, he started the world’s first not-for- profit behind bars.

Day Two – Monday 1st August

‘Everyone deserves a fair second chance at life’

Beginning the day meeting Paul Talliard was the perfect way to put everyone in a good mood. Paul is an amazing man who runs an enterprise consisting of a furniture building team made up of ex-addicts or as Paul so succinctly puts it “people trying to get a fair second chance at life”. Paul also owns a recycling business a few minutes away. Both fitting and reselling old appliances is a method Paul uses to prevent these workers from taking the wrong path by staying in a sturdy job. The thing that struck me about Paul was the way he showed his workers that he cared. He was firm when talking to them to maintain authority however he would say to a passing man, “Hey Jimmy when you gonna come in and turn your life around?” and this showed he truly did care about people changing their ways and becoming better people. He would also speak highly of other workers in front of them.

When Paul was asked where he draws the line and has to ask people to leave he said that there is no line and that he will always give people a second chance if they are willing to change. This is something that not many people would honestly be able to say.

Next was lunch with Janine. It was so inspiring to see how she could pick herself up and come back fighting even stronger after the painful process of being forced to liquidate her company. While she was walking us through the factory it was heart-warming to see she had done everything by the book and all of the workers spoken to described working at Ukama as being a part of a big family.

An experience of today that will always resonate with me was the visit to the crèche. Although the never-ending affection and songs from the adorable three, four and five-year olds was oh, so gorgeous, it was the principal who was truly inspiring. Finding out that she had given away all of her furniture in order to turn her house into a creche was absolutely astounding. Liz was a truly unique person to encounter and could only be described as an angel. The power of generosity and forgiveness were very valuable lessons today.

Day Three – Tuesday August 2nd

‘Each one, teach one’

Today began with a trip to Robben Island. Thinking about such vile and horrendous acts such as apartheid happening so recently in the past is sickening, however it was important to learn more about it and be aware of the events. Seeing Nelson Mandela’s cell where he was held for eighteen years was extremely eerie and dark. The stories of Mandela’s motivation, optimism and positivity was a great way to represent all the motivating, stunning and intriguing people we had met over the previous four days. Our visit to the primary school in the Philippi township was extremely uplifting and a breath of fresh air in a way. Walking into a room filled with bright-faced kids who were just so happy and pure was a truly joyous moment. This is an after-school preprogram devised by Bulelani Futshane.

After a lot of dancing and singing about the importance of recycling, everyone’s spirits were significantly lifted.

Day 4 – Wednesday August 3rd

“don’t buy me meat, teach me to hunt”

Never have I come across such a vibrant, energetic and loving person in my life. Lebo Bogapane is a wonderful woman who has endured so much heartache and devastation in her life, yet finds the love within her to devote her time, money and skills to help children who have endured the worst situations possible. Lebo energetically runs a centre that supports and hosts children and teenagers who have been victims of physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse. Upon arrival, we were greeted with smiling faces and gorgeous songs. After being taken around the centre and shown all the facilities, we gathered together for a ceremony.

The kids showed us how much they knew about abuse and how open they were to speak about the issues surrounding the topic. It was jaw-dropping to listen to these brilliant kids who had been victims themselves, talk so matter-of- factly about such a sensitive topic, explaining to us how if one were abused there are steps one must follow to report someone and fix the situation. A group of boys and girls performed a magnificent song and dance for us. Passion and pride were presented during the dance and the kids had such impressive, mesmerising voices. Lebo is a person who will always stick in my memory for being so heartfelt and genuine when talking about her work. She demonstrated that she isn’t in it for the praise or money, but the fact that she genuinely wants to make a difference in these young people’s lives. The energy that she brings forth is so empowering and inspirational.

Day 5 – Friday August 5th

“It is not possible to teach someone how to learn”

A truly remarkable experience today was seeing how far our support goes and further reminded me why we are doing this. Noni Masina founded The African School for Excellence and my goodness does it live up to its name. Each student, or should I say scholar as the kids referred to it, utterly blew everyone away with the way they presented themselves, their social awareness and vocabulary. We were shown around the impressively large school and its many classrooms and facilities. With each classroom I visited, I was further comforted that our contribution was being stretched as far as possible. Every room was filled with talented teachers, engaged kids and appropriate learning tools to match. The spark and fire in the kids’ eyes, along with the goals of becoming lawyers, doctors and scientists, really proved their determination for a quality education.

