Cultural Experience | Namibia

Young African Leaders’ Initiative Connect Camps an inspiration for all involved

Where mentors and mentees came together to develop projects related to social change. #GenerationStudyAbroad #StudyAbroadBecause

When I arrived at the Hosea Kutako International Airport on a Thursday at 5:30 a.m. local time, the sun hadn’t even began to rise yet. Stars were splattered across the sky — southern hemisphere constellations, like the southern cross, stared down at me as I checked “no” repeatedly to inform the customs officers that I had not been anywhere near where the Ebola outbreak had taken place and that I did not have a headache or a cough or any other symptom that would mark my passport with a red flag.

That was about a week and a half ago. I’ve spent that time in Windhoek, Namibia as a Coordinator for the Young African Leaders’ Initiative Connect Camps, which are funded by a generous (read: half a million dollars) grant from the U.S. Department of State and implemented by the Institute for International Journalism at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. How did this happen? Well, long story short, I’ve been working for the IIJ at Scripps for about a year now, and have been heavily involved with the YALI Connect Camps project for the last few months. From working with the hotel staff to create a contract specific to our accommodations and conference needs, to collecting biographical information from participants and fielding all sorts of questions, I have been behind the scenes for a lot of the work that goes into putting together two weeks of international training.

First, a little bit about the camps:

The third and fourth Connect Camps are comprised of seven Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) Alumni and their mentees from Botswana, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia. The purpose of the Connect Camps is to invest in the next generation of African leaders through intensive executive leadership training, networking and skills building in order to prepare them to create social change in their respective communities by achieving the following goals:

1. Give up to 160 young African leaders the opportunity to collaborate, learn, and network with U.S. and African resource experts and with each other during the eight YALI Connect Camps; to develop innovation strategies that build on their professional skills, engage in hands-on experience with low-bandwidth technologies, conduct community outreach, and build their capacity through mentoring, networking, and using strategic civic leadership for social change,

2. Use a stimulating canvas model of leadership to develop skills in entrepreneurship and creating social change by engaging in five-days of facilitated interactive sub-group workshops, and fostering mentorship relationships between the Mandela Washington Fellow alumni and their chosen mentees for the Camp,

3. Demonstrate some community-oriented enterprises using applied technology that supports innovation and collaboration in community development and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public management,

4. Develop leadership skills among delegates through mentoring relationships, between themselves, as well as with American and African facilitators, and

5. Provide participants with opportunities for face-to-face networking and to facilitate a collaborative, innovative project or projects that further YALI goals.

Two groups of mentors and mentees from six countries in Africa gathered in Windhoek, Namibia for two week-long workshops in May.

Two groups of mentors and mentees from six countries in Africa gathered in Windhoek, Namibia for two week-long workshops in May. Pictured: Camp 4 participants on their first day in Windhoek.

Unlike the YALI-MWF training programs, which take place at about 20 universities across the United States, the Connect Camps are being conducted as follow-on training workshops in four sub regions of sub-Saharan Africa. The first two camps were conducted in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in March, and the fifth and sixth camps will be in Cote d’Ivoire later this year.

 These workshops are incredibly valuable for the participants. Not only do they get a certificate and “graduate” from the program, but they make connections across the continent, mentees are introduced to the YALI network, gain temporary access to thousands of online resources from Ohio University, have the opportunity to register for online courses at OU at no additional cost, experience a new city/country, and much more.

So why am I writing this post?

Last week was one of the most enlightening weeks of my life. I spent the entire time being inspired by all of the ideas and experiences shared by mentors and mentees who came together to develop projects related to social change. From going green, to combating voter apathy, to empowering youth and women, participants worked in groups using the “Venture Model Canvas” method to develop solutions to the problems they see in their communities. Working with this YALI program has been an extremely eye-opening experience, and it has really made me think about the impact these young leaders (read: my age-ish leaders) are having in their communities. I consider myself extremely lucky to be working with the 3rd and 4th camps in Namibia right now, and I hope that my inspiration can in turn inspire someone else to get involved or join a similar network.

If you’re interested, check out the Mandela Washington Fellows program here. Click here for more information about the Young African Leaders’ Initiative. To see photos from Camp 3, click here and for Camp 4, click here. And click here or here to learn more about the Institute for International Journalism.

Kate Hiller

Ohio University | 19 stories

Kate Hiller is a Dec. 2015 graduate from Ohio University, where she earned a B.S. in Journalism and a B.A. in Spanish. Over the last two years, Kate has lived and studied in Ecuador, covered the World Cup in the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium, worked with the Young African Leaders' Initiative Connect Camps in Namibia and Rwanda, spent time doing radio production with students from the University of Leipzig in Germany, visited family friends in Norway, and spent 10 days on a research exchange in Hong Kong. When she isn't planning her next adventure, you can find her taking photos, getting lost, pretending to be athletic, or cooking something that usually includes noodles. Follow Kate on Instagram @kmhiller527.

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