The Sierra Leone and Liberia civil wars shared a common pattern which was the use of child soldiers and an economically marginalized youth. The Sierra Leone war (1991-2002) left an estimated 60% of young people economically and socially abandoned. At the end of the war, the amount of training for self-reliance was not going to be enough. Alternatives means of employment would require a broader coalition of interested stakeholders.
Creating employment opportunities for young people in Africa is the motivation for the creation of the Twenty-First Century African Youth Movement which was incorporated in Wisconsin and became a 501 (C)3 in 2000.
AYM’s first project was to educating audiences in the United States about the Sierra Leone Civil War through a traveling art exhibition, “Representations of Violence: Art about the Sierra Leone Civil War.”
The project was funded by the Wisconsin Humanities Council, Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission and the University of Wisconsin Anonymous Funds.
Curbing social stagnation, economic marginalization and improving the lives of hundreds of youth in Sierra Leone in a major focus of AYM by eliminating the number trigger: Youth Unemployment.
In 2005, AYM relocated to Virginia. This is where it currently operates from. The second phase of the Sierra Leone operation started in June 2006. By the end of 2007, AYM established a Social Enterprise Center and business incubator. The organization also started a Youth Vegetable Gardens and ecotourism projects.