By Toh Tecilian Yong (YES 2020-2021, Cameroon, placed virtually by STS Foundation in Houston, TX)
This fall, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a YES hybrid workshop for West African YES alumni called Project Management in Practice. During the workshop, YES alumni from four West African countries—Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Mali—came together to learn skills for developing and implementing projects, working in teams, and entrepreneurship. We also met with guest speakers who spoke about entrepreneurial skills, working in groups, and brainstorming. The workshop kicked off with a weekend of in-person programming, followed by a month of virtual sessions, where we discussed writing a project proposal, pitching, monitoring and evaluation, and budgeting. We also designed our own projects with our country cohort and received funding from the YES program to implement them.
In Cameroon, our project was called "Feminine Hygiene And Entrepreneurship For Girls’ Empowerment" and it was implemented in November. The project trained girls in Bertoua on soap and oil making, making reusable sanitary pads, and improving their knowledge of hygiene, menstrual health, and common infections. Through the project, we aimed to reduce the rate of early pregnancies and provide an avenue for financial independence for the participants. Thanks to the knowledge I gained from the Project Management in Practice Workshop, we were well-equipped to implement this project. As a group, we brainstormed, developed the project proposal, and assigned responsibilities to each team member. I invited an expert in soap and oil making and health experts from the hospital to train the participants. I also utilized the skills in pitching that I developed to recruit participants. The participants reported that they gained skills in soap and oil making and entrepreneurship, as well as improving their knowledge of health and wellbeing.
After completing this project, we developed another project called "Sensitization Against STDs and HIV/AIDS," which took place in December. For this project, a health expert informed youth in Cameroon about HIV/AIDS, STDs, modes of transmission, common signs and symptoms, and treatments such as antiretroviral drugs and preventive measures. This project aimed to reduce the rate of HIV/AIDs in Bertoua, which has the second-highest rate of HIV/AIDS in Cameroon.
Although I once found project management to be intimidating, I now find that I want to implement more and more projects that can help my community. I am so appreciative of the Project Management in Practice workshop for giving me the skills and confidence to make my community a better place for everyone who lives there.