You are never too young to make a change in the world, once said Christopher Yao. For some youths, Yao’s words are their driving force as they have devoted their time to bettering the lives of other people.
One such youth is Adolescent Rights Activist Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma.
From the early stages of her medical career, Natasha knew that being a medical student was not enough to bring about the changes she hoped to see.
She believes everything people need in the world is available, all that is needed is a medium to link the haves and the have not’s.
Natasha ,23, found her inspiration during one of her trips to Chile, where she was inspired by the enthusiasm young people had in doing voluntary work and expecting no pay.
With her inspiration and passion for promoting health education, Natasha was prompted to co- found Copper Rose Zambia, a non-profit organisation that aims at promoting menstrual hygiene among adolescents.
Natasha who is also a 6th year Medicine student at The University of Zambia Ridgeway Campus states that starting a non-profit organisation was not easy. She faced financial setbacks and people did not believe in her dreams.
Despite the many setbacks, nothing was going to hold her back from making her Copper Rose Zambia dream a reality.
Natasha said she discovered she did not need foreign donors to support her project but needed support from ordinary citizens willing to help.
She decided to fundraise on her own by asking people to donate K10 towards the purchase of sanitary napkins.
Natasha also utilized social media platforms (Facebook and Whatsapp) to ask people to support the cause.
Apart from social media she conducted door to door fundraising on campus, collecting money towards the purchase of sanitary napkins.
When they raised enough money, Copper Rose conducted their first visit at Makeni Basic School where they donated over 250 sanitary napkins.
Since then, Copper Rose have conducted several other visits to different schools in Lusaka, donating sanitary towels.
When asked why she decided to name her foundation Copper Rose Zambia, Natasha said that Zambia’s most valuable mineral is copper and roses are associated with feminism. They smell sweet, they are delicate but at the same time have thorns. Why not value our women like we value copper whilst treating them like roses?
“Most people on campus call me Copper Rose now, because of the passion I have for the promotion of menstrual health,” she said smilingly.
Apart from donating sanitary towels, Copper Rose also provides mentorship to girls in schools and universities, by providing them with a platform to freely express themselves.
“Starting a foundation needs determination in order to overcome all the obstacles along the way,” observes Natasha.
She says in the next five years, she hopes to make Copper Rose Zambia a household name and extend its reach to other remote parts of the country.
She also hopes that Copper Rose will be able to manufacture their own sanitary napkin, preferably reusable ones, to carter for those that cannot afford.
Natasha urges youths to put their minds to whatever they do and grab opportunities by the horns.
“As young people, it is not time to blame other people or depend on other people. We need to do it ourselves,” she advises.
Natasha is not the only youth making a difference in her community, young entrepreneur and Junior Chamber International (JCI) Vice President Ken Phiri is involved in youth empowerement, creating a positive change in communities.
Ken is a student at the University of Lusaka (UNILUS) pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with education.
He helps vulnerable children and orphans in communities by sending them to school and helps them with their daily needs such as clothes, food and school materials.
Apart from working with JCI-Lusaka, Ken has also done voluntary work with organisations such as Restless Development, Impact One Initiative, Cry of an Orphan, and PVT without border sport.
The 23 year old draws his inspiration from his late mother who single handedly raised him after his father died when Ken was three.
“Sadly, I lost my mother this year. I did not know how to pay back my mother for all she had done for me. That was when I decided to incline myself to giving back to my community,” he says.
Ken states that they work with Zambians in the United States of America (USA) who help fund their projects.
Apart from funds from the USA, they also receive funding locally from friends and family.
Ken hopes to see a better Zambia for all.
“I want to help an organisation which will help Zambia through enterprise and to develop entrepreneurship skills that will empower vulnerable children and orphans” he says.
Ken ,who hopes to establish his own foundation someday, urges his fellow youths not to wait upon the government to tackle some of the problems they face in their communities.
"It all starts with us. We are the agents of change. Ignorance has made us Africans poor. Now, it’s everyone's obligation to involve ourselves in issues affecting our community and to be the change we want,” he states.
And UNZA School of Education Fourth Year Student Griffins Mandanda has founded a Me2u Foundation.
Mandanda says Me2u is a non-profit organization that has been founded to bring people together, solve problems and make the community we live in a better place.
"The whole idea is to provide a platform for people to give and share things such as love, knowledge, clothes, food, skills. We also support those who are in need such as the orphans, street kids, women, the aged and many other vulnerable groups in our society," he explains.
Mandanda ,26, states that Me2U foundation is founded on three pillars: Education, Humanitarian and Empowerment programs.
The educational programs focus on sensitisation on pressing issues such as HIV/AIDS, Gender Based Violence (GBV) and other issues affecting the community.
Ken says the humanitarian pillar focuses on donations of food and clothing to the less privileged in society.
“We have what we call ‘salaula day,’ where we buy second hand clothes and give out to people in need,” he explains.
The empowerment pillar has micro finance programs to empower youths to start up their own business.
Apart from the fiscal empowerment, Me2U also has girl power programs which offer mentorship and counselling programs to females aged between 5-25 years.
Mandanda urges the youths to use their God given talents to bring about positive change in their society.
“We depend too much on donors forgetting that even we Zambians can help each other,” he says.
Mandanda says youths should not wait upon the government.
Martin Luther King Jr once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
The next 50years of Zambia are largely dependent on the choices the youths make today. If we want Zambia to be a better place, let’s make the change. We are the next 50 years.