Day 6- Friday the 5th of august

Today we were privileged enough to listen to the pitches of eight female impact entrepreneurs starting or developing their own small businesses through the SHE by Spark program. It was really inspiring to see the thorough planning that each of these women went through to pitch their ideas to us. A personal favourite of mine was a lady who uses natural indigenous African materials to create sanitary napkins. This business not only supplies sanitary products to girls who would have in other circumstances not had access, but also creates jobs and income for the women in the community. All of the women’s businesses had great impact on the community from education to beauty products. Hearing from such bold and inspiring ladies was a great way to end the trip.


The non-profit journey

The non-profit journey - Aaron Tait

Eight years ago Kaitlin and I started Spark International, from our little house in Boko, Tanzania. We had no money, no connections and no real idea of how to run a non-profit. But with passion, conviction and lots of hard work we stopped talking about the change we wanted to see in the world, and launched an organisation to try and do something.

When we moved back to Australia, we met loads of amazing young people who had also decided to try to make a difference in the world (including Elliot Costello from YGAP who we later merged with). The brilliant people we met were giving their all for a better environment, better schools, less poverty, less war, more support for those with disabilities, the reduction of stigma around mental health, and challenging race and gender stereotypes. As we grew our small organisations, we would catch up for drinks, sign leases on cheap co-working spaces and share ideas, wins and failures. Most of us were unpaid. All of us were trying our best.

Over the years, many of the organisations grew. Board meetings looked less like friends and family cheering us on and more like high-powered gatherings of accountants, lawyers and business leaders. Budgets we had to try change the world with became larger than we could have ever imagined and our workplace shifted from the local coffee shop to offices with leases, asset lists and risk management plans. Collectively we made a big difference. We changed things.

But in 2016 I noticed something interesting. We weren’t so young anymore. Most of these young founders were in their thirties. Many were married. Some had kids. And when we would meet up for drinks, most of us seemed really tired. By the end of last year 80 per cent of the young founders we had journeyed with for years had moved on from the non-profits that they started.

Some moved countries. Some moved into well paid corporate jobs. Some launched impact businesses and raised seed capital from the growing impact investment community. Some joined exciting new ventures that they hadn’t founded themselves.

At YGAP, the key leaders who made the decision to step up and build things are still at the helm. But as we learn from the experiences of our friends, we are getting smarter to make sure that we keep talent in the organisation. Here is what we are doing.

  1. Setting big goals. There is nothing like a challenging and bold goal to fire up a team. We want to change a million lives in the next two years. We want to continue the exponential growth of our fundraising campaigns. And we know this is just the beginning. Our plans post-2018 are starting to take shape and they are awesome.
  2. Taking breaks. Some of our most senior leaders are packing their bags and heading away for a few months to learn, be inspired by other organisations and recharge their batteries.
  3. Changing positions. Some of our leaders are shifting roles in the organisation to allow them to focus where their talents sit best, and also to allow for fresh talent and ideas to influence where we are headed.

What I have realised moving into 2017 is that social change is a marathon, not a sprint. All of us in this work (whether we are founders, volunteers or donors) should live deliberately and commit ourselves to a lifetime of impact.


The future is female: why we back local change

The future is female: why we back local change - Kaitlin Tait

It was about a year ago and I had arrived a little early for a speaking engagement. I was sitting down to do some work, when another female speaker arrived and quietly confessed how desperate she was for a wine to take the edge off her nerves – an all too familiar feeling for me.

I’d spoken at my fair share of panels, speeches and workshops, but for years I’d struggled to kick the fear and anxiety I associated with putting myself out there. I was incredibly passionate about my work but somehow always felt that the passion and expertise that I’d crafted over the previous eight years rarely translated into confident eloquence on stage. My audiences weren’t necessarily disappointed (I was on my way to mastering the art of ‘faking it until you make it’) but I always disappointed myself – constantly comparing myself to my impressive orator of a husband and the inspiring, confident, and well-spoken people I surrounded myself with. Unfortunately, this trend extended beyond just speaking engagements and into my day-to-day work experience.

