The 2012 Leadership Awards Leaders of Tomorrow – senior high category winner Sheliza Kassam has since gone on to start her own organization; Children’s Birthday Miracles. Sheliza kindly offered to do a guest blog about how youths like herself can also start their own organizations.
Believe or not, no matter what age, size or ethnicity you are, you can change the world. With anything in life, there are complications that come your way and today I will explore the challenges that might come your way when starting up your own organization. Firstly, my name is Sheliza Kassam and I am 16 years old. I started up Children’s Birthday Miracles, an international organization in January 2013. I have been advocating for youth homelessness for awhile now, and I believe that this organization has allowed me to go one step further in allowing youth to enjoy the life they were given. If you wish to learn more about CBM, you can visit our website: www.cbmyyc.wix.com/home or our facebook page: www.facebook.com/cbmyyc.
Now, I will tell you about the challenges of starting up your own organization.
Firstly, YOU ARE A YOUTH and adults may be hesitant on donating or sponsoring your organization due to your age. The solution to this problem is by getting familiar with organizations first. When you approach organizations, you can show them your background experience, which can include volunteer or work positions. An example is that for the past three years I’ve been with Inn from the Cold sponsoring their Sunday meals on my birthday, as a way to give back to my community. I was able to build this relationship and when I approached them to create CBM, they were immediately responsive. In particular, Devin Laughlin, the volunteer coordinator, was able to help through every step of the way and I couldn’t have achieved this without her.
Secondly, you are only one person. I can’t stress how important it is to have a group of volunteers/staff to help you! As a youth, I thought it was extremely important to gather youth across the city, youth who were active volunteers and youth who didn’t volunteer AT ALL. I called them “CBM Ambassadors” and taught them about the opportunities they could receive by being an ambassador. With this, you need to have a plan as to how you will recruit volunteers and have specific roles that they can choose from. I chose three roles: Communications, Social Networking and Production Ambassadors. I also offer reference letters and volunteer hours for them to use for future use.
Thirdly, how will you spread the word? With any organization, promoting your organization is KEY. I used a couple techniques that really helped me such as using my face-to-face networking skills and social networking skills. As soon I got the “go ahead” from Devin, I created a website, logo (brand your organization), facebook page, twitter page and instagram account. This allows people across the world to see the difference your organization is doing by communicating this information instantaneously. It really helped me because I was able to connect our organization with a local organization so we received promotions through them. In terms of media, that played a crucial role in spreading the word. Originally, the ambassador team sent out emails just to receive a small blurb on TV about CBM. Fortunately, the media sponsors wanted a 3 minute segment on CBM and the specific details as to how to donate. We were featured on Breakfast Television, CBC News and Global TV. Through this, we were published in the Calgary Herald and everything simply fell into place. Once your organization goes viral through the media, people automatically want to help you with your organization.
All in all, if you are a passionate youth dedicated to making a difference… start today! The future is now and we need to take initiative and realize that at any age, we have the power to change the world. I encourage all of you to spread this message locally, nationally and globally so the youth of today can transform the world to be sustainable and prosperous for generations to come!
By – Sheliza Kassam