"It is now up to us" - By Love A. Achondo, OD Pre-Scholar.
"A leader...is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out
ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.". Saturday 25th July marked the special birthday celebration of such a great leader, Akaba James – Country Director, Open Dreams (OD), Cameroon. Selfless, he chose to dedicate the day to the author of the above quote, an icon whose unrivaled legacy—worth emulating—lives on till date: Nelson Mandela! The 'Open Dreams Mandela Webinar' event witnessed the virtual convening of vibrant African Youths from across the globe, alongside seasoned top notch speakers, blazing the trails in their various works of life. Not forgetting the Open Dreams scholars and Mentors, whose presence at the Yaounde OD Center made the day.
By Midday, the onsite program started with Feka Parchibell, Fulbright TEA Alumna and Founder of Hope for the Vulnerable and Orphans (HOVO) & Nnane Ntube, accomplished author and tutor, leading an emotional session on "The Voices of the Home Malala Yousafzais", which x-rayed some of the enormous challenges students face in the crises zones of Cameroon with focus on the North and South West Regions.
The Voices of the Home Malala Yousafzais
The Zoom encounter kicked off at about 2p.m., as Sandrine Kinsa, event coordinator,
launched the webinar with the first speaker, Dr. Munang Richard—UN Environment Africa Regional Climate Change Program Coordinator. Talking on: "Self-discovery and Passion: How this can move Africa from vulnerable to thriving economies through the climate lens", he asserted, "Lack of self-belief is the worst form of poverty!" and ended by encouraging the African Youth to each have an unborrowed vision! Next, was Efua Adebi, Head teacher of African Science Academy - Ghana, and HALI Chair, with an enriching speech on: "Afrocentricity!" What better way of encouraging others to be impactful, than sharing your own impact story?
Efua Adebi is on
Through the remarkable story of her gesture in leading a team to support 60+ Nepali students negatively impacted by a scholarship revocation in 2018, Award-winning Advisor of UWCSEA East Campus, Joan Liu, inspired the audience on: "High Impact Volunteer Initiatives in a Connected World." She highly encouraged the practice of 'Standing up' for others—as Volunteerism begins with such little but significant initiatives which change the trajectory of the lives of many.
Joan Liu on "High Impact Volunteer Initiatives in a Connected World"
The next outstanding Speakers was Sydney Chaffee—2017 Teacher of the Year, USA—who in her empowering discourse stated, "If your goals don't make you uncomfortable, then they're probably the wrong goals". For over 40 minutes, she took us on a ambitious ride on the power we have to drive community change and the highly effective strategies to apply.
Sasha Lansky, an American, who has spent very productive time in Cameroon shed light on "Studying Abroad". With her great experience in Cameroon and the USA, she connected the dots so well that her inspirational message sank deep into our minds.
Tracie McLemore Salinas—Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Appalachian State University, a household name at Open Dreams, queued in with a transformative talk on "Girl Child Empowerment". Being a living testimony of the fruit of empowerment, her message resonated with the hearts of many of the Open Dreams Scholars especially the girls in STEM, who are walking in her footsteps.
Dr. Kwesi Peters in Toronto, Canada put a cap on the webinar with a presentation on"Academic Mentorship", laying bare several years of experience in the field and the incredible results that academic mentorship yields and the benefits of increasing college access to very ambitious Africans.
Following the priceless exchange at the Webinar was a musical interlude accompanied by a dance performance, from the OD Scholars, dancing to the inspiring tune of "We don tire" by Cameroonian youth and singer: Loic Sumfor. Then came closing remarks, words of advice from the OD Counselors present, and a final celebration proper—including a Birthday cake surprise—that ended the event glamorously with lovely and memorable group photos.
Not only did the Mandela Webinar event prove that Education Unites even in adverse moments (considering the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic), but it also came as a reminder of Nelson Mandela's words: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
It is now therefore, up to us, the African youth, to make great use of the weapon!!!