Monday, April 10, 2017

YALI Camp 12 in Botswana

By Alena Klimas

Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Connect Camp 12 brought together young leaders from central and eastern Africa for a week of workshops on communication, mentorship, and leadership.The YALI Connect Camps are administered four times a year in four regions of sub-Saharan Africa, funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) in the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute for International Journalism at Ohio University.  There were participants from Ethiopia, Botswana, Uganda, Rwanda, Madagascar, Seychelles, and Equatorial Guinea.

Dr. Judith Millesen and Dr. Mame Yauto Faye were the facilitators of the camps. Dr. Millesen led sessions on Positive Inquiry, Mentoring Relationships, and Ideation. Dr. Yauto discussed local leadership strategies and values. She also spent time on communication channels. The sessions were engaging and relevant for many initiatives in the participants local communities.

During the week, the participants visited the Botswana Innovation Hub located in Gaborone. The Botswana Innovation Hub is the first of its kind in Botswana. The Botswana Innovation Hub helps individuals get their business and social entrepreneurship projects off the ground. While there, the participants heard a range of the projects being sponsored and incubated by the hub.

The closing event was held on Friday in Mokolodi Nature Reserve, south of Gaborone. The closing event was visited by the US Ambassador in Gaborone. Ambassador Miller awarded the certifications and talked with participants about his experience with YALI. His speech demonstrated his deep connection to the program and his desire to see programs like YALI continue to empower young African leaders. After the certification, the participants sat together for a final dinner.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

YALI Connect Camp 11 in Botswana

YALI Connect Camp 11 in Botswana

by Alena Klimas

In late March, the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Connect Camp 11 brought together innovative leaders from around central and eastern Africa to work on mentoring, networking, and community specific issues. The YALI Connect Camps are administered four times a year in four regions of sub-Saharan Africa, funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) in the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute for International Journalism at Ohio University. This Connect Camp was made up of participants from Mauritius, Uganda, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. The projects presented at the camps tackle social and capacity building issues such as youth development, public health, legal advising, and financial literacy. 

Dr. Millesen of the Voinovich School of Ohio University was the one of the main facilitator for the first days of the week. Dr. Millesen specializes in leadership NGO and nonprofits. She worked with the students on strategy, on creating a business canvas, and on implementation of their projects. She says “each time a camp starts I’m curious how Camps can get better and every time I am amazed. Each camp has unique personality and feel from participants. And it is always a valuable learning experience for me as well”. The energy from participants made sessions flow well during iteration and ideation.

On the first day, Dr. Millesen mapped the interests and questions of the participants using the sticky note exercise. Participants proposed topics such for ideation pertaining to mentorship and networking. In the course of the week, participants goals and objectives were fulfilled. This activity shaped the Connect Camp so that they could get the most useful seminars for their goals and objectives.

Throughout the week, pairs representing each country presented their projects and their respective country background. This time allowed other participants to learn about each others projects in a more formal way. These sessions demonstrated the diversity of each of the participants and their projects. As hosts, the Batswana participants showcased their traditional food and clothing around to all of the participants.

On day four of the camp, Dr. Mame Yauto Faye presented a session on strategic communication and leadership. Her presentation drawing from her professional experience and area of expertise. This was her third YALI Connect Camp experience. Her session challenged participants to reflect on their communication strategies.

During the final day, two mentors led discussion sessions on mentoring and mentorship programs that they run in their respective countries. Marietta Agathe, a mentor from Mauritius, began her mentorship by partnering with young adults in the country to learn more about the dreams and aspirations of the mentees. Martin Muganzi, a mentor from Uganda, developed his mentorship program from the non-profit Youth Rising. The session demonstrated the aspirations of many of the mentors and mentees in YALI Connect Camp 11 to go back and start mentorship programs of their own.

The closing event was held in Mokolodi Nature Reserve. The participants were given their certificates by Tim Smith, Deputy Ambassador from the US Embassy Gaborone. The Deputy Ambassador underscored the importance of inspiring and empowering young African leaders and reiterated the US government's goals and objectives of working with young African leaders. Following the camp, some the participants are discussing ways to stay connected or start a multinational project.

Monday, January 2, 2017


Produced and edited by: Austin Greene

Tea as far as the eyes can see. Literally

Saying goodbye is difficult. Saying murabeho was harder because I don't know if I'll ever get to say it
again. I'm back in the United States now, and what a journey I had.

I don't have a long list of places that I can recommend people to travel to. My entry and exit visas from Rwanda are the only stamps in my passport, but I can't recommend a trip to Rwanda enough. For anyone wanting to visit Africa, this is the perfect entry point.

I've mentioned before that one of the more pleasant surprises for me was how safe and clean the entire country was. This isn't limited to the capital city, Kigali, either. Even the towns further out were much cleaner than I would have ever imagined. When I went to Rusizi, you could see across the river into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the difference was telling.

When I told people that I was going to be in Africa for three months, many of them told me that I was going to die. I'm pretty sure I'm still alive, I made it back to America just fine. People had plenty of opportunities to kill me and take all my money, but that's just not the reality of Rwanda. They are great and wonderful people with some of the biggest hearts I've seen.

