Voices of Youth Inspire! "It’s the crazy ones who will change the world."
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Your name: Samantha Robison
Your age: 27
Where are you originally from and where do you currently live? I grew up in the Washington DC Area, in the USA. Currently, I don’t have a home. I am always on the move from project to project. I spend the majority of my time in Mozambique.
According to your business card – what’s your job title?
Founder and Director of aptART. AptART is an organization of artists and activists working with vulnerable and marginalized youth around the world to give them a voice. We use street art and other public art forms to help children and their communities build awareness about issues that affect their lives.
And how does that compare with what you wanted to do when you were 10 years old?
Well, when I was 10 years old I wanted to be the first female president of the United States. Seventeen years later, I would be happy to let Hilary have it!
Give us 10 words that describe your typical work day?
Hectic, painted, kids, colorful, creative, messy, handprints, walls, multi-tasking and loud.
In a nutshell, how did you get to where you are right now? Name some of the most important milestones.
I initially started working with street kids in Cambodia and shortly after traveled to Mozambique to research potential projects. I realized if I wanted to start an NGO I was going to need some quick cash. Naturally, a teaching job in Iraq seemed like the right choice. After 10 months in Iraq I took my savings and launched the first aptART project in Mozambique. In Mozambique we work with HIV and AIDS affected youth. I started to see the potential in street art to impact a community. I shortly brought on another artist as a creative director, Jonathan Darby. A year or so later we forged a partnership with War Child UK and began projects with street kids and former child soldiers in eastern DRC and then working with street girls in Kinshasa, we started to bring on more artists and in January of this year we launched projects alongside ACTED working with Syrian IDPS and refugees.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get to your current position and how did it help you to grow as a person?
Adjusting to the slow pace of life and unreliability of Africa. I went from the mania of Seoul and East Asia to the extremely relaxed unhurried life of Mozambique. I would get very frustrated with people for wasting time! It was an adjustment, but it did wonders for my patience and now I can handle long waits with a smile!
How important was your choice of degree/field of study at university for what you’re doing now?
I majored in Politics and minored in art so, it fits in quite well with what I do now. However, I think education is more about teaching you how to think rather than what to think. Whether I studied philosophy or statistics or anthropology, it wouldn’t matter. Education is really about learning to think critically.
What are the top three things someone needs to excel in your field?
Patience, perseverance and enthusiasm.
What do you think is the MOST important thing governments and/or companies can do to help young people get started in their careers?
Create funding opportunities for young entrepreneurs with slightly outlandish ideas. It’s the crazy ones who will change the world.
On a lighter note, tell us about the strangest day you’ve ever had at work or the strangest thing you had to do?
In a street boys center in the Democratic Republic of Congo we were trying to cover a section of wall with blue handprints. In our best French (which is pretty bad) we tried to get the kids to put the paint on their hands and then transfer it to the wall. EPIC fail: out of 40 boys I think only 2 blue handprints ended up on the wall. Their faces, clothes and pretty much everything else, however, was covered in little blue handprints, but not the wall!!!
Some words to youth out there: What advice can you give them when chasing their dream position?
Take a moment and ponder, REALLY think what you believe is right, what you want for the world and what you want for yourself. If after that moment, your “dream position” is still the answer to those three questions, then pursue it with relentless enthusiasm and you will not fail because you are doing what you love.
Photo credits: © aptART