With a network of around 775 Fellows from 96 countries specializing in a diverse array of professional fields, many Atlas Corps Alumni and current Fellows are making inspiring progress with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is time to celebrate the achievements of our amazing network and share advice on how we can all do our part to protect and support each other.
Today we want to talk with our Alum Fidelis (Class 35, Nigeria) who is supporting disadvantaged youth in Nigeria with his organization, Youth Aid Development Foundation. The organization primarily serves at risk-youth in low-income communities and people living with disabilities. Mobility Aid and Appliances Research and Development Centre (MAARDEC), a disability advocacy Non-Governmental Organization in Nigeria, states that over 15% of young people of economic productive age are living with disabilities in Nigeria. Fidelis provides young people with marketable skills that will grant them access to well-paying jobs, lifting themselves and their families out of poverty.
Thank you Fidelis for everything that you do to reduce inequalities and create a better future. We wish you all the best with this impactful work!
Name: Fidelis Bonaventure Uzoma
Home Country: Nigeria
Current Organization: Youth Aid Development Foundation
Role at current organization: Founder & Executive Director
Social Issues that you have worked with: Reduced Inequalities, Youth Empowerment
Tell us about your current projects?
I am the Executive Director of Youth Aid Development Foundation, a volunteer-driven organization focused on providing mentoring and leadership development services to at-risk youth in Nigeria in order to help them become leaders and successful members of society. In the past 6 years, I have provided counselling, mentoring, personal/professional development opportunities as well as job-readiness programs to over 5000 teenagers and youth with disabilities in 10 public schools and youth centers. My goal is to reach and impact 20,000 disadvantaged youth by 2025 across 20 states in Nigeria, who will become industry leaders and role models to other disadvantaged youth in the world.
In 2018, we started the Rise Project, formerly the Basic Employability Skills Training for Persons with Disabilities (BEST4PWDs), which is a disability inclusion and talent acceleration program under the umbrella of the YouthAid Development Foundation.
The RISE Project – Resilience Inclusion and Supportive Enterprise – is mobilizing a community of people with and without disabilities to promote social inclusion, safe spaces and economic support for people with disabilities so they become productive members of society who play active roles in community and national life. The project empowers Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in Nigeria with leadership skills, capacity building and economic opportunities. Through employability and business skills workshops, mentorship, job placements, my team and I team are enabling PWDs in my community with access to decent jobs and improved quality of life.
Every 6 months, we support 50 youths with disabilities through counseling, business skills workshops, connections to SME companies for internships, and providing aids/scholarship support to those in colleges. In the span of 3 years, we have improved the lives of more than 500 disadvantaged youth and persons with disabilities in 8 under-served communities in Nigeria. 70% have gained leadership skills and built the competence, confidence and clarity to find the right career path. Others have started small/medium scale enterprises; and some have joined our volunteer community and are now leading change in their own communities.
Why is it important for you to work with these social issues?
Mobility Aid and Appliances Research and Development Centre (MAARDEC), a disability advocacy Non-Governmental Organization in Nigeria, states that over 15% of young people of economic productive age are living with disabilities in Nigeria. PwDs face marginalization, exclusion, discrimination, and are economically vulnerable. They are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, hence the need to create an ecosystem that fosters community, leadership and capacity development.
My passion for the social development of young people stems from my own experiences of growing up in a marginalized community. Thanks to the many opportunities that I was fortunate to receive (such as scholarships and leadership training), I was able to rise from an E student to an A student, finishing as one of the best in my class with many leadership awards. With the help of my mentors and those who supported me, I was able to rise out of the unfortunate circumstances that I was born into, and now I want to help other young people do the same.
How has Atlas Corps contributed to your professional/ personal accomplishments?
Atlas Corps offered me the platform to build the capacity and competence necessary to solve systemic problems such as social and economic inequalities. Working with the Obama Foundation as the International Programs Fellow, I was exposed to best practices in non-profit management, program planning, design and implementation which I have now brought back to my own organization.
What message would you like to send to individuals who are thinking of supporting Atlas Corps?
One of the greatest investments anyone can make today is the investment in human capital and assets: supporting Atlas Corps means investing in building the next generation of social impact leaders who will become force multipliers and solve some of the world’s most complex problems. When you support Atlas Corps, you support a promising inclusive and prosperous future for humanity. Atlas Corps Fellows change the world in unprecedented ways.
Atlas Corps Fellows continue to serve in the U.S. and remote, and we reaffirm our commitment to building a network of global leaders, even- and especially- in these times. We need your help to overcome the operational challenges that Atlas Corps faces so we can continue our critical work of training the social change leaders that this world urgently needs. As a special initiative, donations of $100+ will be matched! Will you support our Fellows?