IHEYOs Secretary-General Yemi Johnson in conversation with Lars-Petter Helgestad
Yemi: Congratulations on the assumption of your office as the new IHEYO President
LP: Thank you! It is 9 months now already…
Yemi: Can we meet you? Let us take a peek into your background (e.g country and humanist activism background)
LP: I am Norwegian, 23 years old, a student of political science and sociology at the University of Oslo. Since 2003 I have been an active volunteer in the Norwegian Humanist Association (NHA), the worlds largest Humanist organisation. I have also volunteered with other organisations in the field of solidarity, students rights and theatre.
Yemi: How did you come into Humanism? And of course, IHEYO?
LP: I am brought up by two humanist parents, so I guess that explains something. Unlike others, I have not had to fight my way out of the family religion. My parents have acted in line with their values, but not pushed their life stance on me. I was even singing in a Christian choir for kids for some years! But it was not until lower secondary school that I came to know that my life stance had a name, Humanism.
Then, at 15, I participated at the NHSs humanist coming-of-age-ceremony, like 10% of Norwegians do. After being chairman of a local NHA-group, I participated in 2003 at the International Humanist Youth Conference in Berlin. I wasn’t going to stand for election, but after some fuzz I did, and I have been in the Executive Committee of IHEYO since…
Yemi: What are your visions for IHEYO as its president, bearing in mind the big difference between national and international Humanism?
LP: I really want IHEYO to grow, both in terms of member organisations and volunteers. If we shall be able to carry out our task as platform for and voice of young humanist worldwide, we need more resources… And soon, we have a new good tool in a re-designed website!
Yemi: You have been president for some time now, what has been your greatest challenges? LP: Time! Leading the work of 10 volunteers and half an employee is quite a task, and requires many hours on my computer, writing and reading emails, calling, drafting reports and so. I’m just a volunteer myself, with studies, a small job, a girlfriend, some other elected offices and so on in my life…
Yemi: And how do you hope to tackle these challenges?
LP: I am rearranging my life now, to have less things to do in total, and more fixed time to lead the work and inspire the volunteers of IHEYO.
Yemi: Funding is a big problem for youth NGOs worldwide, how have been able to cope with this? And how do you hope to influence the EC and the GA to raise IHEYO fortunes?
LP: Most of our funding comes from other humanists. We have had experienced volunteers all the way, making good projects and writing nice applications, but we now need to improve this. We need to ensure long-term, structural funding so that we don’t have to live “from project to project”.
Yemi: Personally, I am a product of IHEYOs internship programme, what plans are on for the continuance of the project?
LP: This great project has been on hold for some time, as we have not been able to ensure funding and hosts for this. We now hope to be able to start it up again in 2008 together with the new youth Humanist organisation in Norway. At the same time, we request our European members to use the possibilities that come with the European Voluntary Service programme.
Yemi: Apart from IHEYO, what kind of person is Lars-Petter? And what is his philosophy of life?
LP: I am a positive and hard-working person, dedicated to the projects I’m in. I build my life on human (i.e. my own) experience, ethics and responsibility.
Yemi: What are your personal future aspirations?
LP: I plan to finish my Bachelor and then see what options are open. I see myself employed in a non-governmental organisation, possibly involved in international matters? Time will show, I don’t think I know anyone working in the profession they intended to…
Yemi: On a final note, where do you see IHEYO in two years?
LP: I see IHEYO having stable funding, a full-time employee supporting the volunteers and our general administration. We have reached out and have several members also in the Americas, Oceania, and Eastern Europe, and offer great interactions between many young humanist from all over the world!
Yemi: THANK YOU! I guess that is ‘Tusen takk‘ in your language!!
LP: You’re right, tusen takk yourself!