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.
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