Hey everyone! Hope Christmas Day was beautiful? This week, my mentee Dolapo Olayinka has decided to share her experience at YALI with me, as it’s such a honorable organization to be associated with, I thought it would be great to put this out for all of my wonderful readers to have a glimpse of. Hopefully, more of you will be motivated to participate in a YALI Program by the time you finish this post!
Dr. ETP xo
I’ll try to summarize the awesome 3 weeks of intensive training I undertook last month at the Young African Leaders Initiative Regional Leadership Center(YALI RLC) West Africa lunched by Barack Obama in this blog post. Although it might be impossible, I’ll do my best to not leave out the important things.
Applying for the YALI program was a spontaneous action for me, but I did (thankfully) and was selected out of about 11,000 applicants. I was really excited, because I’m very big on personal development and travelling.
At the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, I met up with my fellow selected applicants from Nigeria with whom I was to share not just the flight to Ghana, but the coming adventure-filled weeks. We hit it off instantly, which was a great note to start the trip on. When we arrived at the Kotoka International Airport in Ghana we had our first ‘photo-shoot’ before the YALI team arrived at the airport to pick us up.
From the airport we were transported to the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration where we were welcomed by the YALI hospitality team and had our registration, accommodation and feeding details promptly sorted out.
The next morning our conference began in earnest with sessions on leadership coaching, leadership and accountability, gender and diversity and ethical leadership which lasted for the next 3 days.
Following that, we were divided into the various tracks we had selected on application. There were 3 tracks: civic leadership, public policy and entrepreneurship. I had chosen the civic leadership track.
Our first session was with the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) where we were taken through civil society organizations/governance, policy influencing, sustainability, writing a business proposal and communicating impact. Our sessions involved a lot of team work which initially posed multiple problems, but we eventually learned how to work effectively in a team.
The next week, we had a different facilitator take us on social enterprise, business models and stakeholder mapping. For a group exercise, we were asked to come up with innovative ideas for a social enterprise. We also took a field trip to a social enterprise called Fysso Ghana, where we learnt invaluable lessons from the CEO.
The major classes took place from 8a.m. – 4p.m. and in the evenings, we had guest speakers (one of whom was a traditional Ghanaian leader!) speak to us on various topics such as personal branding and using social media as a tool for communicating impact.
The Saturday of that week was for our fun trip to Cape Coast. We visited the Kakum Park where I walked the seven canopies. I felt a mixture of fear and excitement as I walked the first canopy. I was so scared, I almost turned back but I couldn’t so I had to keep on. By the 3rd canopy though, I was really enjoying the canopy walk and didn’t want it to end. I finally made it to the finish line where I got some coconut juice as reward for all my hard work!
Our next stop was the 537-year old Elmina Castle which was built by the Portuguese before it was passed on to the British by the Dutch. There, we were told the history of slave trade in Ghana. Words cannot describe the anguish I felt walking through the dungeons.
We ended the trip by stopping over for dinner at Coconut Resort, where the lovely beach that surrounded the resort captured all my attention.
The next week was a bit tough as we had to prepare our inter-track pitching competition which my team won and a simulation exercise which was due for that week so it was a really tasking week, we were pushing beyond our own limits but we didn’t break, we only excelled.
At the end of the last week, we had our closing ceremony which was filled with lots of emotions because we had practically become family in those three weeks we spent together.
Saying goodbye was the most difficult part for me so I stayed in my room while people from the different countries were leaving to avoid it. The day we departed for Nigeria was an emotional roller coaster for me but we had to leave to go back to our countries to impact our community and others with what we’ve learned. In other words I am now a YALI FELLOW who’s ready to impact my community with the wealth of knowledge I have gained through this experience.