Charles Umeh, Author of Breaking The Coconut

“One of the best things that can happen to any leader is working with volunteers. Volunteers are priceless! They are the ones who would offer their time for a cause they believe in and stick to it without asking how much you pay them”

My journey with LEAP Africa started in my sophomore year as an undergraduate in the University. A friend then in my department Odira (Nee Ndulue) introduced the LEAP’s Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) to me, and I sign up.

I showed up for the leadership journey, and within a week, there was a before and after version of me and a beginning of a never-ending journey of experiential learning.

Carrying out a community change project is a condition to graduate from the YLP. For me, it sounded easy at first, but when we were asked to choose a project we were passionate about, the real task began when we had to go through the implementation process. However, LEAP Africa introduced me to a new world of service and I had an uplifting serving experience.

I served as the State Coordinator for the Leadership Ethics and Civics (LEC) Programme in Eastern Nigeria. My key responsibility was making sure the programme ran smoothly while I corresponded with the Lagos office. My learning curve was priceless and if I served well it was because of the support I received from volunteers, teachers and youths who were key beneficiaries of the LEC project. We made sure the LEC kicked off successfully in the South Eastern State specifically Awka and Onitsha. The success of the LEC project was solely based on the effort of volunteers who staked their time, and resources as undergraduates with very tight deadlines.

Southeastern Nigeria is a beautiful place to carry out projects. Many times, some key stakeholders misunderstood our actions, however, they were all teachable moments. Those times expanded my knowledge on team building, negotiation and problem-solving skills, public speaking, and everyday I got better communicating and identifying my blind spots.

One of the best things that can happen to any leader is working with volunteers. Volunteers are priceless! They are the ones who would offer their time for a cause they believe in and stick to it without asking how much you pay them. So I would say I was opportune to have that experience working with volunteers who with time turned out to be friends. I learned when to speak and when to listen.

Serving with LEAP opened up more service doors, which included serving as my university team Project Manager for SIFE (presently known as ENACTUS). I also bagged an NYSC State Honours Award in the creeks of Delta State.

Working with people and building relationships has given me access to lifetime friends; some accountability partners who continue to inspire and challenge me to be better. One of the key takeaways of my LEAP experience was learning to pass the baton and making sure as a change agent, the next generation is better than mine.

Over time, I realised I had a vast resource of experiences to draw from, so I embarked on writing a book which identifies emerging leaders who will shape the leadership sphere in Africa! The book, #BreakingTheCoconut would be out in December 2015 and accessible anywhere globally.


Charles Umeh is a leading Personal development Coach, Project Management advocate and member of the global body of Project Managers. He has Spoken to over 500 professionals including youths across Africa. His African Project #BreakingTheCoconut identifies emerging leaders who will shape the leadership sphere in Africa. He is a Cofounder of Craigminds, an educational and content Enterprise with a social arm focused on re-igniting the reading culture in Africa.

Have you got an interesting story to share? Send an email to info@leapafrica.org. We’ll love to hear from you.

LEAP Africa Graduates 20 Social Entrepreneurs, Inducts 20 More Into The SIPA In Abuja

The stage was set as visitors walked in anticipating an exceptional event! and indeed it was. From the minute the MC picked up the mic to begin the programme till the programme rounded off with a vote of thanks by Mrs, Iyadunni Olubode, LEAP’s Executive Director, the agenda for the day was billed to deliver a memorable experience.

LEAP Africa with support from Union Bank Nigeria, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, and International Youth Foundation (IYF) on November 12 2015, held its annual Social Innovators Awards in Abuja, Nigeria capital city to celebrates 20 social entrepreneurs.

Anchored by Ofi Ejembi, On Air Personality at Nigerian Info Abuja the event kicked off at 10:30 am. Dr. Nadu Denloye LEAP’s Board Chair opened the event with a warm speech which captured the essence of the Awards while our speakers – Mr. Bosun Tijani, CEO & Co-founder Cchub; Maria Eitel Chairman Girl Effect and Esther Agbarakwe Advisor Social Good and LEAP 2011 ANYLA Awardee gave powerful presentations on social innovation, need for innovators in our society and how Africa can realize its full potential through these innovators.

