Felix Abrefa Mensah is a volunteer, manager and co-founder of Young Achievers Caucus (YAC), a youth led Non-Governmental Organization based in the Western Region of Ghana. Felix holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Cape Coast.
As a little boy growing up, Felix craved to be the voice of the voiceless and to make a positive impact. This strong desire pushed him into volunteering, joining youth groups and working with Non-Governmental Organizations to help maximize his impact.
Felix worked with several youth groups (such as Curious Minds-Ghana and YES-Ghana) and has also worked with international NGOs such as EngenderHealth. Currently he's working working with the SABRE Charitable Trust.
In this interview, Felix shares his mission in Western Ghana to help and improve the lives of the youth, equip them with skills and support them to establish sustainable livelihood. His advice to change-makers starting NGOs: Focus on achieving your set goals, learn to work with a very small sample size within available funds and make a sustainable, lasting impact.
To get to know more about Felix and his mission, connect with him on Linkedin. For a close-up at his inspiring journey, keep reading!
What ignited the spark in you to start a non-governmental organization? Where did the idea for Young Achievers Caucus (YAC) come from?
I have always desired to be a positive change maker by helping solve problems that bedevils my community. This desire pushed me into volunteering and joining youth groups such as Curious Minds and YES Ghana to make my input to help solve problems facing children and youths in Ghana.
This passion was heightened when I met Miss Rosaline Akonnor (Founder and President of YAC) at a national youth volunteer camp in 2011. She shared her passion and vision which she had for young girls and children living in deprived communities of Ghana, which was to help bring an end to teenage pregnancy and to support children living in deprived communities to enhance their development holistically.
I fell in love with the vision and under my leadership and the support of other enthusiastic young people who also shared in the vision started the organization which is now known as 'Young Achievers Caucus (YAC)'.
What are your visions for YAC in the next 5 years?
A well-structured international youth-Led NGO with at least 100 established YAC adolescent sexual and reproductive health clubs in schools within our operational area to tackle the menace of teenage pregnancy, successfully enrolling at least 500 young people onto our YAC-Youth Empowerment Projects.
To equip them with vocational skills and support them to establish their own businesses and finally carrying out sustainable projects in rural communities to support and enhance child development and help bridge the development gap between rural and urban communities through community initiatives.
What attitude/habits helped make you successful while starting YAC?
Having and demonstrating a strong passion for the work by loving what I do and always engaging the efforts of all core members of YAC through team work, during project planning, implementation and follow up visits after implementation.
As an NGO manager, what is your greatest fear and how do you keep it under control or harness it?
Shifting from the core vision and mission of the organization has been my greatest fear. I harness it by constantly referring team members to our aims and objectives during team meetings and letting them know the need to stay focused and also by being firm as a manager during the planning and implementation of project activities to ensure that all activities are in line with the vision and mission of the organization.
How do you find volunteers for YAC? Do you have specific criteria?
The organization mainly makes use of social media and other online platforms to share update of project activities and also to invite volunteers. There is no specific criteria for selecting volunteers for now, we open our doors to young people who are passionate about making a positive change to join us for our project activities.
Who or what has been your greatest influencer along your journey? How did they shape YAC?
As far as my social work career is concerned, my greatest influencers along the journey has been successful young entrepreneurs some of whom I know personally and others I just met who have successfully established their own organizations, and who share the same vision and mission of YAC or working to solve problems facing communities and are positively impacting society.
Most of these young entrepreneurs gave directions and support to help YAC move from one level to the other in terms of organizational structure and during project planning and implementation.
Do you think having a professional look over your business finances or having a small business accounting software is important? If so, which do you recommend?
Yes! I recommend having a professional look over your business finances because it helps you handle growth transitions, such as hiring employees or taking on more office space in a more organized manner. Moreover it gives room to the experts to handle the details of your finances as you expand, leaving you free to look at the bigger picture of the way your business is growing.
What was the best piece of advice you have ever gotten from another business owner or someone you admired?
Teams don’t work and cannot achieve set goals and objectives without teamwork. In the spirit of unity, we work together to turn all ideas into realities.
What’s the biggest thing you struggle with as an NGO manager? Do you have any advice for how future NGO managers can overcome it?
Securing adequate funding and mobilizing adequate resources to successfully implement planned project activities.
Advice: Focus on achieving your set goals and objectives even if you have to work with a very small sample size within available funds and resources to make a desired sustainable, lasting impact.