In this interview with Executive Director, David K. Awusi, we learn of Youth Rise International’s successes and challenges in their fight against poverty, human trafficking and forced labour.
Please share your organization’s origin story.
Youth Rise International (YoRI) is a legally-registered and government-licensed grassroots, non-partisan, non-profit organization that fights extreme poverty, promotes climate justice, and prevents human trafficking and forced labour in Ghana and across Africa.
Being born to extremely poor and primary school dropout parents, in a deprived rural community in Ghana, the Founder & Executive Director, David K. Awusi, went through terrible poverty, severe hunger, and abuse. Nevertheless, through determination, hard work, and providence, David returned to school and rose through the ranks to become the 1st university graduate with multiple degrees and an international personality in his community.
David’s experience and compassion for the poor and the deprived drove him to start a career path in the non-profit sector. Then in 2015, he founded Youth Rise International (YoRI) to inspire and mentor vulnerable mobilize vulnerable children and youth in his local community to fight extreme poverty, promote climate justice, and prevent human trafficking and hazardous child labor.
Today, Youth Rise International (YoRI) has impacted the lives of over 171,364 people and prevented over 112,500 potential victims of human trafficking and forced labor in Ghana. We are an active member of local, national, regional, and global coalitions, networks, and alliances including CIVICUS World Alliances For Citizen Participation (South Africa), Survivor Alliance (US/UK), Ghana Philanthropy Forum (Ghana), Coalitions of NGOs Against Child Trafficking (Ghana), West African Coalition Against Trafficking In Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (Ghana/Africa).
To fight extreme poverty and hunger by empowering marginalized and socially excluded to become prosperous through education, social protection, decent work, child and maternal health, and advocacy
What drives your social impact journey?
Today, 700 million people worldwide are currently estimated to be living in extreme poverty and over 70% of global poverty is in African countries (OECD, 2020). Sadly, COVID-19 is expected to add as many as 150 million persons to the extremely poor by 2021 (World Bank, 2020). The reality is that Youth Rise International (YoRI) has discovered with great concern that poverty creates vulnerability at community levels., such economic vulnerability is a key driving force for the perpetuation of child labor and human trafficking in Africa.
The Theory of Change
Youth Rise International’s (YoRI) solution to extreme poverty and hunger is captured in our 3H Model.
- Instilling HOPE
The first step of Youth Rise International’s (YoRI) 3H Model is to instill and inspire hope amongst the poor. We give them a chance to believe in themselves again. With such hope in their heart, they begin to regain their self-esteem and self-confidence to take practical steps to transform their situation. Interestingly, this theory ties in with our ONE-MODEL which focuses on one individual, one family, and one community at a time.
- Engaging HEART
Next in our theory of change is engaging the heart of individuals. We connect with them emotionally by showing real interest in them. Youth Rise International (YoRI), then guides them to commit themselves to pursue their dreams to transform their situation from one of hopelessness and extreme poverty to hope and prosperity.
- Empowering HAND
The hand is the symbol of work – career and business pursuit. We believe in the saying, “there is dignity in labor (work). Therefore, Youth Rise International (YoRI) applies our expertise in social protection, financial inclusion, and microfinance for development to equip our target/beneficiaries with employability skills and empower them to become entrepreneurs and job creators.
How has your organisation been able to catalyze social change?
Youth Rise International (YoRI) tactically pursues its mission and vision through five strategic thematic/programmatic areas, community-led and grassroots-driven approaches that are human right based, integrative, and comprehensively fights the multi-dimensional nature of systemic and generational extreme poverty in Africa.
Education: We promote quality education for all and assist all children and youth to enjoy their fundamental human right to education without discrimination.
Decent Work: We fight youth unemployment through career mentoring and entrepreneurship development and prevent human trafficking and hazardous forced labour.
Social Protection: We attack the root causes of extreme poverty and economic vulnerability by economically empowering deprived families to become financially self-reliant.
Maternal & Child Health: We work to achieve zero neonatal, infant, and maternal mortality. Our aim is to ensure that no pregnant woman and child die during labor
Research & Advocacy: We engage in action research to inform our work and use research findings as the basis for our evidenced-based policy advocacy across Africa. Also, we leverage new and traditional media, and active participation in coalitions, networks, alliances, and youth movements nationally, regionally and globally to scale and amplify our impacts.
Since its inception, Youth Rise International (YoRI) has impacted the lives of individuals, families, and communities in Ghana and across Africa. 171,364 vulnerable and extremely poor children, men, and women in deprived rural communities have been directly impacted through our projects across Africa: Of these:
- 112,500 at-risk people are sensitized and prevented from being trafficked, exploited, or abused in Africa.
- 212 victims rescued or withdrawn from human trafficking and forced labour in Ghana.
- 28,500 youth trained in entrepreneurship and empowered to become job creators and economic growth and development in Africa.
- 26,400 young men and women equipped with employability skills, secured jobs and thereby reducing the rate of youth unemployment across Africa.
- 2,250 pregnant women empowered on safe pregnancy, delivery, and proper child care.
- 1,502 children and youth supported their education in primary, high school, and university and we have recorded outstanding performance.
- We have made significant impacts on national policies on human trafficking, social protection, youth employment, and child protection in Africa.
What challenges or nuances have you experienced on the development journey?
Since our inception, we have been funded by the personal and family generosity and benevolence of our Founder and his family, in-kind contribution, and volunteerism. For instance, since 2015, he has donated every compensation or entitlement such as salary, bonuses, allowances, and honorarium to fund our projects and sustain the organization. Also, we have leveraged in-kind contributions from our communities to drive our work and operations. However, apart from it being unsustainable, it limits our ability to serve deprived communities whose daily demands and needs have become increasingly overwhelming.
Since 2020, we have submitted over 10 different funding proposals but we have been denied on the basis that we are nascent and we don’t have a track record of donor funding. In December 2021, Youth Rise International’s staff and management team had a series of meetings to review the organization, and projects and discussed innovative fundraising strategies. As part of the process, we extensively reviewed the feedback from donors and reflected on the difficulties we have faced in securing donor funding.
We found that most donors fund non-profits with 3-5 track records of donor-funded projects, therefore becoming extremely difficult for credible but emerging nonprofits that are doing important work to secure donor funding nowadays.
Kindly share your perspectives on creating a strong development sector in Africa.
- Shift Leadership Approach
Youth Rise International (YoRI) believes that leadership determines everything. As a result, we want all African leaders to become more committed to the development of their nations in order to achieve sustainable development. In comparison to what is now being practiced, we hope to see political will and strong leadership.
To learn more about the organization and be a part of the amazing work they are doing visit Here
- Radical Transformation in Education
Education promotes equality. Fighting extreme poverty and financial hardship requires education. But in order for education to be a weapon in the fight against poverty and economic vulnerability, it must be useful and specifically designed for the labor market. It has therefore become extremely critical for the nations of Africa, support organizations like the “Africa Union” (AU) and Heads of States to push for radical overhauling of the educational system across Africa with particular emphasis on educational innovation and entrepreneurship.
To learn more about Youth Rise International visit their website