Raj A. Joseph - An interview with our Young Africa Co-founder
From humble beginnings, to a thriving organisation, our co-founder shares the journey of Young Africa.
25 years ago, Raj A. Joseph and Dorien Beurskens started Young Africa to empower and uplift the voices of young people, to equip them with skills for employability and self-reliance. Over the years, YA has grown, evolved, and adapted to the changing needs of youth, leaving a lasting impact on 300,000 individuals. Join us as we embark on a journey down memory lane, reflecting on the achievements, challenges and inspiring stories that have shaped Young Africa.
As the co-founder of YA, what inspired you to start this organisation 25 years ago?
I came to Africa 33 years ago, that’s about 8 years before we started Young Africa. I was positioned by the Don Bosco religious group, as a director in a centre for boys from very difficult backgrounds. That is where I realised what skills training can do to youngsters. So, when Dorien came 5 years later to join me in Nairobi, she came with the idea of us starting our own organisation and equipping the youths with technical skills, life skills and entrepreneurship skills training. So, we registered YA in April 1998.
Looking back on the past 25 years, what are some of the most memorable moments of YA’s achievements?
Every time I see youngsters graduating, the joy on their faces gives me a sense of fulfilment to say every bit of the trouble we went through was worth it. In the early years we were very successful in getting them jobs and that too is memorable. The joy of YA is in building people.
What challenges did YA face in its early years and how were they overcome?
As Young Africa, we did not have a bank balance, we started with 1,500 Euros. It was challenging to get people to trust us because as an organisation, we were not known anywhere. We got some money from the schools where Dorien used to teach and a few NGOs who befriended us during our stay in Zimbabwe and from that we were able to train students.
What are some of the impactful outcomes that you are particularly proud of?
We are proud of the fact that we started with 1,500 Euros and now we have trained 52,000 youngsters, reached 300,000 individuals and employed hundreds of people. We started off and built two centers in Zimbabwe and two in Mozambique. Through collaborations, we opened centers in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia.
Can you share any lessons or insights that you learned throughout the journey of building and leading YA?
As long as there is a poor youngster you have work to do. By improving the lives of young people we improve nations and Africa. Using our personal experiences, we have learnt that you don’t need to have a sack of money to start something, things will fall into place as you grow.
If you could go back in time, would you make the same choice of starting YA or would you choose a different route instead?
I am happy with Young Africa, and I would not change the choice of starting this organisation for any reason.
Date: October 10 2023
Written by: Concilia Mutami