The giver of hope

Portia Mlilo

Christopher Christian Seagateng this week received the 116th Commonwealth Point of Light Award from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The honour is in recognition of the 31-year-old Mmopane native’s exceptional voluntary service in tackling youth unemployment in Botswana.

As part of the legacy of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London last year, Her Majesty, as the Head of the Commonwealth, is thanking inspirational volunteers across the 53 Commonwealth nations for the difference they are making in their communities and beyond.

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The Queen will recognise one volunteer from each Commonwealth country every week in the two years following the summit.

Seagateng is the co-founder and chairman of ‘BW Jobs 4 Graduates’, an organisation that helps young people learn new skills and find employment.

Founded in 2012, the initiative has helped over 11, 000 youth find jobs.

Seagateng is also part of the ‘I AM ABLE campaign’, a Commonwealth Youth Council concept which promotes the rights of disabled people within the Commonwealth.

He is also part of the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) as a Board Member and an Alumni of YALI (Young African Leaders Initiative).

The Voice’s Portia Mlilo sat down with this impressive young volunteer for a quick chat on the award and some of the projects he is involved in.

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Q. What does this recognition mean to you?

A. The award means a lot, especially looking at the fact that we run the organisation from our pockets but with passion and focusing on our mandate of trying to bring change in our society.

It says a lot that someone, somewhere, sees and values the work that we do and also supports what we do to address issues of unemployment.

There are a lot of issues emanating from unemployment, like metal health.

This is a pat on the back to say, ‘despite all the challenges you are facing, continue going on!’

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Q. What criteria was used to select award winners?

A. You have to be doing something in line with their requirements.

They saw that BW Jobs online platform is changing other people’s lives and made a follow up of who is behind it.

They asked me to send my profile through the link and I made it!

Q. You talked of running the organisation from your pocket. Does the award come with prize money?

A. It might not be monetary but more like we recognise, collaborate and avail resources to you.

It raises the organisation’s status and as an individual it adds to my personal development and growth.

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Going forward, it is something that will open doors to the British High Commission office and have meaningful conversation to avenues of collaborations and complement each other on programmes we have.

Your passion for addressing issues of youth unemployment is obvious – what motivates you?

Every year we see universities releasing thousands of graduates who join others on the streets seeking jobs.

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The inspiration comes from the fact that there is something that you can do collectively while we wait for intervention from the government.

Our slogan is ‘Changing Lives and Giving Hope’. Helping others find jobs or start businesses will definitely do that.

When you are not working you lose your status and dignity as a human being.

What motivates me are the untold stories that we often get from people we have assisted.

Q. Do you have any collaboration with Ministry of Youth Empowerment Sport and Culture (MYSC) or BNYC to address unemployment?

A. In 2015 we went to present at MYSC for collaboration and they appointed me to be part of BNYC board.

Now I have the chance to sit with the Minister to advise the government of the day on the interventions that can be looked into.

In a way I have a say or contribute to some of the programmes that are at our ministry.

Our office as BW Jobs is also at BNYC and they gave us an extra room where we conduct our weekly sessions trying to impart knowledge on job enhancement skills to these fellow young people.

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They also partly fund the Youth Jobs Fair where we partnered with five other organisations.

We bring employers to the fair to exhibit their vacancies, interview and hire on the spot.

Q. What would you say are some of ‘BW Jobs 4 Graduates’ notable achievements in its seven years of existence?

A. There are quite a few! We take part every year in Human Resource Development Fair and we look at the job market and what can be consumed from the tertiary institutions.

For the past three years we have been getting position one for the Best Youth Organisation.

We also train job seekers on how to write their CVs, application and motivational letters and prepare for interviews.

We have won Botswana Youth Award, International Labour Organisation Award and Africa Youth Award.

Our greatest achievement is helping more than 11, 000 people get jobs through our platform.

We have a database where job seekers have registered and can list their qualifications.

So when companies want to hire we share with them and select people for interviews.

Q. Any intention of turning this into a job recruitment agency?

A. My aim is to have at least four youth employment centres around the country, where employers can advertise their employment vacancy and people are called for interviews and get hired.

We can also use it to brainstorm, come up with proposals or ideas of starting our own businesses as youth and apply for start-up funds.

We would also want to consult for the government because the ministry alone will not manage.

They need a unit solely looking at youth employment – we will gladly offer our expertise on that!

Q. What are some of the challenges your organisation faces?

A. There are lots. We keep on losing volunteers as the organisation after they get permanent jobs.

I have been unemployed for almost a year now to focus on growing the organisation and introducing more programmes.

We do not have resources to reach out to other areas for other youth to benefit from our programmes.

We have four based in Francistown and they help in exhibitions in that area.

Apart from that we get help from HR Experts from Orange, BOFINET, Kwese and others who come on board and say youth are qualified but we are disappointed at what they put in their CVs and what they say during interviews is shocking.

So they help train them so they become equipped.

Q. How did YALI help you in terms of making a meaningful contribution to youth empowerment?

A. It was a great opportunity.

It was six weeks training looking at civil society engagement.

I was given a peer collaborator who works more as a mentor.

We have been quiet for months and are working on restructuring, looking into the board, fund raising and grant application.

As Alumni of the programme you are afforded an opportunity to apply for funding.

You are given an opportunity to travel and partner with people doing something similar to what we are doing.

I have found someone in Togo and next February we are travelling there to share ideas and skills.

Q. Sounds exciting! Moving on, what exactly does BNYC do?

A. Our mandate is to advise the government of the day on youth matters.

We are responsible for lobbying and advocating for development of policies and programmes affecting the youth.

We do not have a youth parliament so we act as one.

Q. What are your future plans for ‘BW Jobs 4 Graduates’?

A. Youth unemployment has been going on in the global agenda and as a country there are no joint efforts in addressing it.

We would also want to be able to reach all regions.

We are on the verge of launching an sms service where people can access job vacancies through their mobile phones not the Internet.

We are waiting for the regulator and we are done with negotiations with all the local network providers.

Q. Who is your inspiration?

A. There are a lot of people that I draw inspiration from -people who in their daily routine go beyond the means to ensure that they serve their communities.

I am also inspired by my mother, she supports me at all times.

Currently I am unemployed and she is there for me paying for my rent.

She is my pillar and believes in what I am doing.

Q. Lastly, Thank God It’s Friday what are your plans for the weekend?

A. I am a wedding choreograph so Friday we have a rehearsal in the evening.

Saturday the whole day I will be at UB Indoor Sports Arena for the second annual BNYC TV and Film Festival.

Sunday I will be at church.

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