For years, I had been navigating the rewarding yet challenging reality of starting a non-profit. In our early twenties, armed with relevant masters degrees and a healthy dose of idealism, my husband and I booked a one-way flight to Kenya, eager to ‘change the world’. We were on a mission to get the all-important on-the-ground experience most people drawn to working in International Development dream of. Nearly two years, three bouts of malaria, a curse from a witch doctor and a death threat later, we left East Africa with the realisation that true, sustainable social change is driven by local leaders with local solutions to the challenges faced by their communities. It wasn’t up to us to be Africa’s heroes. Rather, it was up to the incredible Kenyans and Tanzanians we met with great ideas and a deep understanding of their communities who simply needed the support, resources and confidence to get their ideas off the ground. And so we started Spark* International to find, accelerate and support these local leaders as they improve the lives of people living in poverty.

Fast forward five years and we joined forces with YGAP, creating a dream team which to date has helped 287 entrepreneurs grow the impact of their ventures and improved the lives of almost 300,000 people living in poverty. Entrepreneurs like Felix Kimaru of Totohealth who is providing an innovative, low cost SMS advice service to expectant mothers from conception through the child’s 5th birthday with the goal of reducing infant and maternal mortality. In a country where only 60 per cent of women are delivering their babies in a hospital and a similar percentage of children are vaccinated, Totohealth is seeing 93 per cent of their users deliver in a hospital and 90 per cent of babies receive their vaccinations. When Totohealth first started, they were reaching 300 women. They now are reaching 30,000 parents.

But this entrepreneurial journey for me was anything but smooth. In the early days, I battled with a strong case of imposter syndrome, questioning my ability at every turn while I watched the men around me ooze confidence. And I wasn’t alone. In every accelerator program we ran, I saw many of the same tendencies in the women-led ventures we supported and this concerned me.

Even more concerning was the reality faced by most women who pursued entrepreneurship or positions of leadership. In the startup world, there are around 131 corporate run accelerators, and a staggering 87 per cent of these are run by men. Y-Combinator – one of the world’s leading startup accelerators – has invested in more than 700 startups, but just 13 per cent of these are led by women. When it comes to venture capital, women receive only 3 – 5 per cent of the funding available and less than 5 per cent of venture capital firms are led by women. In Australia, just 20 per cent of startups are female founded and less than 30 per cent of tech roles are filled by women.

When we look at women in leadership more generally, the statistics are equally concerning. Women hold just 12 per cent of the world’s board seats and only 4.6 per cent of Fortune 500 CEO roles. Across the workforce, women are earning today what men were earning 10 years ago.

It’s clear the cards are often stacked against women as they venture into entrepreneurship, and we wanted to do something about it. So we developed SHE – an accelerator program aimed at finding and supporting women-led businesses improving the lives of women and girls living in poverty. A program designed by women to specifically address the unique challenges women face when trying to step up and lead in a decidedly male dominated field. A program supporting women like Lucy.

Lucy is a Kenyan entrepreneur and in Kenya, girls miss 3.5 million learning days per month due to lack of access to sanitary products. This contributes to high dropout rates in schools with serious social and economic consequences. Many communities also lack clean water, which leads to hygiene related illnesses. As a result, many young women do not always have access to clean underwear, let alone sanitary products. In response, Lucy developed SanPad – an innovative 70 per cent bio degradable two-in-one pad-pantie. The product is affordable, hygienic and disposable, negating the need for soap and water. Through our SHE program, Lucy has access to entrepreneurship training, ongoing support and funding to help her keep more young women healthy and in school.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely. The women we’ve worked with report huge benefits. In an all women forum they feel more willing to open up with honesty and vulnerability about the difficulties they face navigating gender discrimination or the daunting realities of pitching to an all male boardroom. They share techniques for approaching these situations, encouraging each other to use their feminine approach to their advantage, rather than feeling the need to emulate the men around them. They discuss the challenge of balancing work and family, drawing on the strength of other women in the room who are walking the same journey and facing the same barriers. Most importantly, we see a shift in mindset around what they are capable of. They see other women who’ve done it, and realise ‘if she can, I can’, feeling the power of a whole new tribe of women who have their back.

