Some children-in-need, recently converged on the campus of Government Technical High School (Lycée Technique), Nkolbisson, Yaoundé where they were treated to some positive mindset-orientation for 5 days. The event — now in its second edition — also commenced a unique life-long mentorship journey, given that each of the 50 children or mentees, who came from 10 orphanages across 10 Regions of Cameroon, were paired-up with respective mentors — alumni and alumnae of YALI (RLC, MWF, and online Network) in Cameroon. And to sustain the African culture of Big Sisters-Small Sisters and Big Brothers-Small Brothers, the mentors would be expected during the next phase of the project which will run till ending December 2019, to have at least two mentorship sessions with their mentees, in physical proximity. Besides, mentors per Region will regroup themselves and organize a restitution outreach, in line with the mission of ‘My YALI Family’ — of ‘‘strengthening vulnerable youths’ resilience to radicalization and violent extremism, through positive mind-development and mentorship.’’
At the official opening ceremony was the prominence of US Ambassador Peter H. Barlerin, who interacted with the kids, and responded to some of their questions. He encouraged the volunteerism show-cased by YALI Fellows. And reiterated the State’s unflinching support to inclusive development: which justified their concern in the plight of the underprivileged. He hoped the mentees would strive for excellence through such assistance.
Tembi Mavis Yeluma (president of the project-holder, YALI WA-AAC (Young African Leaders Initiative West Africa Alumni Association – Cameroon) sounded very appreciative. She was optimistic that at the end, the mentees would be endowed with robust mind-frame expected of them to contribute towards peace-building and national development.
Participants, through a courtesy visit to the Multipurpose Sports Complex, commemorated International Youth Day, and communed with Minister of Youth Affairs and Civic Education, Mounouna Foutsou; and President of National Youth Council, Ms Fadimatou Ousmanou Iyawa (YALI Fellow herself).
In the company of the mentees’ guardians, and mentors, the following thematic, amongst others, were handled: building one’s self-confidence and self-esteem, self-care, career orientation, dangers of narcotics, human rights, SDGs, building inner peace and social cohesion, religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue, inspirational talks, role-plays and breakouts, cultural sessions (including dancing competitions, movies, fashion shows, poetry, comedy, and storytelling, etc.), having a purpose beyond survival that seeks to satisfy communal interests, enrichment of entrepreneurial skills and talents (production of paper bags, ornamental jars, detergents, hand sanitizers and mosquitoes sprays), servant leadership, team-building, etc. Besides, sports/physical exercises, musical performances, artistry, and other value-driven activities were used to instill, engage, and foster social responsibility and bonding.
The testimonies from the children were telling. Quizzed on what their take home message could be, some of the mentees had the following to say….
‘I learned how to co-exist with others as a family. And that networking was ideal to succeeding in life’, Ango Bekoa from the South Region revealed.
‘I am proud being part of the camp. I learned how to make paper bags…. I enjoyed the games, and the dancing sessions’, Gerôme Salgor from Adamawa stated.
‘I am grateful for what I went through during the camp. What I liked about the camp was that I gained knowledge in gender equality, building inner peace, and how to make paper bags…. I also liked the relaxation exercises’, N. Abdoul from East Region confessed. ‘But I didn’t like the fact that there were limited breaks, especially after meals’, Abdoul indicated.
‘I liked the aspect of learned how to make soaps, flower jars, paper bags, teamwork’, Dorean J. Mengue from Littoral divulged. However, she stated that there were limited rest periods, given they were already used to having siesta during the day.
‘I discovered new people, learned how to make paper bags, and participated in different games’, Marie Noel from Adamawa disclosed. ‘But we had few break/rest periods’, she concluded.
Hommage was paid to Late Suika Elizabeth Nyuydze Epse Ekwelle (mentee of the first edition of My YALI Family, and active member of YALI WA-AAC (from Cohort 5, Accra, Ghana).
Thanks to funding from the US Department of States in Washington, through the US Embassy, Yaoundé, Cameroon, this remarkable holiday jamboree came to being.
Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is a flagship programme launched in 2010 by Barack Obama, to train emerging Young African Leaders in ––– civic leadership, public management, and business and entrepreneurship. Since 2014 when the programme started gaining grounds in Cameroon, around 90 Cameroonians have benefited from this largesse through the Mandela Washington Fellowship (which brings together Young African Leaders in the US for a 6-week Fellowship), Besides, circa 400 young Cameroonians have also undergone on-campus trainings in the different Regional Leadership Centres of Accra Ghana, Lagos Nigeria, and Dakar Senegal. Several others have also completed trainings through the YALI Network Online Portal.