Every time the word “change” is mentioned, it’s inevitably followed by the word “youth” somewhere down the line. It’s not hard to see why because the power that the youth possess can not only stir up the change that the world badly needs but it can also make each individual start thinking about what their real purpose in life is.
International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP) Is your quintessential youth organization, except it’s much more than just that. A group of deeply motivated youngsters are the backbone of this organization, as they come together under the driving motive “by the youth for the youth”.
Having maintained a structure since its inception in 2013,IYAP prides itself on its communication strategy which has enabled them to reach the nationally recognized stable position in which they remain today. Volunteers are equipped with skills that not only empower them but also works to help them in climbing the leadership ladder within the organization which in turn, works as an internal motivation.
Here, the man behind it all, president of the organization, Thirukumar Premakumar speaks to us about his brainchild that has evolved to be the immense success it is today.
IYAP is a continuously growing organization. Can you tell us how it all began?
I have always been passionate about volunteering, so I was volunteering in some organizations. But I wanted to make a difference in the typical volunteering experience and enrich the quality of volunteer work in Sri Lanka. So I combined all those experiences with the support of some friends, and I started my own organization to work on various progressive endeavors that I wanted to focus on.
Who do you target?
We target youth that is between 18-30. We empower them with skills and give them opportunities to give back to the community using the skills that they have developed.
What is your biggest wish for IYAP? What do you wish to achieve?
We specifically wanted to empower the youth and form a volunteer based organization that initiate the most wanted difference in volunteerism where the entire organization is solely run by the youth. These spirited youth have always been given the liberty to actively get involved in the conceptualization of project ideas and in the decision making process of the organization as well.
All of the decision-making is left to the youth. On what basis do you hand that over to the volunteers?
Most of the volunteers have been with me since the very beginning and they come from good educational backgrounds. We also have some highly qualified individuals amongst us, including a university lecturer and a person working with the NGO sector for almost a decade. We also have an advisory panel consisting of professionals in various fields, so I believe that the decision making ultimately happens as a team.
There are so many issues going on. How does IYAP choose what area that you work on?
We mostly focus on projects outside of Colombo, especially the North and the East. When an idea is pitched to us by youth, we make it work depending on how sustainable it will be. Our projects include Disability sensitization and “Grey to Green” a project involved in environmental conservation. A personal favorite is “Youth Matters”, a series of round table discussions that enables youth to discuss problems that we face. Here we understand various needs that we have to focus on.
What makes IYAP so different from other organizations?
We only focus on the youth, and we always have sustainable projects that will ensure progress. And one of the unique things about our organization is that we work for peace and hence inclusion and pluralism are embedded within and beyond the scope of our organization. We don’t discriminate our members nor we differentiate them based on gender, ethnicity, disabilities etc with regard to the opportunities we provide them to grow and achieve more. We also team up with other organizations, because we believe that coming together with one cause always has a better impact. We work as a network. We’ve worked with large organizations such as UN and a World Vision and we’ve also worked with organizations in rural areas that no one has ever heard of.
What is the future of IYAP?
We hope to branch out to other countries in the future, establishing groups that work towards the betterment of humanity, as a whole.
What is your message for the youth of Sri Lanka?
Do a little each day to give back to the community, expecting nothing in return. Also, manage your time in such a way that you have time for everything and you’re able to balance your work and your life. I also think that the best thing for youth to do is to unite regardless of race or caste.
Thirukumar believes the biggest success story of IYAP is the people involved in it, from the professionals who offer their expertise to the volunteers who dedicate their time and energy.
If you’re interested in working together with IYAP, their website is www.iyapsl.org. Interested individuals can also message them on their Facebook for further inquiries.
Sarah Ashroff Mariam