Malaria wasn't an issue either, at least for me. I didn't take the medications, and wasn't even bitten by mosquitoes all that much. I get more bites in Ohio as a matter of fact. However, two of my friends, both Rwandans, contracted malaria while I was there. They were both back on their feet within two days though, as the medication to treat it is readily available.

The only issue for safety would probably be the buses and the moto taxis. It was normal for me to see up to 25 people crammed into a small bus no larger than a van. I couldn't imagine getting into an accident in one of those. The moto taxis were another story. I saw at least two accidents in Kigali involving the motorcycles, but they didn't look too severe. That never deterred me from taking them whenever I needed to go somewhere. Cheap is cheap and I'm going to die some day anyhow.

Locals gather for a ceremony after umuganda.
One thing that I didn't get to write about was umuganda. On the last Saturday of every month, all Rwandans over the age of 18 are required to participate in community service. The service is decided by each sector, and usually involves cleaning streets, building houses and helping farmers. The amount of work that could be completed with little effort was astounding because of how many people were involved.

The food will always hold a special place in my heart, or should I say on my tongue? Going to the restaurant and getting a plate of food for about 50 cents was a blessing. It was pretty much just rice, beans, fried bananas, cassava and beef every day, but I grew accustomed to it. I'll miss going to the bar and ordering brochettes with my beer. Did I mention that beer was only about 50 cents as well?

That's right, everything there is cheap if you know what you're doing. If not, well... let's just say I hope you have a nice job. The tourist traps are expensive. The cheapest trail to walk in Nyungwe National Forest costs about $40. All national parks in the United States are free to walk in as far as I know, and while I understand that Rwanda has to generate money to help fund biodiversity conservation, it's a major deterrent for younger travelers like myself.

For instance, the trek to see the mountain gorillas will run you $750 per person. At that price, you should go see them in the zoo. I get it, you get to see wild gorillas! However, you should know ahead of time that those gorillas are selected by the government to be habituated to people. They do this so the paying tourists are guaranteed to see a troop of gorillas. That's not exactly gorilla trekking in my opinion. Walking through the national parks without a guide is forbidden. Even with a guide, you're not allowed to stray from the marked trails that you've specifically paid for.

If that's your thing, more power to you. If you're a more intrepid soul then Rwanda might not be ideal, however it does have much more to offer than just the tourist traps. Earlier I wrote about renting motorcycles to travel on my own. I wrote about the genocide memorials. Walking around Kigali and just seeing the way that the Rwandan world operated was an adventure in itself.

I'd like to thank everyone involved with sending me, if they're reading this. I only wish I could have stayed longer, if just to avoid Ohio weather. Murabeho, Rwanda!

A Seed to Feed Your Need

Food is prepared for Growing Helath's beneficiaries
Produced and edited by: Austin Greene

Subsistence farming dominates the Rwandan economy. In fact, more than 85 percent of the population works in the fields. Rows of crops dominate the landscape. Farms are everywhere.

Even inside a hospital.

In early 2015, two American doctors, Medie Jesena and Emily Esmaili, were working in the pediatrics ward of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire du Butare (CHUB) when they noticed that their patients were not responding to treatment.

According to Laurette Mushimiyamana, the program's coordinator and president, the children's treatments were ineffective because the kids were malnourished.

"Simply because children had no food, that medicine had no effect," she said. "After discovering that, both of them and their colleagues started gathering money to buy food."

When the patients' conditions began to improve, Jesena and Esmaili began putting together a program that would grow food on the hospital grounds. They named it Farming for Child Health (F4CH), and it initially provided food for 30 children. However, the doctors soon realized that the problem was not isolated to the pediatrics ward.

"The patients from surgery were facing the same problem," Mushimiyamana said. "They were having anemia because they had no food. Surgery became our second priority and we added 30 more patients."

Meanwhile, new mothers suffering the effects of hunger were unable to produce breast milk. Tragically, many babies passed away from undernourishment. F4CH stepped in, adding 30 more patients from maternity and internal medicine to bring the total number of patients served to 90.

At this point, the program wasn't solely farming for children's health, but for the health of any person who could not afford food. F4CH was renamed Kuzamura Ubuzima, or Growing Health in English.

Ange Imanishimwe, the training and M&E manager, said that another important goal for the program is to teach the beneficiaries to select better food when they leave the program.

"What we are doing is to integrate food security, nutrition and human health," he said. "Those patients also come in our plots and learn the basic cultivation practices and we can train them. When they are good, they can go home and do the same practices."

Samuel Byiringiro speaking to patients at CHUB
Along with teaching patients about the need for a complete diet, Growing Health also provides opportunities for local medical students to volunteer. One such student, Samuel Byringiro, talks to the beneficiaries before the meals to help them understand why proper nutrition is necessary. Along with other miscellaneous jobs, he also handles most of Growing Health's IT work.

"Growing Health is really helping me grow my career," he said. "Because the skills when I'm teaching them, I will keep mastering it and I will keep doing it everywhere that I practice as a nurse."

With almost two full years under its belt, the program has so far succeeded in its goals of helping Rwandans in need. Both Mushimiyamana and Imanishimwe hope that Growing Health can be a model for similar programs in other parts of the country.

"We have the plans to scale up," Imanishimwe said. "We are also partnering with the government of Rwanda through Huye District so that this program could be implemented in other district hospitals. We are all responsible for this world, so we have to help each other."