Amos Kihoro, youth program coordinator for Unbound in Nairobi, recently visited our headquarters in Kansas City. He shared stories about the young people he works with and offered advice on communicating with and understanding young adults.
Q. What advice do you have for parents or people working with young adults?
A. The only way we can make headway in dealing with the youth is if we are honest and real. We should be open to embracing their opinions. We should never be judgmental; we should strive to earn their trust in us.
When the youth are assured that you love them regardless, they tend to live their lives per your expectations of them.
Q. What challenges have you experienced working with young adults?
A. There are quite a number of challenges encountered while working with youth.
- Trust. Gaining the trust of young people is one of the greatest hurdles. Being that person they can come to and openly pour their heart out takes time.
- Availability. Young people are so engrossed doing many things that it is almost impossible for them to find time for anyone else. Some are in school while some are working. It is not easy getting time to talk to them.
- Solutions. Sometimes they need speedy, concrete solutions that may be beyond our control at Unbound. In such instances they feel that Unbound is irrelevant and is failing them. Examples would be if a youth has gone through college and is ready for a job, but Unbound is not in a position to hire them, or a young person may want to establish a business and needs start-up capital that Unbound is not able to provide. Examples like this lead them to feel frustrated and hopeless.
Q. What accomplishments have you experienced working with young adults?
A. I am humbled and honored each time I see a young person succeed. Seeing those who are troubled abuse drugs, drop out of school or engage in unruly behavior greatly affects me. Seeing those same young people abandon these old habits is one of the highlights of my work at Unbound.
The transformation of their mind, character and behavior truly humbles me, and I see that the effort we have put in as Unbound is finally bearing fruit.
Young people who have defied all odds to become role models for their peers and community encourage me to invest my life in this noble cause.
Q. What is the most important thing you have learned working with the youth?
A. I have learned that young people who are involved in risky behaviors (drug abuse, prostitution, rebellion of all sorts) have a deeper underlying problem that is causing them to lash out. It is only when you dig deep and talk to them that you are able to find the root issue. Only then can the solution be found and a walk to recovery begins.
Q. What is one thing you wish the world would understand about today’s youth?
A. I would like the world to know that the youth cannot be what they want to become if there is no mentorship program in place. The youth desire to be mentored. Their productivity and character as people hugely depend on the mentorship given to them.
Q. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
A. To the youth I would say beware of each decision you make in life. Every decision is attached to your destiny and with each choice comes a consequence. At times, young people can be hasty in making decisions that end up ruining their lives. Take time and think through the decisions you make.
To society, I would say be vulnerable and open to young people. Share your strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures with them. Let them relate to you not because you are perfect, but because you have been as young as they are now. Be willing to share the wisdom learned from every experience in your life.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to add?
A. Some of the issues young people experience cannot be solved by Unbound. We need to connect with others in society to address these issues. It has to be a combined effort by all stakeholders.
We should do away with the mentality that young people are a source of problems. We should all strive to create a favorable environment where young people can offer solutions to existing problems.
Every society has historical imbalances and injustices In most cases, these disparities can only be solved by the youth. They are the generation at hand and they have the capability to find solutions.
Empowered young adults have assertive voices; their opinions matter. Society should be ready to listen and engage them.
The future of every society is pegged on the preparedness of the youth for the future. Every great nation will remain great if they have been able to mentor the youth to greatness.