Kingsley Bangwell is a household name in the youth development world. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Youngstars Development Initiative, with offices in Ghana and Nigeria (although he prefers to be called Team Leader). He has travelled to several parts of the world and still counting. Winner of some of the most prestigious awards and recognitions like ASHOKA Fellow, Young Global Leader of World Economic Forum among others, he never seizes to amaze people with his humane and humble disposition to life. Not one to be boastful, yet has achieved so much in empo wering lots of youths with his pet project: DEMOCRACY SERIES: PARTICIPATION, LEARNING ACTIVE YOUTH (DESPLAY). This program brings together youths from different parts of Africa in a three semester training, to learn about democracy and good governance, as it affects the youths. In a very heart-warming interview, conducted in Ilorin, Kwara State, Kingsley says he is happy to be a source of encouragement to young people. Enjoy it.
Q. How did u start Youngstars Foundation now known as Youngstars Development Initiatives?
I started in a local barber shop located in Niger Avenue in Jos Plateau state in 1995 but formally created the name in 1996 and began conducting pep talks in schools on the Plateau. Many school principals turned me down cause I was pretty young and small and not very confident, but I kept at it. After 7 years we got our first grant of about N100,000 in 2003 and made the most use of it and other grants began to come and today, its getting better with activities in Nigeria and Ghana and we hope to spread to other African countries soonest. Focus and diligence is t he word for young starters who want to succeed.
Q. How long have you been in the young development world?
If you count from 1995 till date, we are talking of about 14years, you could say for about a quarter of Nigeriaâ€™s independence I have been strategically contributing to nation bulding and in this life time, i dont intend to do anything else. Even as an adult, I will work for and with youths. Thats what my life is about!
Q. You just recently returned from a trip to Jordan. What program did you attend there and how was the experience like?
A: I went for the World Economic Forum in Jordan. It was a wonderful experience for me. It was re-energizing. There was a lot of peer interaction, networking and all of that. I got to Jordan and met people from over 50 countries within my age bracket who have also been actively involved in youth development work and they came from all parts of the world. It was nice to share ideas with great minds. The owner of Skype and Youtube where all there and we rubbed minds, it was quite energizing. Infact we are working on a partnership with Joshua the owner of Skype, more details soon on our website, www.youngstarsfoundation.org
Q: You have gotten a lot of awards, recognition and several forms of appreciation , how do you feel about them?
A: All the awards I have receiveed are unique in their own ways. Lets start with ASHOKA fellowship. For you to be an ASHOKA Fellow you have to go through nearly a one year processing periodand you may not scale through! First of all, you have to be recommended or nominated, then submit an application about your work and idea that qualifies you as an innovator. It is reviewed and ASHOKA staff visits your office and after reviews you are invited for a panel in which about 4 different local and international ASHOKA fellows will interview you! Then some months later you will get a response admitting you or defering your application. Its not easy man! ASHOKA is a network of innovators around the world. Currently have about 1600 ASHOKA fellows in about 60 countries or so. I am previledged to be one of the about 70 Nigerian ASHOKAs! And now i have been elected into the World Economic Forum....that is something!
Q: Lets come to your passion DESPLAY which has been empowering young people and bringing synergy to community work. How did you come about it?
A: I was asked the same question in Washington D.C last year at a function . I have attended a lot of conferences on youth development in the past but still felt there was a need to put a solid platform that will train youths on how to contribute their own quota on democracy and good governance. I took time out to pray about it to God to give me an inspiration and i wanted something that would be systemic and grow into a self sustainable project. Today DESPLAY was the reason I was elected into ASHOKA and also into the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders. I concieved the idea in 2005 and when we submitted the proposal to National Endowment for Democracy USA, they were excited about it and gave us funding and have funded it since then, today we have participants now coming in from West African countries. In future we would be having quotas for different regions of Africa, just watch out! The next DESPLAY Season begins in December, applications begin in October on Youngstars website. Even you emmanuel you are currently enrolled the DESPLAY program and i can see you are having a ball!
Q: When you got married last year a lot of people felt you will slow down a little on your busy activities, but ironically, you are more active than before.
A: Before I got married, I always knew I had to marry well. I had a lot of plans for myself so I needed a woman who will be supportive and can also relate and share my dreams and aspirations because the Bible says â€œthe woman is the helpmateâ€. There is something a good wife will truly offer and add to the life of her husband. When we got married, we both agreed to support each other achieve our aspirations. So far its been wonderful, she travels around the world with me, we went to Jordan together to the World Economic Forum. She has just registered her own company Hands and Minds Ltd using creative writting to foster ethics, emphaty and cognitive thinking in children. I am currently her volunteer! Untill she can afford to employ and grow her company!
Q: A lot of young people look at you as a role model and with the DISPLAY program, you have become like a mentor to them. What is your advice to them?
A: First and foremost, young people should get close to God. Heâ€™s the source of inspiration and can make a way where there isnâ€™t any. He can help you fulfil your purpose on earth. I will also advice young people to explore their Godâ€™s given talent, ability and be determined to succeed. And then young people must learn to be patient, it takes about 7-12 years for a great organisation to evolve and i mean years of consistency and hardwork. Stay on it untill that formlessness becomes form and beauty that you will be proud of. I am truly proud of Youngstars and I am still working hard on it! Stay on your dream!