This year, we want to take SHE across the African continent to reach many more Lucy’s, but we are not the only cause for celebration. There are incredible groups right here in Australia and around the world working to balance the scales:

  • One Roofis a fantastic female centric co-working space in Melbourne giving women-led businesses access to a feminine space, events, entrepreneurship support and expert advice.
  • The Criterion Instituteis pioneering gender lens investing, encouraging companies and organisations to see investments they make and how they make them as a tool for creating a more equitable world for women.
  • Through global research, tools and services, events and other programs, Catalystexists to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion.
  • And there are other legends like SpringboardScale Investors, and She Starts, doing incredible work here in Australia to ensure female founders are getting the support and funding they need to grow.

To go back to that night when a fellow female speaker was reaching for the alcohol to calm the nerves, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t. I was calm, collected and confident. How did I get there? It has most definitely been through the vulnerability, honesty, and support of countless other women who have given me strength. Who have reminded me time and time again of what is possible, and that I have something unique and valuable to offer.

Now, as I plan to start a family and bring new life into this world, I still have cause for concern. Concern that my future daughter will not be afforded the same opportunities as my future son. That, like the many women who have come before her, she may be a minority around the boardroom table, in her STEM classes, and in the startup world.

And yet, I have cause for celebration, because I do believe that things will be better for her, thanks to the incredible groups who are tirelessly fighting to give women and girls an equal chance at success. Groups who are going beyond just counting the women at the table and are instead attempting to truly understand what women need to thrive. Groups providing the environment, policies and procedures, financial capital and social support to do so.

It took me a good five years to find my feet and confidence as an entrepreneur. Through our programs, we aim to get women there faster, helping them grow better businesses that create a better world for women and girls. Join us at YGAP. The Future is female.


How social entrepreneurs are tackling poverty in Kenya

How social entrepreneurs are tackling poverty in Kenya - Carol Kimari

With all of the studies available regarding Africa and Kenya in particular, one would think there is absolutely no hope of alleviating poverty and its related social ills. However, this is not the case. In the midst of bitter resentment, complaints and darkness portrayed by a misinformed, self-serving media, there are pockets of justice and good being propagated by individuals who refuse to live a world devoid of hope. These are the everyday heroes we should look to celebrate as they work tirelessly to bring Kenya out of dire straights.

Having been a social entrepreneur, I have experienced the many hurdles anyone working in business faces when trying to tackle poverty-related issues. It is a long, lonely road. Anyone willing to invest time, energy or resources into a business wants to see a significant return within three to five years. But this is not necessarily the case, or the target, for entrepreneurs seeking change in their communities. Rather than a return, they may be looking to provide employment for youth, alleviate disease, improve access to healthcare services or provide better living conditions in low socio-economic areas.

These are the reasons I have dedicated my life to helping my fellow Kenyans, through any means possible. It is not common for people looking to change lives to do so while also making money. Changing lives has always been associated with non-profit and NGO organisations. I believed otherwise, but I didn’t know how to go about it. Luckily, I came across Spark – who later merged with YGAP – and together, we are showing hundreds of passionate social entrepreneurs that they don’t have to die trying to save the world.

What does this mean for the economy? Suddenly, youth who were unemployed can find work and avoid spiralling into a life of crime, people are economically empowered and disease is radically reduced.

When some of these passionate entrepreneurs decide to tackle education-related injustices, be it female genital mutilation, a lack of sanitary education, or shortage of teachers, libraries or books, they work from the ground up. By improving access to education, they create sustainable ways of raising our children to become powerful levers for change.

We always say Kenya has a rich farming background, yet farmers remain some of our poorest members of society. Why? Because they lack markets, information and even the knowledge to produce globally acceptable crops. When our farmers are supported, we see phenomenal growth. Not only can they grow world-class crops, they can send their children to school and create jobs for the unemployed.

It is a well-rounded trip, the support of Social entrepreneurs and our dedication to supporting this group of powerful people will yield tangible results. In the end, people will realise it is the most effective way to alleviate poverty, over and above the standard, vanilla and socially accepted methods.


