In all of my work with young people, this is one question I have found most outstanding and thought provoking. It came from a teenage girl who is a student at the D. Twe Memorial High School. She was one of several young people attending a Hi-Y leadership workshop.
Probably, the most potent way to answer the question is to ask “How do people become corrupt?” The Holy Bible says “Bribery corrupts the heart and extortion turns a wise man into a fool” (Ecclesiastes 7:7). From this verse, it can be inferred that corruption is a habit that can be learned and developed. It starts with smaller acts of dishonesty and then grows over many years to become a habit and a culture, encompassing the lives of individuals and entire communities. And like a cankerworm that eats up striving plants, corruption - if left unchecked - grows teeth and eats through the society to its very core.
Some 32 high school students in Liberia know this very well, and through the YMCA S2C philosophy, many more young people are being conscientised to develop better character and adopt values that will prepare them to assume leadership and make meaningful contributions to the development of Liberia. As one student put it, “If we, students, do not change our minds and adopt the values of honesty, hard work, integrity and love for country, our generation will be more corrupt than the generation before us.”
The students gathered at the St. Mary Catholic School on Friday on 1st November to discuss leadership skills, civic engagement, and membership in the YMCA among other issues. In a session on “subjects and citizens”, the students pointed out so many situations that put young people in subservient positions thus making them less than citizens who should be concerned about the greater good and actively participating in change processes. The students listed their individual and collective choices as being a critical force in determining their roles and responses to issues around them. For example, there is an emerging subculture of fun and outing among students, sometimes at the expense of their own development. This is known as “Super Friday”, a practice for some high school students to boycott classes on Friday to go out on the beach or to entertainment places where they are alleged to consume cigarettes and alcohol. Students who miss tests or some major evaluations will resort to bribing unprincipled minded teachers to make up for their absence and deficiency. This is a corrupt practice and it is seriously hampering learning and development of future leaders.
A student leader from the Greater Vision High School made the following observation: “We who have served as class leaders have been corrupt in some ways. For instance, if I were in charge of a class and required to write the names of noise makers for punishment, I would write the names of people who are not my friends; I wouldn’t write the names of my friends, no matter how much noise and disturbance they made. This is injustice and an act of corruption. If we continue it, and eventually we find ourselves in leadership positions, we are likely to be even more corrupt. If we continue in this way, we will always be subjects.”
Nyankun Togba, a Vice Principal at one of the high schools was in attendance. He made the following input. “Young people are made subjects based on how they carry themselves. If I, your teacher, come to class and begin to solicit money in exchange for grades, some of you students will comply and some will refuse and even condemn the act of soliciting bribes from students. Those of you who comply will oppose those who refuse and you will say all sorts of derogatory and spiteful things about them. Consider these two groups – those who comply and those who do not comply. Who are the subjects? You students must develop confidence in yourselves and strive for excellence in pursuits to acquire education and skills. Do not allow yourselves to be used as subjects.”
He praised the students to have a burning desire for education and self improvement. He said S2C is such an important development philosophy and students must get actively involved with the YMCA Hi-Y programs.
The Hi-Y is the extension of the YMCA and brings the organisation into the various schools. Boys and girls join the Hi-Y for fellowship and to develop their leadership skills. The Hi-Y has as its principal objective the development of young people in mind, body, and spirit. Five principles govern the Hi-Y: clean speech, clean scholarship, clean sportsmanship, clean job, and clean living.
By Alston C. Armah, S2C Ambassador
Some say, there is a need to change the African mindset. From this vantage point many have spoken ill about the African way of doing things and spoken ill of their mindsets. It seems that of all the races we are the most distrusted and everyone tells us to leave our primitive ways and adopt their more modern approach to life. They scold us for our lack of timeliness; our lack of order in the government and the power struggles; our lack of innovation and creativity.
Today I beg to differ. To argue that our mindset is good and that there is no need to change, but instead to rather improve it. Look at our artistic heritage. Our order, the Chief having his Indunas who reign over the Kings' subjects. Observe our attention to rhythm and modes of communication; look at the drums, the stringed instruments. Look at Kings conquering neighboring kingdoms. Did I mention the respect accorded to the elderly? That when an elder enters the chairs move as the young men rise up to give them room to sit while the ladies rush to the kitchen to prepare refreshments for their husbands. Husbands who have laboured long and hard in the heat so that outside an impalas’ carcass is left, blood drained in preparation for the great evening meal. Check out the recreation and creativity in the insaka when boys and girls sit around a fire and grandma tells stories way into the night. See our preservation as we dry the fish, meat and store our grains in barns for days of drought.
Like any other affliction, slavery has left its mark on us, so that the once good African mindset has been replaced by fear and a lack of trust in man. Because the same men who preached Christ to us somehow sold us out. We were stabbed in the back by our leaders who did not know any better. Because the marshmellows were sweet they forgot about us and only looked out for their immediate family as they sold us to the slave traders.
Today the marks are still evident. Suspicion in the offices because somehow, your ideas scare them, that you might take over their positions. Afraid to do something new because it might just be taboo. How dare you tell your father that there’s a better way to do things. My community is plagued by a lack of faith that my country can be better. Oh yes the reason is that experience has taught that it never works so don’t sweat by thinking outside the box.
Yes the pains of yesterday are there and the marks of the whips given to us by our colonel masters are still visible yet one thing remains: hope. Like a phoenix raising from the ashes so will Africa arise. But just like a mighty revival starts with one person, spread through individuals, so will the development of Africa only occur through individuals. They say change the way you think to change your life, well I agree because as a man thinks, so he is.
By: Henry Chibutu
The volunteers who engage in the YMCA are true heroes. They are the core and foundation of what YMCA stands for. I think we need to acknowledge them from time to time and remember to thank them for all the work they do.
There is a big difference between running a business and running a NPO - non-profit organisation. One of the major differences is the reason why you do it. A company needs to make a profit to survive and flourish, in competition with other companies trying to do the same thing. A company needs to be effective and have a qualified staff in order to manage their business. As an employee you must work hard and deliver results, and by doing that you will be reimbursed by the end of the month.
A non-profit organisation, like the YMCA, has little interest in making money. NPOs are often driven by conviction that there are other important values at stake that cannot be measured in economic terms. The YMCA is a value driven organisation that engages millions of people every day. We still need to work hard and be effective in order to succeed, but we do it for other reasons than profit.
It’s a dilemma, but it is also quite logical that NPOs often struggle with their finances. As a provider of social services that aren't economically lucrative we sometimes have to work without reimbursement. This is a reality for the movement; it is also the reality for the thousands and thousands of volunteers working for the YMCA around the world.
During my first few weeks in South Africa I’ve met many volunteers who give their time and efforts for different programmes in the YMCA without making a penny. Volunteers who every day taught kids, led colleagues and administrate tasks. The work of volunteers is priceless for the people involved in the programmes, because they get something that can’t be measured. It’s about humanity, conviction, knowledge and experience, but also joy and care for one another. Driven by a belief that the world will be a better place through education, playing games, praying, arts or whatever, volunteers keep on giving their hearts and minds day in and day out.
I get really overwhelmed when I think of all the effort that volunteers do. I also feel there is a responsibility for us as a movement to recognise and acknowledge their contribution. We always need to find ways to engage and encourage volunteers and give them tools to develop their skills. The YMCA is a movement that creates spaces and involves young people to grow both as leaders and individuals. We must always tell our volunteers that their contribution is important and the impact is invaluable for all people involved in the YMCA.
Source: Jimmy Forsberg, S2C Intern