I am sure you noticed that for the whole month of March, there was zero activity from my social media platforms, including my blog. No worries! I got cut up in something so amazing!
I was selected as a participant into the Young African Leaders Initiative, Regional Leadership Center, Accra Ghana. YALI RLC, is a fully funded flagship program of the US Government initiated by former President Obama to invest in the next generation of African Leaders. I was admitted into the entrepreneurship track.
I had 5 weeks of intensive training for the whole of March 2017. Three weeks were dedicated to the issues of leadership and ethics, gender equality and equity, culture and development, urbanization, and global technology. Then one week was dedicated to training entrepreneurs like myself on developing business plan, developing a business model, as well as how to pitch my ideas to investors. I also got enlightened on the concept of social enterprise. The USAID and Mastercard Foundation sponsor this program.
Spending Five weeks at the Lagos Campus (ASCON Topo, Badagry) with 89 other leaders across 9 countries in West Africa, I tell you something - It was a bundle of experiences.
Oh Boy! The atmosphere was filled with loads of inspiration! I would share mine in a different post.
I actually got some of my YALI Colleagues to share their experiences with me. Since my core message is centered around the importance of self leadership in the development of our community, organization, and nation at large, I found it worthy to share the experiences of these terrific African leaders with you.
Enjoy the read!
#1 Henry Osabutey/Ghanian/Educationist
As an Educationist, my primary duties is to research lesson topics in ICT and present to high school students in deprived communities in Ghana. As the executive director of the Henry Osabutey education foundation, I thrive to support underprivileged school kids to access decent education by providing their basic education all needs
Before YALI RLC West Africa Training, I couldn't write a business proposal nor pitch my ideas for support or funding. I missed most key notes in writing business proposals and plans. I hardly get the necessary fundings for my startups all due to my scanty knowledge in pitching my ideas to potential investors. I have also been strangling with building a team to work with. I mostly find my self in a team with friends and family members who I cannot fire in cases where they do not live up to expectation. This really caused most of my plans and ideas backslashes. I couldn't sustain my startups nor leverage profits.
Now, YALI has rekindled my confidence levels in pitching and selling my personality to investors and partners. I am also able to include all the necessary key elements in business ideas and plans. I have had most solutions to my challenges as a young entrepreneur. I'm able to build a resilient team focusing on the aims and objectives of my business. I look for competence and not friendship or fill affiliation in building my team. YALI has thought me all it is to be a successful entrepreneur by thinking big, starting small and scaling up. This experience I shall ever live with. YALI is a livable experience! I'm living it!
#2. Ikechukwu Chukwure/Nigerian/Surveyor/GIS expert
I advocate for Urbanization and clean Environment. I also advocate for end of poverty in Africa.
Before YALI RLC Training, I was very passionate about leadership but did not have the effective ethical background to launch me to the next level of responsibility.
I can proudly say I have got enough knowledge that would help me make and influence policies, engage and lead civic movements and now effectively think new and exciting ways of solving problems. Above all, I can now confidently refer to myself as an Ethical Leader.
#3. Samuel Asiwome Agbai/Ghanian/Farmer
Farming is risky business and hence I set a ceiling for myself, always wanting to be in my comfort zone not challenging the status quo. Even a bulldozer will find it difficult to move me from my comfort zone. I was only able to achieve little due to stand and way of rationalizing issues.
YALI taught me to work in a team. My team and networks will become my first support system. Different expertise are brought on board working in teams and we will eventually cover more grounds and move further than I could have achieved alone. We are then able to achieve more in diversity.
#4. Obisesan Oluwapelumi/Nigerian/Civic Leader
I am Founder at Teens Going for Gold Network and I work to educate and inspire teenagers to purposeful living and financial self-reliance.
Before YALI, my work at Teens Going for Gold Network lacked a functional structure and the same was true for most of our operations and projects.
I once said I acquired a new spirit after YALI because that five week period was an indelible transformation to my life and most especially to what I do at Teens Going for Gold Network. With the lectures, the people, the interactions and exchanges,YALI increased my determination to make a change and be bold about it!
#5. Josephine Monger/Liberian/Social Worker
I work as a full time National United Nations Volunteer with UNDP-Liberia and I run a peer support club for teenage girls part time.