Fear of starting a business

Fear of starting a business - By Palesa Mabidilala  - YGAP Country Director, South Africa

When people think about starting a business, a number of thoughts come to mind. Freedom to do my own thing, freedom to own my time, no more crazy bosses. But not all thoughts are positive. There are thoughts of being broke, losing assets, changing lifestyle, failure and the list goes on. We have been fed ideas by the media or people we know who have ventured into business and it can all of a sudden become a very overwhelming experience.

I have worked with numerous entrepreneurs and all of these thoughts are valid, because most entrepreneurs have experienced them in one way or another. And yet they are still in it. They still do it. They still push forward. Because there is something incredible about living your dreams and fulfilling your destiny.

It’s difficult to take the plunge and uncomfortable to face uncertainty. We start to create excuses for ourselves to justify our inability to act. If you are holding back on doing something for yourself, then these excuses will be very familiar to you.

   1    My idea isn’t good enough

We are always waiting for the next great thing, the next ‘innovation’. The word, innovation itself has become synonymous with a new product, a new invention, but this is a misconception. To innovate is to do things differently. Whether it’s doing something faster, better, cheaper, it’s doing it differently and telling everyone why your product or service is better, because you did it differently. Some of the most successful companies are based on refining earlier ideas and innovations.

   2    I’m too scared 

I hate to break it to you, but you will never stop being afraid. Of course we have fears – we are not psychopaths. Fears guide us, but they can also cripple us and hold us back. Don’t try and kill your fears, they will just be replaced with new fears and you will be in a constant battle with yourself.

The key is to act in spite of fear. Acknowledge your fears and act anyway, because our actions are the only things we can control, not the ‘what ifs’.

   3    I’m not good enough – don’t have the right skills, contacts etc.

You don’t need a degree to become an entrepreneur, as evidenced by numerous and successful entrepreneurs including Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Ray Kroc, Coco Chanel – the list goes on. Everything you need is within reach. To do your job well, you had to learn a skill. To run a household, you had to learn a skill. There is absolutely nothing that you do today that you didn’t have to learn to do at some point in your life. If you need to learn a skill, you can find someone to teach you. Read, intern, volunteer – do something! We learn by doing, so get up and start learning. The more you do it, the better you become and the better you become, the more attractive you become to other people and start building the right contacts to help you do more of it. Just do it!

   4    I need funding to start.

As an ex-financier, this was something I heard too many times – “I can’t do anything without money.”  I can assure you, you are unlikely to get funding if you have nothing to show for it. If you can’t show that you are willing to do whatever it takes to prove how great your product can be, then you are not worth the investment. To be an entrepreneur, you need to master the art of making the most of what you have. Start small to prove that your product or service can work. That will at least show the funder potential, and money will follow.

   5    I don’t have the time.

Really? The truth my friend is that you don’t know how to prioritise. You make a choice about how you want to spend your time. You choose to do the things you do with your time. If you need more time, then you are going to need to start prioritising.

   6    I don’t know what business to start

This is a big one for most people. Whenever I host workshops on starting a business, this question seems to come up a lot. What business should I start? Where am I likely to be most successful? My advice? Choose something you love, something you are committed to, something that you would do even if you weren’t paid to do it. That is always the best business, because you will do it even when times are tough.

   7    It’s too risky.

As an entrepreneur, I can only say to you, if it isn’t risky, it would be boring and that just isn’t worth it. This is an uncertain journey; you just need to trust that you have the grit to get through all that life throws at you.

   8    I need everything to be ready before I do it

One of my favourite lessons was delivered by T Harv Eker when he said “Sloppy success is better than perfect mediocrity.” I had my ‘aha’ moment because I realised I was waiting for things to be perfect before I could make my move. Now I understand that perfection is only achieved by doing, because as you do more, you do better. You can never achieve perfection waiting to offer your product or service. The market determines that. You need to have a version of your product or service that is good enough for the market to test and give you solid feedback on – then you keep perfecting it. I don’t know a single successful entrepreneur who started out perfectly. Each one of them had to learn by doing, that is just the way it works. So don’t sit on it because it isn’t perfect. Remember, sloppy success!

   9    It will be too embarrassing if I fail.

Failure can be really embarrassing. I mean cringe-worthy stuff. At times you just want to jump into a hole and bury yourself over an embarrassing moment. From every failure though, I have learned great things about myself. For me, failure has become my greatest asset, because failure is feedback. I wouldn’t know as much as I do if it weren’t for all of my failures. So keep failing, keep learning and keep growing. iI only makes you more great.

