A student from Pakistan writes a tribute to her experience.
By Siaka Diarra (YES 2021-2022, Mali, placed by World Link in Lubbock, TX)
From September 27 to October 13, I attended the YES Project Management in Practice workshop, implemented by iEARN-USA. This workshop was a hybrid since there were virtual and in-person workshop for 45 YES alumni from Mali, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Liberia. The goal of the workshop was to strengthen the YES alumni associations in these countries and learn project management skills to implement sustainable projects in our local communities. During the first three weeks, we attended weekly virtual sessions on topics including brainstorming, developing partnerships, strategic communications, budgeting, and monitoring & evaluation. At the end of the workshop, each country's cohort met in person for three days to develop a cohesive project proposal that we will each implement with a $2,000 follow-on grant.
Working with each other during the in-person component of the workshop was personally my favorite part, because it allowed me to interact with my group more actively and see them while doing an activity. We had the chance to listen to four keynote speakers from Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cameroon, and also had the chance to ask them questions. The keynote speakers were all experts in youth engagement and development and were able to share their experiences and expertise with us. We learned the skills and personal characteristics of one another, which helped us understand each other and assign specific project tasks that aligned with our skills.
With the knowledge we gained from the workshop and the keynote speakers, we developed a project that my alumni cohort feels passionate about. Our project will focus on training 25 high school students from five different schools in Mali on debating, public speaking, and critical thinking skills. Our goal with this project is to equip young people with valuable skills including research, communication, and teaching these skills to other youth in their schools. As part of the project, we will establish “youth space clubs” in each of the participating schools and teach the participants how to initiate extracurricular activities with their peers.
When I started the workshop I was selected to become an alumni leader. I had to make sure my group could follow the virtual sessions and always check in on them to make sure they were engaged in the workshop. Calling them frequently was the solution to make sure everybody was on track. The virtual sessions were very interesting since all participants from the four different countries were in the sessions together. We had the chance to brainstorm project ideas with alumni from different countries that ended up helping us find the root of our final project idea.
I didn’t have any big alumni experience as a new YES alumnus, but after completing this workshop, the three words that pop into my mind are, "motivating, organizing, and leading," when I think about my personal experience in the project management workshop. I found myself dealing with these three aspects from the very beginning through the end of the workshop.
Participating in the Project Management in Practice Workshop made me become a better leader and taught me valuable skills, such as teamwork and motivating other people. With the skills I learned through the workshop, implementing a sustainable project seems much closer to my eyes as a new YES alumnus.