Before YALI, I wanted to do two things: first I wanted to established a project that will provide educational materials for primary school kids, and secondly, I wanted to provide sex education for teenage girls. But I had too many fears; the challenges to run a project on your own was too many so I said to myself "let me work for sometime and save money, I will do these projects later". Each day, instead of encouraging myself, I reminded myself about the challenges and how I would be a failure.
Then I joined YALI and did seven online courses. The first onsite training that I had with YALI was the Elections and Democracy TechCamp in Ghana. After the training, I wanted to provide education to first time voters on the importance of voters' registration and how to get the best out of your vote.
I never had money to implement this project all over Liberia, but it didn't hold me back. I decided to use what I have to get what I wanted. Most of the first time voters had access to Internet and social media so I used social media to implement that project. To my surprise, youth groups from all over the country invited me to train them so they could train others.
From that experience, I was selected for the YALI cohort 2 Regional Training, where I had amazing lectures and awesome GREAT YALIANS who motivated and inspired me to do more for my country. After the training, I am on raising funds through crowd sourcing to implement the Educate a Child Project. Because of YALI, my courage is bigger than my fears.
#6. Lola H. Saydee/Liberian/Social Worker
I work with adolescent girls. Especially girls that are into prostitution and substance abuse. I do counseling with them and play therapy with them. After they are trained in basic skills like pastry, cosmetology and tailoring. I sometimes work with rape victims.
Before YALI, I was just working because of the passion I have for the job I do but when it comes to ethics, where sometimes when needed to give or purchase things for beneficiaries, the money will be use for something else and I will not talk because I am afraid of my bosses and afraid to lose my job. Taking into consideration the country I am in and I have to help my mom with family issues. I will just let it go by keeping quiet.
Also before YALI I will go to work anytime I want (how much are they paying me so much that I should kill myself being a BA degree holder). My life before was like pleasing people and hurting myself. I was always stressed up. For my leadership skills or style was good in a sense that I used all three style to work with.
After YALI my lifestyle has changed. I have taken a new dimension in life. Let me give you my first experience after YALI. I went to work and I was asked for my name to be used in a report that I have nothing to do with and also when my name is used I will receive a call and I should tell the caller "I am this, I live here, and this is what I do."
It was something far from the truth and I told them that my name can't be used and if they insist on using my name when the call comes I will say the truth. They all got mad with me but I was satisfied with my decision and I said "wow I love the YALI in me."
The last week of YALI was great it was a turning point for me. Now I can boast I can make my own decision. YALI is like a pastor preaching to me telling me to repent and I am here to testify that I have repented and ready to lead Liberia and African. I see a new Liberia everyday since I came back home.
#7. Jacob Kuutuome/Ghanaian/Procurement and Supply Chain Practitioner
I am a public Servant in Ghana Health Service as head of procurement and supplies. Part-time lecturer at St. Margaret University in Kumasi Ghana, a social entrepreneur in health, Education, agriculture and ICT.
I just love to help others especially the poor and vulnerable in society. It's something I just can't stop. Even my last penny is sacrificed to help others when it is requested at the expense of my self needs. Raising funds to support this social entrepreneurship program was a challenge and also I felt I was doing just great and felt satisfied with my programs. I also felt fulfilled with the output of my programs and not challenged to step outside my comfort zone to explore.
YALI proved me wrong and threw the challenge to me to step out there and do more. I realized after YALI, that I was just working with a tip of the iceberg in my social entrepreneurship programs. Now I am moving from less than 50 beneficiaries of my youth empowerment programs to 2000 coming this June, 2017.
This is possible because, YALI has broken the walls of limitations that narrowed my capacity. I able to just see and smell opportunities a around me after YALI, which before, I had no clue. YALI has indeed reshaped my life, thinking and expanded my capacity and capabilities in my social entrepreneurship programs through the network of powerful professionals from YALI, the boldness to connect with people in higher authority to lobby for support for the poor, youth and needy. This is what YALI has done for me. No space and time to pour all my heart.
#8.Yecenu Sasetu/Nigerian/Health Journalist
I talk about health and healthy living on radio.
Before YALI, I had started this project where I take hygiene talks to secondary schools in rural communities, I wasn't aware that I was being a leader in my own capacity and space; I thought I had to be in a leadership position to be a leader. Also, talking health started out as a hobby and then taking it to radio became entertainment alongside the information I give.