I wish to leave you with one last thought. We have to be willing to live the lives we wish to live. We have to be willing to fail, to succeed, to learn, and to grow. We have to be willing to make tough decisions and to step out of our comfort zones.

Ask yourself – could I live my entire life never knowing what could have been? 

Take action and live!


The next generation of hope

The next generation of hope - by Becky Lim, year 10 MLC work experience student

As students come to the pointy end of school, where grades actually start to matter and afternoons are spent studying instead of watching Modern Family reruns, we find ourselves faced with a question. A question students struggle with, generation after generation. Where am I going? Not to get overly philosophical but we’ve just spent majority of our lives sitting in classrooms, listening to teachers, moving when the bells tell us to and being wherever our timetable tells us to be. Suddenly, people expect us to make choices that seem like they’re about to determine the rest of our lives. A choice that sees me sitting at a desk day in day out for about 60 years, before I retire and ultimately die. Considering that I have only just started to drive, I can’t legally drink alcohol or be called an adult, this is a daunting choice and seems unfairly important. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to change the world. I had no idea what shape or form this would present itself in but whether it be stopping climate change, fighting poverty, gender stereotypes, human rights or animal rights, I knew it had to change and I wasn’t going to sit around waiting for it to happen.

When my school’s work experience week was announced, I realised that I had to figure out what form, ‘changing the world,’ would take when it came to an actual job in the workplace. After multiple google searches of, ‘jobs that change the world,’ I decided that charities and not-for-profits were probably my best bet. I searched and called and searched and called but I was faced only with rejection each time. As the deadline loomed before me and as my friends found placements after a single call, I became less and less hopeful for the perfect placement. Eventually, I fell into the world of YGAP, and at last I had found my knight in shining armour.

As I combed through the YGAP website, I could have laughed at how perfect it seemed to be. I saw that it was a group of young and passionate people who were trying to change the world, one entrepreneur at a time. It seems important to note now that while my father is a doctor he is a business man at heart. From a young age, we watched Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank together, I read autobiographies of famous entrepreneurs and I was always, always reminded that the, ‘Lim way,’ was, “not I can’t but how can I?” As far as inspiring mottos go, I’m aware that it’s pretty lame, but it has driven me to find a way to do whatever I wanted to do, no matter how hard it seemed or how long it took. YGAP was young, passion-filled, entrepreneurial and, best of all, it was pioneering sustainable change.

As a student, I can confirm that the word sustainable is one of those big words that have been thrown around a lot recently, just like respect and leadership, without people really understanding the full extent of its meaning. To me, to be sustainable is to have a practice that you can continue or sustain, for years or for society to practice for thousands of years. Unfortunately, we are a fundamentally unsustainable society, the way we live our lives and the practices we have are not something we can continue for much longer. Cutting sleep in order to finish work every night isn’t sustainable, extreme dieting practices aren’t sustainable, our fashion industry isn’t sustainable and of course, the way we interact with the environment isn’t sustainable. More and more, we are seeing people moving towards sustainable practices in order to alleviate poverty, looking towards education and grass root organisations. Just like they say, give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. Over my time with YGAP, I have realised that this is one of the most unique aspects of their model, empowering the potential within other maybe less privileged change makers and allowing them to create permanent solutions to local problems, all across the globe.

At the moment the world is coming to a breaking point as we realise that there is only so far we can fall before you stop seeing the way out. People under the age of 30 make up over 50% of the world’s population, we are an invaluable resource that society continues to discard. This is why we need companies like YGAP more than ever. They are showing that being young does not equate being clueless or naïve but means that they have no shortage of passion and hope and determination and a vision for a better world. A vision where every child wakes up and has breakfast, and they all go to school with a packed lunch in their bags. They come home and play outside with their friends because they’re happy and free and safe. A vision where there is no place you go where you can hear the cries of hungry children and the silent weeping of mothers who give up their and the hard work of fathers who do not get paid enough for a bed to sleep in when they come home. I may be young, people may say I don’t understand or that I am only a dreamer, but I know that this is a world in which I believe, a world that I will fight for. So, do not worry, it is not only Y-generation against poverty.