Forty YES alumni from four West African countries—Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Mali—attended the YES alumni workshop, Project Management in Practice, from September 23-October 21, 2021. Participants of the hybrid workshop met in person in their respective countries for four days in late September, and virtually reconvened bi-weekly for online sessions, to attend project management trainings and seminars with keynote speakers. The workshop participants developed skills in project management, sustainability, teamwork, leadership, and project implementation, all under the greater theme of entrepreneurship.
During the in-person session, participants got to know each other through icebreakers and leadership development activities. They also met virtually and in person with keynote speakers, including James Mulbah from Liberia, Bakary Sissoko from Mali, Javnyuy Joybert from Cameroon, and Amos Gordon from Sierra Leone. These speakers all have extensive experience in business and entrepreneurship and provided great advice for the participants about building a scalable business, creating a business mindset, and the principles of entrepreneurship.
Fatoumata Yaya Diarra (YES 2020-2021, Mali, virtually placed with PAX in Bargersville, IN) said, "This workshop permitted me to acquire new knowledge about project management, entrepreneurship, and self-employment. Thanks to the workshop I've met many amazing people. I learned new things and I'm very grateful to be a participant."
Participants also developed a collaborative project plan that focuses on sustainability and community impact. Using the skills they learned during the workshop, alumni in Cameroon are implementing a project to educate girls and young women on feminine hygiene to help them develop the skills to produce soap, essential oils, and reusable sanitary pads. Alumni in Liberia are leading a skills training for young high school dropouts and people with disabilities which will focus on soap making and baking. In addition, alumni in Mali are running a soap and body lotion making workshop for women from a rural community in Mali. Lastly, alumni in Sierra Leone are developing a project to improve technology access and digital literacy for young people. The alumni from each country will implement the projects this year.
Darius Nyuntee Gbaa (YES 2018-2019, Liberia, placed by PAX in Veneta, OR) said, "At first, I thought that writing a project proposal was so huge and I couldn't do it. Now, for me it's so easy. I'm working with my alumni colleagues to implement a project in November. Many thanks to the U.S. Department of State and the YES family for the opportunity. I am so glad to be part of this workshop."
Two alumni from each of the four participating countries were selected to be alumni leaders for the Project Management in Practice Workshop. They secured the keynote speakers from their country, led the in-person portion of the workshop and are overseeing their country’s project design and implementation. The alumni leaders have also been invaluable in making the workshop a great experience for all participants.
During the virtual sessions, participants continued developing their project plans through sessions on strategic communications, budgeting, reporting, and monitoring and evaluation.
Djiade Nike (YES 2016-17, Cameroon, placed by ASSE in Glendive, MT) says, "What I can say about the Project Management in Practice Workshop is that this is a life-changing experience as far as it concerned the realization of impactful projects that we as YES alumni can do and the acquiring of entrepreneurship skills."