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    Monday, March 19, 2018

    By empowering youth today, we create a multiplying effect that will lead to a better society

    Michelle Zapata, IYF Regional Director, Americas & the Caribbean
    By empowering youth today, we create a multiplying effect that will lead to a better society

    Interview with Michelle Zapata, Regional Director, Americas & the Caribbean

    Why did you decide to commit your time and energy to the IYF? Describe your passion for the IYF mission.
    I've always believed that youth has the power to change things if they get just the right motivation. I've seen friends and people change their careers and life goals to improve people's lives; just by having the right platforms, inspiration and people pushing them.

    This has convinced me to inspire and help as many young people as I can, in order to empower them to solve the most urgent problems in their communities and around the world. I strongly believe that, by empowering youth, we're not only impacting today's generation, but we also create a multiplying effect that will lead to a better society, and therefore, a better world.

    When did your love for NGOs blossom and why?
    It all started when I first joined a student chapter of Amnesty International back in my second year of university. That was the time I got so attached to human rights, right after I joined some social entrepreneurship movements that showed me a whole different way to create value for the economy but most important: people.

    I decided that my personal and professional life would be dedicated to creating more opportunities for people. I kept on discovering social initiatives such as TECHO or Children International, where I learned about the great and huge work people are doing around the world but I also realized there’s a lot of work that has to be done to end these problems.

    The one NGO that I “blame” for this passion is was Hult Prize Foundation, an excellent and innovative way to “wake up” youth’s potential to change the world. I was lucky enough to direct this initiative as Campus Director and it showed me the power of youth.

    What are the characteristics of a great Regional Director?
    Humility: One great Regional Director has to be humble enough to always trust his/her team and their knowledge, as well as every representative from the region. 

    Leadership: To inspire and motivate his/her team, but also show them the way when they get lost. A great Regional Director always emphasizes the importance of their work and the impact they are making.

    Passion and creativity: This doesn’t only refer to the willingness to do things but to do more and better, to come up with innovative and new ways that will later be transformed into actual plans created by the whole team.

    Communicative: A great Regional Director will always be reachable for his/her team and will be assertive and friendly when communicating any type of information.

    Solutions-oriented: To be the leader of a big and diverse team means that you have to be fast enough to give solutions to daily problems the team may face in their activities.

    What are you doing to inspire the region that you lead?
    I'm always engaging in new initiatives and making the best out of my full time job at the international NGO World Vision, where I have the chance to get to know young people from my country, who started in vulnerable situations and are now the change their communities need.

    I'm not trying to be their inspiration; I'm looking for better and greater alliances and opportunities for the youth in my region. I also want them to be part of this success and empower them.

    If you were to choose one SDG that inspires you the most, what would that be and why?
    It would definitely be partnership for the goals because this is what we're doing here at the IYF, making partnerships with others in order to accomplish goals better and faster.

    I'm sure NGOs cannot end poverty or hunger by themselves, for example, and this is also the case for governments, private sectors, agencies etc. We all have different capabilities and resources, and if we want to end social problems, we must work together. I believe that creating synergy and working together is the first step towards a peaceful and united society.

    Are you dedicated to helping country members grow during your tenure? How?
    I'm more than committed to do so. I will not only support these country members, but also give them the right tools, platforms and resources in order to accomplish their goals.

    In our region, we'll create a good knowledge exchange platform to make sure everyone has the resources they need in order to succeed.

    What does performance mean to you?
    Performance, in our region, means a united team which really works together. It surely means accomplishing objectives but with passion and always a purpose in mind. It means excellence and ambition to always reach more people.

    What are your plans for 2018?
    1. Reach out to at least 17,500 young people from this region
    2. Facilitate better and more social entrepreneurship platforms for youth
    3. Establish IYF as a well-known youth development platform in at least 20 countries across the region
    4. Change cultural perception towards youth, and make them see us as a transformational power

    Where do you see the IYF in five years?
    I see IYF as the most recognized platform for youth expression and development, as one of the best partnership makers with one goal in mind: to work towards solving the SDGs.

    Why should young people keep an eye on the IYF?
    Because this is surely one of the best networks they would ever find, one of the best solution pools and empowerment platform for youth. Because we are young people representing young people, we are your voice and you should always feel free to reach us.

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