Empowering Youth for a Bright Future, AAI Scholar Apollo
Meet Apollo, an AAI Scholar from Uganda pursuing studies at the International Christian University in Tokyo. Apollo’s Kokorozashi is pushing himself and others to realize their fullest potential. He is the driving force behind Signals from Grass Roots (SftG), an NGO focused on youth empowerment and community development.
Apollo’s commitment to advancing youth engagement and inclusion stems from personal experience: “In 2018, when I finished high school, I wanted to contribute to improving my society, so I took a gap year and applied to various NGOs for volunteering opportunities. But every time, the response was that I was young and inexperienced. It made me wonder whether age was a reason to deter young people from bettering their community, despite their strong desire, passion, and commitment to making positive change.”
“Signals from the Grassroots aims to center young people worldwide and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.” This organization operates on several core principles, emphasizing empowering youth and involving them in shaping their communities.
“One of our core strategies is amplifying youth voices,” Apollo highlights. Many young people have valuable ideas, but their voices often go unheard. SftG addresses this by facilitating monthly dialogues that provide young individuals a platform to express their perspectives. Apollo adds, “These dialogues are essential for bringing these voices to those in power and influencing policy-making processes.”
SFTG also cultivates a culture of dialogue among young people. Through monthly conversations focused on specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), SFTG educates young people about global challenges and encourages them to participate in discussions that can reshape society.
“Financial challenges and other barriers can hinder young change-makers,” Apollo notes. To address this, SftG provides opportunities like conferences, grants, and career development programs. Apollo believes young people are just as capable as adults in high-level positions and should be included in such roles. “Nothing for the youth, without the youth” underscores its commitment to youth inclusiveness in community affairs. It challenges the practice of adults claiming to empower young people without involving them.
Apollo’s journey with Ashinaga and at university began amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I had to take online classes for two semesters, which proved challenging due to the time differences between Japan and Uganda, poor internet connection, and electricity outages. Staying motivated was challenging, but I held onto why I embarked on this journey in the first place – it was the only way to fulfill my dreams. In a time when everything around me seemed to be deteriorating, the AAI leadership program was the one thing that provided a glimmer of hope.”
During his remote learning period, Apollo seized the opportunity to make a difference in his community: “I led the Nansana Cleaning Club (NCC), a youth initiative dedicated to combating littering in my hometown. NCC collaborated with NGOs and local councils, establishing a weekly household trash collection service that addressed environmental issues and created employment opportunities for local youth.” Apollo’s impactful initiative earned him the prestigious “25 under 25″ Young Leaders Changing the Game Award, represented by the iKapture Centre for Development, recognizing his outstanding contributions to positive change in Africa.
Apollo’s journey took a significant turn upon his arrival in Japan. Engaged in his studies and actively involved in diverse activities, he found inspiration to elevate his youth advocacy to global platforms.” I represented global youth at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations headquarters in New York in July. Apollo shared, “This experience allowed me to demand youth inclusion at the highest of platforms. The connections I made through this experience will enable me continuously to push for this cause.”
Soon Afterward, Apollo participated in the Youth Democracy Forum in Athens, delivering a powerful speech stating, “Young people don’t just want our voices heard; we want to be at the forefront of action, shaping policies, and making a real impact.”
Apollo’s journey from Nansana, the Care program, and the Future Leaders program to becoming an AAI Scholar exemplifies the transformative power of education and mentorship. His advice to potential AAI applicants is simple but profound: “Be genuine and express your aspirations.” His life story is a testament to the Ashinaga Foundation’s ability to open doors for individuals to make meaningful contributions to their communities.
“I believe that what we’re studying is not just education; it’s about creating a life that matters,” Apollo emphasizes. His dedication to changing lives and communities inspires all, and Signals from the Grassroots is a shining example of youth empowerment in action.
Apollo recalls his experience at a political forum, stating, “It was a two-week session, and every day we had an event. We had to attend the United Nations and engage in special events.” He adds, “We were able to give our input, and young people could. I was honored to be part of that.” Apollo’s dedication to changing lives and communities is an inspiration to all, and Signals from the Grassroots is a shining example of youth empowerment in action.
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