John, Uche Ishiekwene, Founder/CEO, Royal Youth Networks
For me, LEAP is more than an NGO; LEAP is a testimony to the fact that an individual can make a difference, no matter the enormity of the challenges. LEAP is a proof that through our little acts, we can indeed be the change that we seek to see in our society.
My name is John, Uche Ishiekwene. I studied Mechanical/Production Engineering at Bachelor’s degree level (Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka) and Operations/Production Management at Master’s degree level (University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba, Lagos). I am a Senior Project Engineer/Project Manager with Deux Project Limited. I am also a husband, father, social entrepreneur and founder/CEO of Royal Youth Networks (RYN) which is a youth centered organization committed to nation building, empowering young people and raising young leaders with integrity, purpose and a passion to lead positive change.
My first encounter with LEAP Africa was in 2005 when I applied for LEAP’s INTEGRITY INSTITUTE. I had just been called up to service (NYSC) in September 2005 and after the 3 weeks orientation programme in camp, I attended the 2-day Integrity Institute training in Port-Harcourt. The impact of the training was profound. One of the things I took away from that training was that we do not only contribute to the ills of society through our actions, but also through our in-actions. I decided that I was going to take action and do whatever was necessary to make society better. Using most of the lessons from the practical scenarios examined during the Integrity Institute training, I engaged all the corp members serving with me at the LGA headquarters where we usually held our weekly Community Development Service meetings. I challenged my colleagues to use the opportunity of our service year to make a difference in their various places of primary assignment.
I again applied for LEAP’s Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) which held in 2006 in Kano over a period of 2 non-consecutive weeks. After the first week of training under the YLP, one of the things that stuck with me was that leadership is not a position; it is the willingness to take responsibility and rise to the occasion when it matters most. I was still serving out my NYSC assignment in Dapchi LGA of Yobe State. I had volunteered to teach in a secondary school so I could serve as a Peer Educators Trainer, as part of efforts to implement the Sexual & Reproductive Health Awareness programme jointly carried out by UNICEF and NYSC. The YLP further fueled my passion to make a difference, so I sought out problems and challenges within the school and decided to intervene in my own little way.
Between January and August 2006, I used up most of my NYSC allowances and also got financial contributions from family and friends to implement small community projects I had initiated. I was able to renovate a classroom block and provide some furniture in it to serve as the computer laboratory. I also trained few teachers and students on basic computer appreciation. Although I was assigned to teach mathematics to students in the Senior Secondary School, I organized free English language tutorials for students in the Junior Secondary School as part of efforts to improve the ability of most of the students who were struggling to read and write. As part of the YLP curriculum, I trained 10 football coaches on Sexual and Reproductive Health issues, which they had to cascade down to their football team members. The project was initiated by LEAP and funded by NOKIA.
In November 2006 when I attended the job interview that gave me my current job, LEAP played a key role. My employer had seen the name on my resume and asked me about the organization. By the time I was through sharing my experiences and engagements with LEAP, I got the job offer on the spot. The philosophy of service and integrity, leadership and responsibility had become part of me and it still reflects in what I do today. I am considered a key staff, having consistently demonstrated leadership in several situations, coupled with a commitment to diligence, innovation, accountability and integrity.
I also benefited from LEAP’s Youth Facilitators Training, which was held at LEAP’s head office and facilitated by Mrs Ndidi Nwuneli (Founder, LEAP Africa) and other support staff. I have applied some of the skills and knowledge gathered from that training at work and at other social endeavors. Some of the publications of LEAP have also contributed to fueling my passion for positive change, particularly the book titled ‘RAGE FOR CHANGE’. I have nominated and assisted several young people to participate in various programmes organized by LEAP and I have always had wonderful feedback.
Since 1997, I have been involved in various endeavors that seek to equip and empower young people. I began with volunteering as a school visitor with Scripture Union (SU) and later worked with the Student Christian Movement (SCM) and other faith-based youth groups. In 2003, I co-founded Positive Peer Club (PPC) with a friend and we held various training programmes for youth and teenagers in Abraka, Delta State. In 2004, I also co-founded The Prime-movers Foundation International (TPFI) with some friends in the University, through which we held financial empowerment and entrepreneurship seminars in Awka, Anambra State. With this background, my engagement with LEAP from 2005 (till date) was just what I needed to give more clarity and greater energy to my passion.
For me, LEAP is more than an NGO; LEAP is a testimony to the fact that an individual can make a difference, no matter the enormity of the challenges. LEAP is a proof that through our little acts, we can indeed be the change that we seek to see in our society. Most of the inspiration for starting out with Royal Youth Networks (RYN) in 2015 was drawn from LEAP Africa, which has contributed immensely by laying a good foundation and serving as exceptional role models. My desire is that RYN will be able to contribute as much as LEAP has done to society. It is a challenging task, but thanks to LEAP, I know it can be done. I am committed!
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