By Yasmine Hawa (YES 2018-2019, Cameroon, placed with AFS in Thiensville, WI)
During my YES exchange year, I learned so much about volunteering and community service. I spent really good moments volunteering with my local community in the U.S. It’s just so fulfilling giving back to your community. I was inspired by that aspect of the American culture and I told myself I’d bring that home with me.
My exchange year made me realize that I wasn’t too small to make an impact. The YES program opened my eyes and made me realize that I was skilled and that the change I was so longing to see in my community could be initiated by me. During my YES year, I heard about the great things YES alumni from around the world were doing and I was greatly inspired to take action just like them and make a difference.
In April 2020, I attended the Virtual Alumni Leaders Training (VALT) organized by iEARN-USA for sixty YES alumni in over thirty countries. During VALT, I took courses on leadership, project design, and volunteer management, among other topics. My biggest takeaway from VALT is that leadership is not a position, but a mindset. Most of the time when someone is in a position as the leader, they feel like they are the boss. After VALT, I came to realize that a leader is someone who pushes others forward and lets others shine.
After taking part in VALT, I was so excited to share with my alumni association all the great new things I learned. VALT inspired me to organize a webinar with expert guest speakers for my community in Cameroon.
For this VALT-inspired webinar, I found three guest speakers to present on leadership, project design, and volunteer management. Mr. Bertrand, who is a Mandela Washington Fellow and founder of the LEAD SHIP association, spoke about youth leadership. Mr. Magnuss Dufe, who is my high school teacher in computer science, presented on designing sustainable social change projects. Lastly, Lambe Joseph, Vice President of the Cameroon YES alumni association, presented on volunteer management and recruitment.
On June 22, 2020, we hosted the webinar on Zoom and 26 participants attended the event. It was a great success!
In terms of future projects, I have so many ideas running through my mind. I am organizing a fundraiser to sponsor kids at school and two more webinars, one on violence against women and another on women's empowerment. One big project I also have in mind is to create an association that will empower young girls in my community. I have already started the work by creating a small group in my high school called "Girls Corner," which is aimed at empowering young girls and enabling them to know more about themselves and their potential as young women.
Additionally, I am working on a project through the YES alumni grant called Tech4girls, which is aimed at empowering women and girls with skills in computer science and to reduce the gap between men and women in technology. I am passionate about empowering women and education. With my projects, I hope to inspire others and continue making a difference.
In everything I do, I keep this quote from John F. Kennedy in my mind: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”