YALI RLC training has ended but the journey has just begun; now I take myself seriously more than ever before, I realized I have something great to offer and not wait to be in a leadership position to do that, I can always start from where I am. Now, I am making efforts to build on my confidence and grow in knowledge so I can influence better.
The first episode of my programme "The Clinic" upon my return had a different feel to it, I spoke with confidence with the knowledge that I am not wasting my time and company's resources. I am not afraid to follow the ideas I have and I know that networking with like minds takes you farther.
#9. Oyebamiji Emmanuel Aanuoluwapo/Nigerian/Nutritionist/Dietitian
I am a public speaker/blogger/consultant on Nutrition issues that affect the health status of the populace. Presently am co-founder of Pure Dietetics am online platform for Dietetics consultation.
Before YALI RLC Training, as a public speaker, I only speak out whenever am among people that understands me (introverts), blessed with imagination and how to strategize but poor in delivery.
YALI YALI RLC Training, to me is a reorientation course that helps me to work with team, having different people in a team to achieve a single purpose. Secondly Networking (process and how to share your vision with people) to enlarge your coast.
#10. Ovie Helen Edirin/Nigerian/Pharmacist
I work with people living with HIV/AIDS at facility and community level. I have a particular interest in prevention of mother to child transmission of the virus.
I am a Pharmacist and in my society it is generally believed that one of the responsibilities of the pharmacist is to ensure that the drugs circulated in the drug markets in Nigeria are safe and efficacious. This happens to be a challenge in my country and a cause for concern.
Before YALI RLC Trainign, I was fully aware of this issue and my normal response was so long as I could navigate my way and avoid using fake products myself, I was safe. Besides what significant change could I make to withstand this huge illegality in my country.
During YALI RLC Training, we were taught on the issue of ethics and morality and during the discussions in class, the issue of fake and counterfeit drugs were discussed in detail, questions were raised and I began to ask myself questions from an ethical point of view.
I started the see that this issue was only going to get worse until persons like me decided to stand up and face the challenge head-on. I learned in YALI that we are the ones that are responsible for proffering solutions to the problems of Africa. I started to think and ask myself questions on what I could do to curb the menace in the society. As I was leaving YALI I began to think solutions and not just problems. I may not have figured it all out but i know I am on the track to doing so.
#11. Linguere Deborah M Sock/The Gambian/Marketer
I co-manage a micro business that processes and packages a local Gambian food and distributes it to supermarkets, making it ready-to-eat for consumers. I create and offer value.
Before YALI RLC Training, I was not necessarily unethical, but there were some issues I never considered in terms of ethics or some which I saw as grey areas. I was not always ethically conscious. As a lector I could always stand in front of a crowd and read but I would fumble over my words if I am to speak impromptu. My confidence level in public speaking was not top-notch and I would fail to try because I would not want to fail. I packed all these in my luggage to ASCON.
Now, I have an Ethics meter in my brain; one that screams 'Banner Headline." There is nothing I do without considering the ethics of it, even in my personal dealings. I have been able to work on my public speaking especially with Alex Balogun (A YALI ALumni) and I am proud to report an improvement. I will get there. Also, YALIANS have taught me that it is okay to fail; as long as I try again- the Great Immafidon (A fellow participant). YALI gave me YALIANS; that is an experience of it own.
#12. Awonuga Waheed Oyetola/Nigerian/Doctor
I am a health policy strategist focused more on maternal and child health. I am an entrepreneur who believes in the ability to apply time tested solutions to problems that affects our generation.
Before YALI RLC Training, I have always been a lone ranger believing I can do all and everything requiring little of no support from anyone. I could be described as that creative mind who hates being bugged down by excuses and all sorts which made me rely more on myself and packing up more workloads in that regard.
After YALI RLC Training, I not only learnt the rewards of teamwork and team effort, I also realized that the height to which anyone can reach is unending if and only if one work as a team. I discovered that our abilities and capabilities have limits and working with others not only help get the work done, it also helps one to gain from their superior knowledge of things and in the end everyone gains!
#13. Adebanke Ilori/Nigerian/Legal Practitioner/ Politician
I engage in Advocacy for Youth Participation in Politics.
Before YALI RLC Training, I had questions relating to why policies fail and what could be done.
