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  • Bert Manieson, University of Cape Coast

Raising Leaders, Building Mappers, Creating Resilience: The Kathmandu Experience.

“Selecting leaders is critical. You do your best to identify those who are leaders. Sometimes you are right, sometimes you are wrong but in the selection of the twenty students, the steering committee was right. They did a great job”

As we walk the journey of developing a generation of young leaders, who will define their world by mapping and creating resilient communities, it became salient that we develop and mentor the leadership of our YouthMappers’ Chapters by impacting into them the right leadership skills needed to lead their chapter activities to ensure sustainability. The coming together of the first brilliant, energetic, and ambitious twenty young leaders from across the world, who would be the first cohort of YouthMappers Leadership Fellows is the beginning of a new dawn and a hope of creating resilient communities through mapping and research.

I received the news to partake in the Leadership Fellowship to be held in Kathmandu with great joy and anxiety. The news to me meant my first time traveling outside the borders of my country. It also brought a sense of responsibility, a call of duty and the joy and privilege of having to contribute towards such a wonderful movement. It also meant that I would have the opportunity as a young leader to engage aspiring leaders of diverse personalities and cultures all with a common goal. This, for me, is good for leadership development and was worth experiencing.

I was filled with so much joy and eagerness to meet my fellow counterparts from other countries and our mentors but I would have to wait until May 21, our arrival date in Nepal, and beginning of an experience that would shape visions and inspire the next generation of leaders. As we arrived at the Park Village Hotel, we were greeted with a warm welcome by Dr. Patricia Solis (Director of YouthMappers), Carrie Stokes, Mariam Chaudhry, and Chad Blevins of USAID GEOCENTER and Dr. Nama and his team from Kathmandu Living Labs.

The workshop was marked by series of presentations from the USAID and the Kathmandu Living Lab (KLL) teams. I was inspired by the visionary leadership exhibited by Patricia Solis and Carrie Stokes. These are amazing women of influence with so much leadership experience and a high level of organizational skills. It is a privilege to have met them and to learn from them. The story of how they started the YouthMappers movement and the establishment of the USAID GeoCenter was so inspiring given the obstacles they had to overcome. Certainly their efforts have not been in vain. As fellows, we are products of their labour and we hope to give our best to make this movement a success.

There were many lessons I learnt from Dr. Nama and his team from the Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL). The passion, determination and commitment they put in their efforts to help the Nepalese Government during the earthquake was really inspiring. It is amazing to see such young and committed individuals come to together to assist others during a crisis. They worked under conditions that were not favorable yet were willing to give their best to map and collect data that were helpful for humanitarian agencies and the security services. They encountered many challenges initially yet were not distracted by the obstacles they had to overcome. The KLL team showed a high level of resilience and leadership during the crises. With the few resources available to them they were able to make such a huge impact. Thanks to the thousands of remote mappers across the world who helped to map the affected areas.

After a series of presentations by the USAID and the Kathmandu Living Labs, it was time for the Leadership fellows to give talks on the white papers submitted ahead of the event. I sat down amazed and amused as each and every one of us shared brilliant ideas on how we can help contribute to this noble course. Each of the fellows carried a unique identity and style that defined who we are.

We had lots of fun and memorable times together and learned from each other on what we have been doing in our various chapters. Rafting on the Tribhutri river for three hours was fun and came with many lessons. I, for one, learned the importance of teamwork and coordination. We always had to help each other to keep our team members safe in order to keep moving forward. Simply put "we were each others’ keepers".

The guides sat behind us and frequently gave commands which we had to follow. They have lots of experience on the water and their instructions kept us safe and moving forward. This also confirms that as team members we have to listen to the instructions of our leaders and trust that they have the needed experience to carry us to our destination.

As leaders we must be risk takers and be able to face our fears. There will always be moments when we are faced with challenges and we have to develop the right attitude to deal with them. Jumping off the cliff was the craziest thing I had ever attempted though I was glad I did. It taught me how to overcome fear. I cannot speak of the Kathmandu experience without talking about our mentors. These were great personalities who always inspired us to do better. Their friendly and easy going approach to teaching and mentoring was really helpful. During lunch and supper, we couldn’t help but to sit by them and get some advice. We had lessons on validation, field papers, QGIS analysis, leadership, writing skills, constructing an integrated research project, how to use KoBo Toolbox, ODK Collect, and many other tools. These were very useful resources that will really help shape us as leaders, improve our skillsets, and enrich our chapter activities.

After the workshop, we all now have to go and make a difference in our various chapters. We are leaving Kathmandu as leadership fellows and ambassadors of YouthMappers to enrich our chapter activities and assist new chapters that may need our help. I would like to wish a big thank you to all our mentors. As fellows we appreciate your efforts and the time spent together to help shape us.

As a YouthMappers Leadership fellow, I am committed to supporting USAID’s mission to end extreme poverty, combat malaria, respond to disasters, increase food security, and improve decision making by helping to map areas that have never been mapped before. It is privilege to be part of such a movement. I am looking forward to more exciting success stories that will come out of this fellowship. We are the first cohort of fellows and we must set the standards high.

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