By Azugbene Solomon
Young people aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow – they’re making huge changes to the world around them, right now. Whether it’s through social or ‘hashtag’ activism, writing online or in their paper about a cause, or taking part in a protest, there are many ways that young people can ‘be the change’ and make a difference to the world.
Many young people volunteer in some way these days. It’s not just for adding experience to your CV – whether it’s a teaching or sports project, to animals and conservation work, to a hospice or a community centre, you can make a real difference!
Usually, the more local you can volunteer, or the more focused the action point, the better! Volunteering abroad can often be a great experience, and definitely life changing, but ‘voluntourism‘ projects aimed for young people aren’t always the best way to help communities. To start with, focus on how you can help your local area or a cause within your country.
2. Write to your political representative
MPs, Presidents, and other governmental leaders want to hear from their constituents and what they’re interested in – that’s their job! However, they can’t tackle poverty or climate change singlehandedly – what they really want is to know what they can personally do about it. Write to them, or even ask for a meeting with them, and show them what you think they should be focusing on.
3. Use online platforms to reach others
There’s never been a greater time in history for reaching out to millions of people around the world. You’ve probably seen how a single Twitter hashtag can create massive social awareness. What hashtags can you contribute to, or even create?
If longer writing is more your thing, writing for an online portal like Huffington Post is a great place to start. You can write blogs and original content for HuffPo to reach new audiences, and if it’s featured then you could see your article reaching thousands of people.
4. Giving other young people a role
One of the best ways you can make a difference is to inspire others to join you. Not only are you teaching other young people about important issues, but you’re encouraging them to teach others too. That’s one reason why many charities and organisations have resources for young people who want to get involved as an ambassador for their cause. But you can do the same thing! Maybe you want to launch a campaign on raising awareness of a social issue, for example, but you need help to do everything. If you can create a team to join you, by giving everyone a role as an ambassador and a change agent, you’re helping them to put their own ideas into reality and make a much wider difference.
5. Think out of the box
Why do videos, campaigns, or pictures go viral? Normally a big reason behind this is because it’s something not many people will have seen before, which makes it ‘shareable’. By finding a way to make a difference in a completely unique way, you can find ways to reach entirely new audiences.
6. Be a Good Neighbor
You don’t have to travel the world or live in Washington, DC to make an impact. You actually have the greatest knowledge and influence in your own backyard. This was the lesson learned by John Paul Flintoff, and he discussed it in his 2012 Ted Talk entitled “How to Change the World.”
Flintoff works to help protect the environment and prevent global warming. He realized he could make an immediate difference by reaching out to his neighbors. However, he did it not by overloading them with facts and research, but by giving them tomato plants. Every year, he offers his extra tomato seedlings to his neighbors. This simple and kind act started his neighbors growing some of their own food, thereby slightly reducing their environmental impact.
What’s something you can do in your own backyard?
7. Highlight an Issue
Do you feel strongly about an issue that doesn’t get enough attention, or where change is slow? Become educated on the issue and what’s being done to address it. Then you can highlight the issue, advocate for change, share information with your friends and family. You can do it through modern social media, and even by writing good old-fashioned letters to your government representatives. Working on an issue like this, you can create a huge impact. Especially now with social media, your message can go viral on the internet, spreading the word even faster.
What issues are important to you? How can you help bring attention to those issues?
8. Pay it Forward and Practice Random Acts of Kindness
A small act of kindness creates a ripple effect that can carry from person to person, brightening many lives. From giving someone a smile to holding a door open for someone, doing chores for other people, donating to charity, or buying lunch for a friend, it doesn’t take a lot to make someone’s day a little bit better.
Research has also found that performing these simple acts of kindness increases feelings of happiness and positivity. One study even found that “acts of kindness create an emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.”
I had a friend who passed away a few years ago who used to buy coffee for the people in the car behind him at the drive-through. He received immense joy from knowing he just gave someone a nice surprise and had no expectation of anything in return.
9. Be Authentic in Everything You Do
You have a unique value and perspective on life and that makes you inherently beautiful and amazing. No one else in the universe is like you. You are one of a kind. Bring your true, authentic self to every situation, and you may find it’s just what was needed. Authenticity creates higher levels of empowerment, creativity, and overall well-being — a great place to be when helping others.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman
Identify ways you can begin to align your thoughts with your actions, increasing your authenticity. Make a list and work to create greater harmony between the two.
10. Join AAYP in the fight to unlock youth’s potential
If every youth could learn, earn and be independent the impact would be revolutionary. Join our campaign fighting to unlock average Africa Youth’s potential!
1. One: 6 things young people can do to change the world by Dannee McGuire
2. Huffpost: 7 Ways You Can Change the Worldby Monica Bourgeau