After YALI, I was able to understand the problem as absence of strategic planning and I am excited to be working on that as soon as possible.
#14. Feyisayo Adanlawo/Nigerian/Teenage Life Coach
I connect young people troubled sexually and emotionally to the experts that helps them become better. Using skill and personal development as a preventive and corrective tool for Rehabilitation and Empowerment.
Earlier In the year, I had a deep reflection about certain areas of my life, I had a Desire to BE more and DO more in effecting change in my community. I knew that it begins with me. Conscious unlearning and relearning process, Getting rid of negative thinking, sentiments and relationships that did no good. I had a desire to know how to tell more appealing stories of the things I had began to do already. So I began the process of removing the things I don't want to be part of the future I see so vividly..
Coming to YALI with an open mind to learn was the best thing I did. Every interaction and training session opened me up to more, filling the gap and answering my many personal questions about leadership and impact. YALI helped me to itemize and focus on the very important things. The daily schedule helped me to build an habit of organization and structure in my personal work life. One big thing that happened to me (perhaps my greatest YALI blessing) Is the quality of people around me. Each of them specifically ministering to each hunger I came to YALI with.
#15. Ajagu Kennethcollins/Nigerian/Law Graduate
I am passionate about achieving global citizenship through education and sensitization of the populace on how their individual actions affects the country and in turn the continent and in turn the world as a whole.
Before YALI RLC Training, my view on several issues were narrow. Issues ranging from ethics and gender based issues, to urbanization and rural community development and as such I wasn't operating in my full capacity as a leader.
YALI developed every leadership trait in me, from Public speaking to the know how on setting up and running a civil organization. YALI increased my capacity to impact and equipped me with the necessary knowledge needed to tackle issues plaguing Nigeria and indeed Africa as a whole in whatever little way I possibly can. YALI has forever changed my life and career.
#16. SIAFFA BAHN KEMOKAI, II/Liberian/Administrative Office
I supervise sixteen staff and manage the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I draft confidential communications and handle all communications. I also run an NGO.
Before YALI RLC Training, I had focused on leading believing only in myself. Most time I did not really value suggestions from others especially when it involves decisions making. Though I had always inspired my colleagues in achieving the needed results.
Prior to YALI, I served as Speaker of the State University Student Union (University of Liberia) where I presided over thirty-six thousand students. I am currently, the President of the Youth United for the Promotion of Academic & Social Change, an organization that focuses on the monitoring and evaluation of educational institutions in Liberia. I have a challenge of having meeting timely or regularly.
Now with the YALI experience, before my return, I organized a meeting and the meeting was held three days after my return. The meeting was fruitful because everyone were given the opportunity to speak and their views or suggestions were valued.
I have learned that team work is very key in leadership. Leaders must be innovative and problem solving, listen more and talk less. Lead with passion and inspiration. Currently, in my place of work where I supervise sixteen persons, I have designed strategy for each staff base on their existing TOR for efficiency, effectiveness and result oriented. I have started, implementing the skills I acquired from YALI.
#17. Vera Efe Ikharea/Nigerian/Agroecologist
I assist in starting up farms, re-establishment of abandoned farms and providing of proven indigenous/ organic solutions amidst a changing climate.
Before YALI RLC Training, I never saw the need to improve my potential or expand my activity. I was just comfortable in my immediate sphere.
YALI was the best decision I made. No other gift ( besides the ransom of Christ) is better than meeting with diverse unique individuals, each with their peculiarities and strength.
I was awaken from 'sleep', I was fired up and charged, I was ignited. I left YALI with an expanded vision, though the vision appears bigger than me, it is not beyond my execution.
With the #YALIinME and with the great network of persons I connected with, everything is possible. #Watchmyspace
#18. Mirabelle Morah/Nigerian/Story teller
I go around searching for stories to share, I play the guitar and I volunteer for youth and community programs.
There is just so much to tell! What do I focus on in particular now?
Before YALI RLC Training, I wasn't confident about a lot of things I did. If I could write, I wasn't very confident that the stories I told would make sense. If I could play the guitar, I would be afraid that I'd strike the wrong notes and if I could dance... Of course I can't dance anyway.
So I hid behind a lot of people, I liked being behind the scene (I still like doing background jobs but in a positive way). There was always this self doubt that I wasn't good enough and my ideas weren't grand enough.
