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  • Laura Mugeha, Regional Ambassador

3 Years, 3 Stories, 3 Lessons Learnt

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

The dawn of a new beginning - Something new, Axwell Ingrosso (Yes it’s a song :))

“Dear Laura, thank you for signing up for news and updates from YouthMappers! We look forward to sharing information with you. But first, let's be clear: it is NOT true what they say. Young people are, in fact, not the leaders of tomorrow. We believe they are leaders TODAY. Our vision is to cultivate a generation of young people to develop this leadership ability and create resilient communities around the world. We work to empower youth to define and change their world by mapping it. ”

I was sold! Everything I was interested in was mentioned in those few lines:

Youth empowerment and leadership, communities and mapping. This was the first email that I received from YouthMappers after subscribing to receive regular updates about the network. I had started my fourth academic year, I’m still not sure if it was adulting or the realisation that I was almost done with school, and I was constantly questioning if I was ready to get into the Geospatial industry as a professional. So, like any other millennial, I searched on the internet: “Opportunities for Geospatial engineering students” or something close to that. Unfortunately, all the results were for students in the USA, Europe... somewhere far far away from home. When I almost gave up I came across an application form for the first YouthMappers leadership fellowship in 2017, then I curiously researched about YouthMappers, learnt about the network and quickly registered to affiliate our GIS club in the network.

In case you are wondering, yes I did apply for the fellowship then, although I was not eligible and was therefore not chosen. However, I was still excited because this was the start of something new.

YouthMappers Kenya participating in the global mapathon to help end FGM in 2018

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – Kenyan Proverb

Fast forward to 2017, a few weeks after being accepted as a chapter, I was fascinated by how we easily connected with other students, professors and organizations from around the world. Resources and opportunities were shared, questions answered, solutions offered and successes celebrated.

A chapter lead from the first YouthMappers chapter in Kenya saw we had formed a new chapter and individually reached out to connect us with Map Kibera, who quickly came in and made an introduction to open data with a focus on OpenStreetMap. We later had more collaborations with other organizations such as Ushahidi and the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD).

Through the support of these local organizations, we were able to learn more and got a chance to contribute to projects addressing real-life challenges in our communities.

In the words of Cesar Chavez, a Latino American civil rights activist, “we cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about the progress and prosperity for our community, our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” It is therefore important to ensure that crowdsourced open data makes a positive difference in people’s lives. We can do this by:

  • Creating and working on projects that address local challenges

  • Sharing with organizations, institutions and local governments on how they can take advantage of existing open data and the importance of contributing towards the same. Wondering how to go about this? During your academic internship feel free to pitch such ideas to your seniors or discuss the same over breaks.

YouthMappers in Kenya participating in a mapathon during OSMGeoweek in 2017 with Map Kiberia and Ushaid

For your chapter activities, be as open and diverse as you can, seek inspiration from other chapters and OSM communities, engage YouthMappers alumni and collaborate with local organizations.

“ Each one, reach one, teach one ” - African proverb

After an eye-opening and educative experience through YouthMappers, in 2019, I was confident that I could now do more and be more: I was ready to pursue a career in the Geospatial industry. Additionally, with the unlimited resources, the network gained and an encouraging community it was a little less hard than I had imagined. Through YouthMappers I have learnt about the true power of volunteerism, youth leadership, and fearlessness in seeking discomfort. It’s through this that I have been able to participate in fellowships, speak at conferences and do a lot more.

Participating at Geoweek 2018 with YouthMappers leadership fellow Elijah Karanja

In 2019, I was fortunate to be selected as one of the YouthMappers regional ambassadors which meant that I could give back more to the community and engage with YouthMappers in Africa.

Onboarding a new YouthMappers chapter at Maasai Mara University in 2019

I would like to encourage you to pursue the things that you are passionate about and all that makes you happy: “Good enough is not good enough if you can be better and better is not better enough if you can be best.” In the process move together with your friends, encourage and mentor each other.

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