LEAP honoured 3 of the 20 2014/2015 Social Innovators Programme Fellows with ‘Most Outstanding Fellows’ Awards for huge contributions to the society throughout their one year fellowship. The awardees are Kelvin Ogholi, Co- founder UNFIRE; Olufemi Omotayo, Publisher EntrepreNEWS and Saeed Jumah, Founder 100, 000 Smiles Projects whose cumulative impact have touched the lives of thousands of low-income families in Nigeria.

The Social Innovators Programme and Awards (SIPA) is a one year fellowship which supports talented young social innovators, whose ideas and initiatives offer effective and creative solutions to challenges in local communities across Nigeria.

The programme welcomed special guests, primary, secondary and university students, inspiring these individuals to begin to think of ways to proactively contribute their quota in the development of a truly empowered Nigeria.  

The awards also inducted 20 new fellows into the Social Innovators Programmes and Awards. These inductees will begin a one year fellowship programme come January 2016.

Some faces at the event:

LEAP Abuja 2015 - Ejike Manny (69)

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Discovering Your Path To Change The World: #LEAPISPARTOFMYSTORY with Omoyele Isaac, 2014 SIP Fellow

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Omoyele, Isaac Success, is reducing the number of children that are out of school and facilitating access to psychological support. 

Education is a fundamental right. It is one of the most basic ways people can achieve wellbeing. It lifts lifetime earnings as well as how much a person can engage with and contribute to society.

Omoyele Isaac Success was among 20 social entrepreneurs at LEAP Africa’s Social Innovators Awards, 2015. He graduated with the 2014 class of SIP Fellows after a one year intensive training with LEAP Africa. His initiative “Dreams From The Slum” is breaking the barriers to quality education in communities across Nigeria.

I am OMOYELE Isaac Success. It is my conviction that if you build children, you are building generations.

I grew up in Ajegunle City of Lagos State. As a child, I dropped out of school knowing how it felt not to have basic school supplies. This experience affected me greatly that I became an introvert with a very low self-esteem.

In the year 2010, my experiences as a child became the burden that triggered my passion to provide quality education for children living in the same community (Ajegunle). I was driven to promote quality education by sending out of school children back to school and facilitating psychological support for kids with special needs. I also worked to improve the health and nutrition of each child.

In 2013, I started the Reachout22 Project for vulnerable children, Now ‘Dreams from the Slum’, reaching out to 22 vulnerable children in Ajegunle with 22 values I taught them to live by before they turn 22. This was a mentorship scheme I initiated together with a weekend remedial class.

Within 6months of inception, the beneficiaries of the project moved from the initial 22 kids to 150 and within a year we had 630 under privileged children as our beneficiaries.

As the numbers increased, I realized I needed the capacity to take this venture to greater heights. This inspired me to apply in 2014 for the Social Innovators Programme and Awards (SIPA), offered by LEAP Africa.

Before I got shortlisted for the SIPA, I had no definite structure and sustainability plan for running my start-up. However, during the fellowship year, things changed. I learned system thinking which taught us not to isolate the individual part of a problem but to see it in a larger context.

My team and I therefore embarked on a skills acquisition scheme for the parents of our beneficiaries and a support scheme for their businesses in order to help them cater for their children. Soon we developed a structure and a working sustainability plan.

I have been able to build a strong team and our work has grown beyond Araromi Community in Ajegunle. We are reaching the slums in Warri, Abuja, Accra/Ghana and in January 2016 we’ll commence work fully in Gambia and Tanzania.

The end of SIPA2015 was humbling for me. Passion is never enough; training makes the difference to your passion.


Did you attend the Social Innovators Awards in Abuja? Give us your feedback about your experience.