Millennium Kids CEO, Catrina Aniere, sat down with us to talk about Millennium Kids, and how kids are making a difference both in Australia, and in Africa.
Millennium Kids Inc. is a youth environmental organisation run by kids for kids. Started in Western Australia in 1996, Millennium Kids is an organisation for young people between 10 to 25 years who are committed to improving our world through constructive action. It’s about kids creating solutions. Through community or school-based workshops, kids think about their communities, hatch ideas for change, create an implementation plan, and, with the support of expert mentors and stakeholders, undertake their plan of action.
Millennium Kids Africa
The African Chapter of Millennium Kids was conceived in 2000 when Millennium Kids CEO, Catrina Aniere, met some young African people at a United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) conference for kids. UNEP facilitated a workshop for the adults who had attended, directing them to think big, partner with developing countries, and share their knowledge and resources. The kids from each country also met and have worked together since.
Millennium Kids have since trained a team of young people in South Africa from Mafikeng to the border of Botswana. These kids identify issues in their community and create solutions to their own problems. Millennium Kids provides a training program to support young people through leadership, and skill-building workshops, which enables them to run their own youth-led organisations. These issues identified by the kids range from waste in their rivers, food, water, and security issues in their villages to the never-ending problems of being disempowered through poor education facilities and a lack of job prospects.
Making a Difference
She was taken to seven villages during her first journey to Africa. It was a road trip to remember with magnificent landscapes, wild animals, wide smiles, the voices of angels, and a generosity she had never experienced before.
Catrina also got to meet the Chiefs, the traditional owners of each school, as well as students, mothers, fathers, and grandmothers, many who were caring for the children of their children.
These were communities ravaged by poverty and HIV, and Catrina found herself hosted in family homes or by children with no parents. Catrina got to spend time with people, sharing slices of watermelon, listening to their stories, and most importantly, listening to what they needed.
“It is a simple community development approach. What are your needs? How can you become self-sufficient?”
In a world with little English, children drew pictures of their dream school – a school with toilets for teachers, a place to wash their hands, a food court with trees bearing fruit, a vegetable garden, and a kitchen where parents could cook for the school.
This was beyond the capacity of Millennium Kids – the communities needed charity and ongoing funds. But Catrina had read enough about Not For Profits and community development to know that the charity model was not sustainable. The training was the only option, along with some small-scale funding to help teachers access professional learning in their country.
Millennium Kids visited one school on four occasions and trained a team of young people who presented their vision to the local government Mayor, the Minister for Education, the Executive Mayor, the Australian Consul in Pretoria, and anyone else who would listen. Millennium Kids then received some funding for training from Ausaid, and proceeded to run a series of programs with the help of several Perth teachers and Millennium Kids volunteers. This project resulted in a complete school renovation and new toilets for the teachers, which government agencies in South Africa funded. The team also helped fund a small-scale vegetable garden with tools. This was achieved through the support of Lathlain Primary School, St Hilda’s Junior School, Slow Food Perth, and two other generous donors.
Working in Africa
“Many people have a romantic perception of Africa. They want to solve complex problems, and good work needs to be done. Still, organisations need to understand the issues, seek advice from experts in the field, and develop robust strategies for financial management, reporting, and project development.”
Catrina explains that Millennium Kids has chosen to remain small, has developed many relationships with people on the ground, and has learned a lot along the way.
“It has not been done without its headaches, and our fundraising has been small, but it has been directed to people we have trained, and we have helped the kids achieve the goals they had established.”
Catrina also warns that people need to be wary of the rogues out there, as not every person or organisation has the same values and ethics.
“For every generous supporter, there is an organisation that is a scam – people make money out of poverty. People need to check out the lay of the land and not throw money at an organisation that pulls at their heartstrings. It pays to be pragmatic and to invest in some good.”
A Vision for The Future
Millennium Kids have trained several young people passionate about starting their own youth-led chapters in new African villages. They have developed a small microfinancing model as a start-up. They aim to support them, as these kids don’t want charity, and want to develop robust, sustainable social enterprises where they can earn a living and do good for their community.
How Can You Get Involved?
In 2014 and 2015, Millennium Kids aimed to raise 10 x $2000 AUD packages for the Kids Enterprise Program, where kids pitch their ideas for an enterprise, receive training, and are provided with a small start-up grant. Their enterprise pays them a small wage or covers their annual school fees. Any generated profit goes back to the organization to develop its environmental education and action programs.
Millennium Kids has gift deductible status and needs funds to invest in the Kids Enterprise Program. Millennium Kids can also facilitate charitable donations to local and international environmental projects.