In 2009, 17-year-old Yusuf left Nigeria to pursue a year as a KL-YES exchange student in Altoona, Iowa and live with the Geiger family. Little did he know, 3 years later he would be returning to that same high school to speak to the student body about the difference he has made in Nigeria.
Yusuf returned to his home country in the spring of 2010 with what he calls “a zeal for organizing youth in my community in order to prepare them for a new and brighter future.” Yusuf has done that, and more.
He began volunteering at several National Government Organizations (NGO) throughout Nigeria, as well as worked on a project sponsored by USAID where he was named Best Peer Educator in Nigeria. Along with volunteering at orphanages, schools and hospitals, Yusuf accepted the role of president of a Press Club and HIV Reproductive Health in his high school.
It was there where he began sharing his experience in America by broadcasting it to an assembly ground 3 times per week. These broadcasts were aimed to inspire students to branch out and learn. “Now, many people from my community have been able to understand more interesting facts about America and I have been able to eliminate negative stereotypes. I organize group discussions among the youth who are the leaders of tomorrow. Youth need to be encouraged in order for Nigeria to have a great future,” he said.
Eventually, Yusuf began to see the fruits of his labor. He said, “After struggling day and night, I successfully established an NGO called the Youth Volunteer Initiative (YVI).” With a little help from his family and friends, YVI began “providing quality information and education to youth at grassroots levels in Aug. 2010,” he said.
- Mission– Empower young people by providing them with information, education and good health and other necessary skills required to reach their full potential.
- Vision– Build YVI into a strong and viable organization capable of influencing youth to make a positive change.
- Goal– Provide quality health services, eradicate poverty, train youth in leadership and youth mobilization.
According to Yusuf, YVI has been working on community-based activities with the support of KL-YES alumni and donations. They strive to reach a majority of the population in several communities throughout Nigeria. Yusuf said, “We use enlightenment campaigns, drama, presentations, interactive forums and village square rallies.”
Along with organizing YVI, Yusuf conducted numerous other activities throughout the states of Kebbi, Kaduna and Kano during his 2 years after the KL-YES program. A select few are listed:
- Peer Education Training
- Work with AQUIRE
- Prevent violence against women
- Increase Awareness of Fistula, FGC and FP
- Attend and teach workshops
- Teach lessons on computers, math, data processing and English
- Volunteer teacher at Nurseries and primary schools.
- Community tutor
- Youth counselor
- Distribute clothing and learning materials to orphans
- Organize sport competitions
- Emergency assistant at Wudil General Hospital
- Promote farmland rights
- Vocational training
- Providing emergency healthcare
“I always have always had the desire to try something new that will benefit me and my career in the future, as to further develop my country. Therefore, I learned and experienced many good things in America, which caused me to have higher self-esteem and to learn basic leadership qualities,” said Yusuf.
By volunteering and conducting activities, as well as receiving good grades at his high school, Yusuf now attends Kano State University of Science and Technology. One of his most recent achievements is being accepted to receive a KL-YES alumni grant to carry out a project on computer literacy in Kaduna State. “I am so happy,” said Yusuf.
During the summer of 2012, Yusuf traveled to Washington D.C. as an Alumni Instructor for the KL-YES program (follow-up story to come). He is currently spending time with his original host family in Altoona.