Under the auspices of the Public Affairs Officer of the US Embassy in Cameroon, a broad demography of over 500 youths and adults from civil society, public service and the private sector converged daily on the Chamber of Commerce, Yaoundé for a 3-day fair, dubbed Cameroon-USG Alumni Fair 2018.
The conviviality: further expressed through family photograph
Organized by the Alumni Association of YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship Cameroon, the Mission Driven Alumni Outreach (MDAO) project titled ‘Connect-Inspire-Impact: Nursing the Next Generation of Cameroon Leaders’, couldn’t have been timelier, after its last edition was held about a decade ago. Besides, the affluence that was generated by the event cannot be over-emphasized either. Thanks to funding from US Embassy, Cameroon, this year’s rendezvous didn’t only reunite the alumni from different US Government Exchange Programmes across the national triangle, but also brought non-alumni participants in close proximity with the former: thus providing a providential platform for awareness-creation (on various exchange programmes sponsored by US Government (i.e. what they are, who they target, how to participate, and what the benefits are)), professional networking, mentorship, and the sharing of values, experiences, and success stories to inspire and spur greater exploits in communities. Also present was a cross section of both former and current staff of the US Embassy, Yaoundé, Cameroon.
In his opening remarks, the US Diplomat, Lee McManis (Public Affairs Officer, US Embassy Cameroon) reiterated that the Fair was a platform to create awareness about different exchange programmes funded by the USA, enable different agents of change to liaise, inspire and be inspired by each other to create stronger positive impact in communities.
Lee McManis making his opening statement.
In her welcome note, the Chairperson of the MDAO, Dr. Lilian Ngwana Banmi (who’s also Secretary General of Mandela Washington Fellows Alumni Association, Cameroon) was appreciative, upbeat, and elaborate. ‘The purpose of this event is to celebrate our participation in various US Government-sponsored exchange programmes, strengthen the ties among alumni groups, raise awareness on the different exchange programmes, and encourage emerging leaders to take advantage of the different opportunities available in these programmes’, she confessed.
Dr. Banmi, in a vote of welcome to participants.
Typical of the moment was a keynote address presented by Dr. Pius Akumbu (a Fulbright alumnus), which focused on thinking and creating as a key to sustainable development.
Mathias Tientcheu (Cultural Affairs Specialist at US Embassy) who was part of the panel that elaborated on the 16 different exchange programmes, emphasized that the essence of the programmes was to build relations at grassroots level, so that participants in whatever capacity, could contribute in changing the world one person at a time, irrespective of wherever they found themselves.
The crew that kept the bag standing upright!
This époque-making event also featured amongst others, exhibition stands, and panel discussions (on leadership and civic participation, the role of volunteerism in fostering leadership, the role of women and youths in fostering a more integrated and inclusive Cameroon, empowering women and girls in entrepreneurship, the role of youths in addressing high unemployment in Cameroon, and, education and technology, education for sustainable development, and, mobilizing resources).
Guided tour to exhibition stands.
A hallmark gesture to conclude the event was the award by the US Embassy, of micro-grants worth $500 each, to 10 deserving teams (having representatives from at least 4 exchange programmes per Region in Cameroon). The aim is to equip leaders of youth associations with skills and techniques to effectively run their organisations to the benefit of community.
Young and vibrant STEM experts from Tasah Academic Complex mesmerized the audience with their robots.
Prior to departure was a General Assembly meeting, constituting Alumni of all US-sponsored exchange initiatives.
August gift of a cake to the alumni, courtesy of YO Cakes (founded by Nupoh Yolanda Jokwi (in red)). One of the MCs, Ngabir Comfort, alias Commy is with the mic next to her.
The eclectic variety of panelists coordinated by sagacious moderators, the invigorating life musical displays, the culinary delights, and much more ––– made the moments fun-filled and fulfilled. The corollary to this, was justified by the different opinions expressed by many a participant.
For instance, in a vote of thanks to officially-close the last day, Langmi Bruno, a participant indicated that unlike before, his fear and inability to communicate in public had been doused during the 3days. He went ahead to state that after being urged to think critically and create accordingly ––– his morale had been boosted to initiate more positive change in his community.
Agnes Kuoh (an emerging entrepreneur by the brand, Agui Fashion) pointed out that the experience was a great one. ‘I learned more about being a leader, and my vision of an entrepreneur will change for the better after this’, she said. ‘The event will boost me to work more, and I want to be an alumni someday’, she continued. ‘…And I had opportunity to have not just one, but up to three mentors’, she concluded.
In the words of Mboh Brian (student journalist and social media animator), ‘…it was a wonderful event…[because] I learned how to sell myself.’
Likewise, Bitow O. Charles (member of Cameroon Red Cross Association) revealed that the fair transformed his life positively. ‘I had my questions well answered by the panelists. Presently, I’m very satisfied and ready to positively-impact my community, and to help my others profit from the experience I had at the Alumni Fair.
A mammoth, eager and attentive crowd was present on all 3 days.
The impresarios for the 3 days were Tabe Enonchong (of CRTV) and Ngabir Comfort (alias Commy, of SisterSpeak237), and Michel Ferdinand (of Mutation Newspaper).
On different occasions, participants were served with enlivening and relaxing urban hits from domestic artistes.
The 16 exchange programmes under review included: Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF), Young African Leaders Initiative Regional Leadership Centre (YALI RLC), Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievements (TEA), African Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme (AWEP), Community College Initiative Programme (CCIP), Techwomen, International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP), Fulbright Scholar and Student Programme, Study of the US Institutes (SUSI), Hubert Humphrey Fellowship, Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Programme, FORTUNE-Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership, Pan-African Youth Leadership Programme (PAYLP), Sports Visitor Programme, IWPFR, and International Writing Programme.
Photo credits: Cameroon-USG Alumni Fair 2018