#Impact365: Some things may have gone wrong with Nigerian youth, but this NGO is changing that

Linking the Youths of Nigeria through Exchange (LYNX) is a non-governmental organization founded in 2004 that seeks to train young Nigerians to become responsible citizens through education, empowerment and community service.

In this interview with YNaija’s #Impact365, Nanre Nafziger-Mayegun, the Executive Director of LYNX Nigeria, tells us about the mission and goals of the NGO.

Could you tell us the mission of LYNX?

The mission of LYNX-NIGERIA is to foster empowerment and socially responsible citizenship among Nigerian children and youth. LYNX envisions a free, just and truly democratic Nigerian society where children and youth are full participants in their own development and the development of their communities and the nation.

What birthed the initiative?

LYNX, Linking the Youth of Nigeria through Exchange, was formed by a group of Nigerian students studying in various universities in Boston, USA, led by Nneoma Nwogu, in 2000. The idea was to build a new generation of Nigerian leaders who could critically analyze issues and create effective solutions based on understanding of history, democracy and development. We began with leadership camps held in Abuja.

Since then the initiative has expanded and LYNX NIGERIA was founded in 2004 as an independent entity to transform the lives of young Nigerians and prepare them for active lives of citizenship and service.

The concern has always been a disengaged and disempowered youth population that does not have the knowledge, skills, networks and strategies to effectively develop themselves, their communities and the nation.

LYNX is an initiative that is filling an important vacuum in society, could you tell why you do it? What motivates you?

We are contributing our own quota into the lives of Nigerian child and youth because we believe that a nation is built by the youth who are still agile and have the strength to invest in the development of their society. We do this by training youths on civic and human rights education, history, social and financial enterprise and community service learning.

Our model of training features the exposure of children and youth to the history of their cultures and civilization and engages them in constructive dialogue about national development. Our activities and prorgrammes are holistic and engage the whole youth through long term, hands on programming, as an alternative to seminars and workshops. We are motivated by enabling youths to think and act for themselves, so that they can realize their own innate potential and capabilities as change makers and nation builders.

What is/are the aims of your training programs?

Our training programs focuses on raising responsible youth as youth leaders who after having their capacities built will be committed to raising other children and youth in their communities. These youth will come together as responsible citizens, identify problems in their communities and societies and then find a lasting solution to the problem thereby ensuring a better and conducive environment for every member in their societies.

Our model is KESA – Knowledge, Empowerment, Service and Advocacy. First, a young person must have basic knowledge of themselves, who they are and where they are coming from. One unique aspect of this is our focus on history and culture, we believe no young Nigerian should grow up without knowledge and awareness of Nigerian and African history and culture. The second aspect is empowerment. No person can be empowered but a person can only empower themselves. We engage our youth in thinking about poverty and inequality, and fashion out ways for them to become economically engaged through financial literacy and entrepreneurship. The third arm is service, we engage youth in community service and development enabling them to understand that to lead you must SERVE and service is a part of the human connection and what sets us apart on this earth. And finally, advocacy, we teach youth that they cannot be back-benchers, that they must stand up and get involved in the issues of the day through constructive dialogue and non violent action.

Our programmes include the Youth Empowerment through Community Action Project, our foundation programme, the Aflatoun Child Rights Cooperative Programme, and other special projects.

What does the Students for Accountability in the Education Sector Project (SAESP) entail?

SAESEP was a programme carried out by community youth at different areas of Nigeria under the directive of LYNX NIGERIA and funded by World Bank. It involved the monitoring of Education Budget at the Local Government level in some selected state of Nigeria. The youth in Osun, Enugu, Kaduna and Plateau states of Nigeria were trained to advocate for the release of the education budget in the states to the populace because it is meant to be a public document. The budget was evaluated correspondingly with the implementation in the local governments and a press conference was conducted afterwards to make public the outcomes of the project.

Do you believe that Nigerian youth have grown into a culture of social irresponsibility? How do we solve this?

We quite agree that things related to youth in different areas have gone wrong in the past but our belief is that many of such things occur because many of the youth lack some critical knowledge and skills which could empower them to render selfless services for societal development. Without knowledge of who they are and the important role that they have to play in the history of Nigeria, young people can be easily led astray.

Have you recorded any success story? Can you recount one?

There are success stories from diverse group of people that we’ve worked with during our programmes. We have so many stories. Many youth who engaged in our earlier projects are now working in various influential positions in the media, banking, medical, legal and human resource sectors. Young people have saved themselves from child marriage. Youths have become economically empowered and have been able to pay for their exams and continue their education. Communities have been empowered to embrace youth culture create support structures for young people. Muslim and Christian youths who never crossed their side of town have become good lifelong friends. Youths from different parts of the country have build friendships which have endured for over a decade. There are just so many stories.

Is the LYNX’s Youth Leadership Camp still on? Can you tell us more about it?

Our Youth Leadership Camp is still very much on and at this time takes different forms and at different places. The most recent one was held in the first week of the month of August 2016. LYNX is committed to raising responsible citizens among the youths of the nation and this we achieve through our leadership camp hence we cannot it to die off. The camp brings together youths from different backgrounds, religions, ethnicity and ideology and foster unity and oneness among the young ones.

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