Being selected into YALI RLC, West Africa, made me realize that really, nothing, no effort is too small! Someone believed in me, believed in the little things I did and selected me. Wow! Interesting!
So, I have started seeing things in a positive light. I don't need to have the grandest and most perfect ideas/projects/stories to feel confident in anything I do. So far it comes from a heart (my heart) to help others, to care and to just sincerely help, then I'm confident in my efforts. I have also become more assertive. This is the YALI in me, making me better.
#19. Enenimiete Awotua-Efebo/Nigerian/Medical Doctor
I work in collaboration with various NGOs to provide free healthcare for individuals of low socioeconomic status especially those in rural areas. I also counsel/mentor teens and young adults.
Before YALI RLC Training, I was looking for a way out of the system. Honestly I was frustrated with the way things were going and I felt the solution was to get out of it. I believe in making a positive impact and affecting the lives of individuals around me but I often got frustrated as I felt I did not have enough to make the impact I wanted.
Personally I lacked confidence and I second guessed myself a lot. I am also an introvert and this was detrimental as I had trouble whenever I found myself with an unfamiliar crowd.
Meeting amazing young individuals with bright minds changed my mindset. It gave me a fresh hope, it made me realize Africa's solution lies within us and we are the ones responsible to fix it.
I met great people who opened my mind to the endless possibilities we could achieve by working together. It showed me I have what it takes and no impact was too little. It gave me the confidence that I can do whatever I set my mind to do and it showed me the power in my voice, it gave me the boldness I lacked.
#20. Ovo Otarigho/Nigerian/Partnership Strategist
I use my skills as partnership strategist and an advocate of social Justice to build support for the attainment of the UN SDGs using my NGO, IDLY Initiative.
I have always been a change enthusiast, someone who believes in social justice, that the wrongs of the society could be corrected. This explains why I founded the Impact Driven Young Leaders Initiative (IDLY Initiative). I've always wanted to Impact the world in my little ways. Using IDLY, I periodically mobilize health support to rural communities within Abuja.
After YALI RLC Training, I became a change actor, not just an enthusiast. I realized that enthusiasm is not enough but ACTION. YALI experience was just the spark I needed to do this. This explains why I started a Campaign Against Sexual Harassment with other YALI members.
We tagged the Campaign "AASHCampaign". I had always nursed my disdain towards harassment but YALI gave me the push TO ACT. I have moved from talking stage to Action stage. In AASHCampaign, we are encouraging victims to speak up, while we want the public to Say NO to Sexual Harassment!
#21. Osaki Theresa Georgewill/Nigerian/Computer Analyst
I am an advocator and I Mentor to Persons living with Disabilities
Before YALI, i am calm and cool wait for things to be realistic on its on without much effort of looking for a way around it
After YALI, It has tremendous in the sense that I define what I want to become in this Great Continent of ours. Its a beautiful plat form for me to kick the ball rolling with the slightest opportunity. Campaigning disability is an opportunity in disguise.
#22. Adedolapo Oladimeji-Osuntuyi/Nigerian/Social Worker
I am the founder of Dolly Children Foundation (DCF), a non-governmental organization which focuses on making quality education accessible to indigent children in remote communities. DCF works with public primary schools by providing a conducive environment for learning, empowering educators and empowering indigent children
Before going for the YALI RLC Training, I had this challenge of communicating to people about the impact stories of the projects I coordinated. A lot of projects has been done on the field but not well communicated on the social media platforms, partners and the public at large.
Coming for YALI leadership training, has helped me learn the art of storytelling. I am happy with the new way i write about the projects I handled. I have started receiving enormous comments from people about these stories. Since coming for YALI, I having been meeting people who are interested about the projects I am involved in and are keen to spread the news on my behalf via different social media platforms.
Also, I have networked with friends who are skilled in the areas I once had issues with and they are now helping me work it out. My new relationship with these wonderful friends has now transformed my work and life has a whole. They have helped me discovered a new side of me. They brought out the Y- A- L- I in me.
I hope this inspires you to get started on that dream of yours. You owe it to yourself to Lead Your Life! There is absolutely no one that can stop you from unleashing your greatness (except you). Take that baby step now! It might hurt a little, but trust me, you'd be fine.
For More Information about this program, visit www.yaliwestafrica.org, www.yali.state.gov