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Lessons from the Cameroon National Symposium - USG Exchange Program Alumni

Unity and diversity are fundamental to making things work. We can achieve greater unity by cultivating an environment of inclusion and respect for diversity, which could be seen in the CAMEROON ALUMNI NATIONAL SYMPOSIUM. The 3-day event was the largest gathering of US Government-funded exchange program alumni. It was unique, blessed with the presence of H.E Mounouna Foutsou, Minister of Youth Affairs and Civic Education (MINJEC), Prof. Abena Onana née Obama Marie Thérèse, Minister of Women's Empowerment and the Family, The United States Ambassador to Cameroon, Christopher J. Lamora, and many other VIPs and young entrepreneurs. The symposium kicked off on Thursday, April 21st, 2022 at the Yaounde Conference Center, and the Open Dreams Yaounde team showed up with enthusiasm and determination to to lean, network and showcase their proactive spirits.

Day 1, which was open to hundreds of registrants from around the nation, began with the singing of the national anthem and words from the President of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program Alumni. Later, there was an opening remark from the Minister of Youth Affairs and Civic Education and the US ambassador. Then after, there was a cultural display–a fusion of US and Cameroon cultural dance. After a 35-min break, there was a panel discussion in which everyone had the opportunity to learn about all US government-sponsored exchange programs. It was highly informative. Participants were then divided into three groups for a practical working session. We learned how to write strong letters of recommendation, write a winning scholarship essay, and how to encourage young girls/women to pursue STEM careers. The day ended with a final panel discussion on the driving impact of the PAS and ALUMNI grant implementation.

Day 2, meant only for alumni of US Government exchange programs, began with morning energizers and a panel discussion on grant management. It was opened by the president of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni as he spoke about some steps he used in managing his team. Further discussions were made on building a high-performing association/alumni network through ethical leadership, good governance systems, and transparency.

After the coffee break, there was a session on why and how to strengthen the alumni network, followed by group work/breakout sessions on the renaissance of this new constitution. After launch, there were exposes on all the group works initially given. The second day of this magnificent symposium ended with a cultural evening of dancing and eating, which took place at the Yaounde Cultural center. All alumni came in their traditional regalia, and a dancing team was hired to showcase several dance styles in the nation.

Day 3: Saturday, 23rd April 2022, marked the end of the CAMEROON ALUMNI NATIONAL SYMPOSIUM at the Yaounde Conference Center. It began with the consolidation of discussion outcomes and the presentation of the constitution/Memorandum of Understanding. The management body was then elected through a very vigorous and tremendous process.

During the coffee break, all alumni discussed design ideas for the installation board, and a plan of action, committee formation, and registration of committee members and volunteers were later initiated. The closing ceremony included remarks from the US Embassy representative in Cameroon, an address from the president of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Corporation, and a closing statement from the president of the US Government Exchange Sponsored Program Alumni Association Cameroon.

The symposium also offered some very incredible and unforgettable moments for many. For example, Open Dreams scholar Poutum Ashley said she was very privileged to provide sanitizer for to Minister of MINJEC while she stood serving at the entrance. Other scholars found it highly honorable to exchange smiles and take pictures with the US Ambassador to Cameroon and his entourage. For others, it was a time of networking, learning, exchanges, and celebration. In summary, it was a remarkable experience for all.

Report by:

-Vershiyi Lawrence

-Pelagietheres Fenui Shutang

-Epiphanie Ngasoh

-Teh Triumph Kia

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