Patriotism is what allows you to continue to care for your country. It is what allows you have love for the growth and development of your nation. Patriotism is the fire that allows one to fight for what is right without plotting the collapse of another countryman who doesn’t deserve it.
LEAP Africa made me understand what is was to be truly patriotic to a Nigerian and an African cause.
My name is Adaeze Umolu. I am the Technical Advisor for Business Resource Development for Management Sciences for Health (MSH) in Nigeria. I am responsible for supporting processes that lead to improved reputation and resources for my organization whose primary interest is to build strong health systems for great health impact in Nigeria. Prior to this I was with NILS, an Institute of the National Assembly (the legislative arm of the Nigerian government). I joined NILS from the UK where I worked with a few organizations, including the University of East London Student Union, after completing my Masters in Gender Management and Organization at the University of Leeds.
I heard about LEAP Africa’s Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) in 2004 as an undergraduate in the Department of Creative Arts, at the University of Lagos. I was really excited about the program as I had never been part of anything like that. When I told my parents about it, they were also optimistic that it would be a good programme for me. I went ahead and applied and joined as part of the ‘Forerunners’.
We graduated and completed the programme in 2005; back then the youth program was longer. I recall, in my application when asked about a leadership role I occupied, I was then president of my ‘Teen Church’ and that was exactly what I mentioned. I was therefore happy to be selected as we were the first set. We were the pioneers of LEAP’s YLP and reasonably the experimental set, as with all ‘firsts’. Interestingly after that I have gone on to be part of many successful experimental sets, notably ActionAid’s Activista where I was also a pioneer campaigner for the youth group in Nigeria. As a first born child I am gradually getting used to being in such ‘pioneer positions’.
LEAP Africa really captured my young mind. I had such a change of heart as to how to approach issues in my country, and from the elementary level. I particularly loved the sessions on Patriotism, and how our facilitators dealt with the subject. For example, how they addressed stereotypes in Nigeria and how these stereotypes create some of the situations we see in our nation e.g tribal misunderstanding and community disunity.
Another thing I was very passionate about at LEAP was the community projects we were tasked to launch. My colleague and I, Tolu, I managed a project for under-privileged children in selected schools in Lagos. This project was so successful that it continued beyond the initial LEAP mandate. It became one of my first roles in my career in the development sector. From this project, I not only understood what it was to work as a team and create partnerships, but most importantly how to get people to support a cause I was passionate about.
LEAP Africa’s YLP set the foundation of core skills that I have used in all my roles as a contributor or team leader. It has helped me to identify when I need to be part of something greater than myself. It has designed my thought process when choosing a project that tackles an issue in a community. As a result of being part of YLP I see the need to support initiatives that improve the well-being of young people so they can benefit from such initiatives as I did from LEAP.
Last year I was part of a project team in my organisation that saw young girls in a community in Gombe State, North eastern Nigeria, use creative processes to tackle maternal health issues they experienced in their community. The project brought me a lot of personal joy to see the faces of these young girls and listen to their perspective on life by the end of the project. This year I was invited to be a Member, of the Governing Council of the MCF Demonstration School, where my contributions will help shape the institute’s impact on the next generation of young minds for the next few years. I see this role as part of that personal mandate to positively contribute to the shaping of young minds.
Many years after LEAP they continue to be part of my success story. It was through information shared by LEAP that in 2015 I was identified as one of 40 rising leaders from across the four continents surrounding the Atlantic Basin and selected to take part in the Atlantic Dialogues conference and Emerging Leaders’ Programme organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the OCP Policy Center. Through this network I met other bright thinkers who have common values like me but from other countries and regions globally.
As a result of the skills that LEAP exposed me to, it shaped my mind early in life and made me a more responsible person, which eventually reflects in the tasks that I take on. From LEAP I understand that wherever you find yourself you should make small contributions to that community. It was that thinking that inspired me to do volunteer work even when I was not in my home country. LEAP really emphasized the need for young people to volunteer and this is a culture we don’t have in Nigeria. It is very important that the YLP continues to preach this message as this creates selflessness in an individual, and the understanding of how to work because of passion and personal desire to make reasonable impact in society.
I am grateful for the exposure that LEAP gave me and I look forward to a brighter future knowing that LEAP Africa will continue to touch many young lives through their programmes. To see how LEAP has grown after all these years and how they continue to imbibe the same values into young people is such a thing of joy for me! Indeed #LEAPISPARTOFMYSTORY
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