How I set up the World Youth Organization at 17-years-old
Young people deserve the best opportunities to excel at what they enjoy and what they are good at. At the end of the day, they are the leaders of tomorrow. I had always had visions of, one day, starting and running a charity, to give young people something they may not have had, a platform to help them grow, develop and – at the same time – educate, empower, and enable advocates.
I had done my fair share of research into other organisations which had already set up a similar ethos, but one thing which was constantly sticking out was the lack of young people behind these so-called ‘young people’s organisations’. It was almost mind-blowing to find that almost all executives, charity trustees, and other managerial roles where taken up by older adults. How could that be right?
Of course, they may have had a lot more experience and qualifications, but surely a young people’s charity or NGO or any organisation focusing on youth should strive to have at least a majority of young people alongside adults on the board.
It was in 2013 that I began my work with a few charities after six of my friends and I were training to swim the English Channel. We completed the swim, and broke the records since 1998. That moment when we reached the French side of the Channel was when I decided I wanted to take my ambitions and put them into practice into ‘real life’ – something which took three years.
Straight after the swim, in August 2013, I started making notes on what I had in mind, and entertained the notion of going down the route of extreme sports, and getting young people to realise their sporting ambitions. But, to be honest, I found myself playing around with ideas, still feeling the buzz from my own recent extreme sporting event, and realised this wasn’t what I had envisioned.
After some time, I decided to go back to the drawing board. That’s when, along with two friends, I came up with something better and more universal which would really help to empower young people: the World Youth Organization (WYO).
In late 2015, and at 17-years-old, I had just finished filming WYO’s advert which involved 30 young people and Olympic diver, Hannah Starling. Despite it being an amazing experience, it was stressful switching between four different shooting locations, as well as organising insurance, coordinating costumes, timings, cast, and costings. However, it was my first moment of seeing the charity come alive, and it made me believe – seeing all the young people we had involved – that the WYO’s creation was really possible.
The next challenge ahead was trying to earn the WYO charity status, something I believed would have opened up so many more doors. So, the best part of last year was spent looking for trustees to join the soon-to-be-official registered charity. As I was still under the age of 18 – and still am – I wasn’t able to become a trustee.
Today, though, the WYO has six trustees, from the fields of law, organisational development, marketing, policy writing, and fundraising. Along with our trustee board, we have a safeguarding officer, international relation director, press officers, and social media managers. Added bonus? I even have my own executive assistant which is pretty cool.
The turning point came when, on 5 January, the WYO gained legal charity status in England and Wales. It had taken almost 12 months to get the status from the Charity Commission, but the many late nights of rewriting our governing document and other policies which went along with the registration process had paid off.
Getting to this point had been no mean feat. It was so difficult, in fact, that I had developed some mild depression in the process which had resulted in me leaving school to continue my charity full-time. But, the WYO was born and, along with a great team, we had done it.
The WYO officially launched on 11 January in the Houses of Parliament in London. Since then, we’ve been verified on Twitter which, in itself, is pretty epic, developed a vibrant, informative website, and secured our few first sponsors as well.
The WYO now runs workshops, summits, and other events to educate, empower, and to create advocates for young people across the world.
Looking back, I believe you are the making of your own success. Just about anything you want to achieve, you can. So, drive the vision forward, and you’ll get there too.