By Manar Sadki (YES 2017–2018, Morocco, placed by AYA in Gig Harbor, WA), Iyed Hamadi (YES 2012-2013, Tunisia, placed by AFS in Fulton, MD), Mwakaneno Ally Gakweli (YES 2012-2013, Kenya, placed by AYUSA in Arcade, NY), Amne Soud (YES 2014-2015, Tanzania, placed by AYUSA in Mesa, AZ), and Mouhamadou Mourtalla Mbacke (YES 2016-2017, Senegal, placed by American Councils in Willsboro, NY)
From May 23-27, 2022 twenty-eight YES alumni from fifteen African countries came together in Arusha, Tanzania for the Beyond YES Africa Summit. The main objective behind the Beyond YES Summit was to bring African YES alumni who have demonstrated leadership in their respective fields together, to develop projects that relate to three United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Gender Equality, Quality Education, and Clean Water & Sanitation. The first phase of the workshop laid the foundation. Through affinity groups, participants were able to look at the same issue from different perspectives and learn from three expert keynote speakers about their experiences in the field.
“The first day of the workshop came with an overdose of positive energy and motivation. The Beyond YES Summit participants had their eyes wide open amazed by the three keynote speakers. Hearing the thoughts and journeys of these three inspiring speakers spoke to each one of us on a personal level.
The first keynote speaker, Ndeenga Shamata (YES 2010-2011, placed by IRIS in Fort Madison, IA) shared her experience growing up in a Massai tribe and how she challenged stereotypes to become the gender equality advocate that she is. Ndeenga now supports women and girls who have been victims of gender-based violence in Tanzania. The second keynote speaker was Josiane Dongmo, an inspiring engineer from Cameroon with extensive experience in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects. Josiane shared about her work partnering with NGOs to provide safe and clean water to people all around Africa, and discussed what access to clean and safe water looks like. The last keynote speaker, Gloria Anderson, spoke about her experience working in education and providing digital literacy education to children across Tanzania.
The second dose of inspiration came from the affinity group discussions where the word synergy was redefined to go beyond the exchange of skills, ideas, and contacts to an unprecedented flow of inspiration and motivation from each other’s experiences. As Africans, we are well aware of our diversity and mainly focus on what differentiates us rather than unites us. All those walls were shattered in that discussion where we discovered commonalities that we never knew existed.” - Iyed, Tunisia
The goal behind the second part of the summit, the Experiential Learning Trip, was to observe, first-hand, the way the SDGs impact local communities in Tanzania. The trip to the Maasai Boma, was a collectively a rich and immersive cultural experience, offering a practical case for challenges that many African communities face on a daily basis, be it scarcity of water, gender inequality, or a lack of quality education.
“During our visit to the Masasi Boma, we spent the day talking with members of the Boma, doing chores with them and later sharing a meal. The Maasai excursion trip showed me how I could transfer lessons from the workshop to real-life situations and communities. Spending a day in the life of a Maasai gave me a chance to see how they interact with key resources and how the gaps in access to water and education can influence livelihoods. During the excursion, my most touching experience was seeing how the community interacts with water as sustenance for their cattle; their source of wealth and pride, and how it shapes their life decisions. This sparked a conversation among my fellow participants on ways that water purification could improve access to clean water for local communities in our countries that face similar water challenges.” - Mwakeneno, Kenya
With the theoretical foundation and the experiential learning trip in mind, it was time to start developing the community projects through a number of project development and management tools. The affinity group discussions were particularly helpful in providing insight about each country’s context, which was later a way for participants to connect over similar issues and challenges and find a way to collaborate with one another.
“The Beyond YES Africa Summit was an excellent opportunity for me to raise my confidence and become an active global citizen. I'm currently implementing a project that supports students who dropout of school. The percentage of school dropouts is increasing and this is really affecting my community in Zanzibar. This project will empower many children and I believe will be a source of individual and national development. The Beyond YES Summit was what I needed to improve my project development skills: identifying SMART goals to find the route course of my project at the grass root level; becoming more aware of asset mapping and resources mobilization, and more. Learning these skills made me feel more prepared to implement my current project and so many more.” - Amne, Tanzania
Beyond learning about the sustainable development goals and project management, the Beyond YES Summit was a true opportunity for initiating discussions around the issues that Africa faces as a continent in terms of sustainable development and fighting the long-term repercussions of colonialism as a common denominator. Moreover, it was a chance to start developing processes that look at change as a local and regional initiative, and African youth leadership as the foundation of that process.
“I learned so much from my fellow alumni, I was so inspired by the impact they were initiating in their communities. I realized what I was doing wasn’t nearly enough and at that moment I couldn’t wait to come back and start contributing to my own community. I developed a project called “Wehelp,” which provides access to career and educational guidance to youth in my community. I am so happy that I attended this workshop and its impact is going to stay with me forever.” - Mourtalla, Senegal