Stories from the YALI Connect Camp 14 - South Africa
“We are the people we seek, we are the change” – Participant, Ailly Namupala, Namibia
We started off the week with songs, laughs, and tears of joy during our first introductions at the YALI Connect Camp 14. Participants have arrived from nine different countries. Pairs are representing Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This diversity made for hilarious introductions as everybody first attempted pronouncing each other’s names. These participants have come ready and eager to challenge themselves as well as each other as they learn and utilized the tools for leadership development. “Innovation for sustainable social change”, “How to reach success with what I have”, “Open-mindedness and respect for diversity,” “Working with others with different ideas,” “capacity building for youth,” “building mentorship skills,” and “how to inspire” are just a few of the goals that the participants have outlined that they want to work on. During the afternoon on Monday, the Connect Camp was officially opened by Chargé D’Affaires Steve Stark, from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa. Steve warmly welcomed the young leaders shared some of his insights and lessons that he learned along his career path.
Day two started off with identifying issues that people see in their communities at home. Next, they divided into teams by which issues they wanted to address. A few key issues that participants identified are: Decline of quality education, unemployed youth, food security, early marriage, and government corruption. The groups imagined what their communities would be like if these challenges did not exist. Instead of focusing on what is wrong, they focused on what works well in their communities and how these strengths may help them to achieve their goals. “Asset-based development” encourages leaders to look inside their community for help, rather than outside. By focusing on what they have, they can mobilize resources without too much additional cost. This phase is called the “Ideation Phase”, or “the groan zone” since it takes a great amount of creative thinking to devise various solutions for helping your community achieve their goals in this way. After some brainstorming sessions, groups shared their ideas and strategies. After hours of hard work, the participants relaxed and debriefed at dinner with Dr. Kalyango or hit the town in Pretoria.
Wednesday was an enormous day! After some excellent and informative presentations about their projects and countries by teams Zambia, Sudan, and Malawi, we went to the Pretoria Innovation Centre. This is a place where entrepreneurs and idea-makers become “incubated”. If an entrepreneur has a good idea, they can be supported by the center with resources such as machinery, working space, idea shaping assistance, etc. After inspiring discussions with young successful entrepreneurs working at the Centre, we went to Johannesburg to visit the Apartheid Museum. The museum provides history that incites an intense emotional experience, but also very empowering. Visiting this museum puts our whole week in South Africa into a better historical context. Afterwards we went to the Sandton Mandela Square Mall because some of the participants from other countries use this as a very valuable evening to shop. This week, we were very fortunate in that the US Embassy was able to offer us tickets to see the full Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra! There were also members from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra accompanying the local orchestra as well.
Thursday the participants were back to work in the classroom practicing convergent thinking to solidify their ideas and approaches to solve their community issues. Each group has created a theory of change, or conscious multi-part strategy for reaching their goals. The participants also practiced pitching their ideas to acquire the type of resources they would need. Throughout this ideation phase, participants have been thinking about all of the assets already available within each member of their community. Every community is rich in resources and capital other than money alone. This type of thinking and strategizing is the real tool that participants can take home with them to teach to others.
By Friday this cohort felted empowered and better able to have a positive influence their social or political systems at home. After one last morning session, the participants got ready for our graduation ceremony. The ceremony took place at Liliesleaf Farm, a well-known historical site and past hideout for the Apartheid resistance movement leaders like Mandela himself. Nicholas Mertens, the Deputy of Cultural Affairs here in Pretoria, officiated the ceremony closing out the YALI Connect Camp 14. After an inspiring ceremony, we had a fun-filled and delicious dinner to close out the week. At dinner, participants from Tanzania, Namibia, and Zimbabwe led the group in numerous African songs. We sang and dance to opening the camp, as well as close the camp!
Thank you to all who have helped to make this Connect Camp 14 such an incredible success. We look forward to hearing about the incredible work our YALI Fellows will be doing in the future!
See our Connect Camp 14 Photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/47974335@N06/albums/72157682136213382