The ultimate goal of AYM is to create a consistent source of employment for rural youth ages 15 – 35 with the hope of increasing their quality of life through increased income. AYM is dedicated to creating gainful employment and entrepreneurial initiatives for rural youths across Africa by creating opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship. It is one way to collectively reverse the social and economic marginalization of Africa.
Mattru Jong in the Bonthe District will serve as the global idea Hub for the AYM model encased in the Social Enterprise Center (SEC). The Social Enterprise Center will be the key administrative headquarter and incubator. From 2017 – 2019, AYM will replicate this model in Bombali District and, from 2020 – 2021, it will be replicated in the Kenema and Port Loko districts.
AYM has established a reliable and undisrupted source of electricity using solar, wind turbine and a back-up diesel generator to provide some reasonable Internet and technology access as well as building an efficiently centralized administrative system and business incubator. Key initial enterprises are presently functioning at the Social Enterprise Center. The goal is to roll out multiple predictable and projectable sources of funding.
The Social Enterprise Center currently provides the only 24/7 electricity in the whole of Mattru Jong, Sierra Leone, using solar and wind turbine. The purchase of a 5K diesel machine in November 2013 is a key move to stabilize our operations and allow AYM to realize projected monthly revenues from cell phone charging, sales of cell phone top-up units, sales of vegetables from our gardens and internet service.
The organization is rolling out new initiatives in 2014. These initiatives will expand existing enterprises and increase projected revenues in 2014. Our goal by the end of 2014 is to consistently maintain daily net revenue of one million Leones ($250.00). This revenue will be reinvested in the community to expand our entrepreneur base, build more sources of revenue, create employment and develop the community.
AYM has very limited capacity and resources to accomplish these goals at the moment. Nevertheless, even with its limited capacity and resource, the organization is carefully harnessing what little it has to create an impact and broaden its opportunity to increase its capacity and resources.
AYM is a legally constituted 501c3 in the United States. It has a lifetime website hosting donation from Dreamhost and a premium Google Grant for Nonprofits donation. Both donations have made it possible to build and expand upon our online presence which is being used to develop a convincing messaging platform to organize our ideas, spread and broadcast our message so that we can raise funds, expand our resources and build our capacity. A network of knowledgeable off and online volunteers help AYM contribute to the development and expansion of the organization’s resources and capacity. Our online volunteers are made possible through the United Nations Online Volunteering Services. With grants from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the University of Wisconsin Anonymous Funds and Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, AYM has a valuable collections of artwork reflecting the Sierra Leone Civil War.
AYM is also a local NGO in Sierra Leone. It has a leased property in Mattru Jong that expires in 2031! The property is being used as an Administrative Headquarter, Social Enterprise Center and Business Incubator. AYM also has an informal arrangement with a landowning family to develop their property and promote Ecotourism and other related economic activities with the hope of purchasing the property when funds become available. The land is located along a beautifully clean river, beach and waterfalls. AYM envisages a local resort village on the land that would be opened to both local and international tourism.
AYM also has access to several acres of land for vegetable gardening and varied agricultural projects. From time-to-time, our volunteers from the United States meet up with our volunteers in Sierra Leone to work on projects and improve capacities to deliver services. We have just finalized a partnership to instal a cassava processing machine that would primarily produce fufu for commercial purposes.
Measuring AYM progress on goals
AYM means youth employment. Employment to increase the income of rural youth and an opportunity to increase their quality of life. We recognize that creating employment that would provide a living wage takes time with several factors coming into play. Identifying emerging opportunities in our rural areas of operation and responding with the right business idea is crucial. Recruiting, training and providing employment for rural youth is another task. Right now, we have some key enterprises with the potential to expand in 2014. Our focus for this year is generating investment capital through these initial enterprises. This will help us start providing at least our first five full time paid jobs in January 2015.
By December of 2015, we intend to provide 10 full time paid jobs in Mattru Jong. Between now and December 2015, we will recruit and train volunteers that might be our first full time employees.
Our success will be measured by the number of businesses we create as well as the number of employment we provide for the young people. As a community development organization, we intend to develop recreational facilities, programs and events for the participation and utilization of young people. By the end of 2014, a major annual community event will be spurned out. we also intend to start a public park and sanitation program for the community. AYM also intends to buy and renovate run down community houses to manage them as Bed & Breakfast enterprises, rent or sale to the community. The number of businesses, jobs, community programs and projects with a net daily revenue of one million leones from our varied enterprises will be the yardstick that we shall measure our success in 2014 – 2015.
Opportunities and Challenges
Opportunities abound for AYM in Sierra Leone, especially in the operational district of Bonthe. AYM has an administrative and business office in Mattru Jong with 24/7 electricity (partly from renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and solar). It also has a good relationship with the local leadership and access to land for ongoing agricultural programs.
The agriculture sector can absorb a greater number of unskilled youth. In 2007, AYM launched the Youth Vegetable Gardens in five communities in the District. Two hundred youth participated in the project. The vegetables were sold to Sierra Rutile, a neighboring mining company, through its hospitality management company, Allterrain Services Group (ATS).
The population of Mattru Jong is increasing by leaps and bounds. Many opportunities exist for business in food, education, recreation and entertainment sectors. AYM has positioned itself to start exploiting these opportunities to create jobs for the youth in the community.
AYM has dedicated volunteers from the United States that are helping building the AYM program in Sierra Leone with the help of dedicated local volunteers.
The organization has an educational collection of traveling artworks from Sierra Leone. With Art, AYM educates global audiences about Sierra Leone’s civil war. In 2003-2005, AYM staged a touring art exhibition entitled: “Representations of Violence: Art about the Sierra Leone Civil War” at the Porter Butts Gallery at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the Art & Cultures Gallery at Alverno College in Milwaukee and the VSA Arts of Atlanta Georgia. The successful art display depicted the ravages of war, serving both as catharsis from trauma and a catalyst for conflict resolution. The goal was to not only begin reconciliation, but also to achieve violence prevention by educating African and Western audiences of a shared responsibility to build a bridge from disinterest to involvement.
Challenges for AYM also abounds. Funding the organization has been very difficult. We have a storage full of various items for use in Sierra Leone but the required funding to ship the container is still not available. Most important of these items are two vehicles to use for our farm purposes, and vegetable seeds worth about one hundred thousand dollars.
Until 2013, the administrative and business center in Mattru Jong had management problems. Reliable internet service and communications is help ameliorate some of these problems. Also, with several strategies, checks and balances in place, along with periodic visits from our U.S. volunteers, things seem to be working fine now. Monthly reports reflect increase in revenue and progress in business.