When I was in high school, I was one of the best students in geography. I always got the best grades in geography which motivated many other students who ran to my place for extra classes, more especially during the time of our high school exams to enter University. My geography teacher always recommended I further my studies in geography, which Sounded to me like misleading advice.
As a young boy, I thought this because I always heard people saying you will only end up becoming a teacher when you pursue courses like geography. After my final high school exam, (West Africa Senior Secondary School Examination), though there were many failures in geography subject, I was among those who got better grades in the Subject.
My subject master said "Oh Mr. Lamin You see I told you that you are a geographer so you should pursue further studies in geography. Hearing this from him always got me angry. So I had to do what I call a “hypocritical smile”, a Smile of happiness outside and angry inside. I was always angry because my dream was to become a problem solver. A man who Creates impact in his Community, a man who can be a change agent. My bosom friend’s elder brother advised me to pursue Community Development Studies. Hearing the name even motivated me more, because I thought, through this my dreams would be achieved.
So I told my parents that I wanted to study CDS, and my elder brother said no. I did all I could but he was stubborn and insisted that I would not pursue CDS, I asked him 'What now should I study?' He told me "You have some knowledge of electronics and technology, so you have to study computer science" I agreed at last. However, another big problem was that the University that my mother who pays my tuition fees could afford to enroll me only offered a Higher Diploma in Computer Science at that time and there was no degree program in CS. I Cried and said, "I want to start with a degree and not a Diploma". My mother pleaded, "I am a mother and I want the best for you son, but at this moment that is what I afford" So please accept this". I did as she pleaded, and I entered university.
In 2021 August, I was introduced to YouthMappers, and it is a day I will never forget. I learned that many youths pursue courses because they don't have people telling them or showing them Some real-world examples and the importance of Career Paths of many of the subjects taught in schools. My subject master told me to study geography, but he failed to make me realize its relevance. It was on the day I was introduced to YouthMapper that I realized all this, and on that same day, I first heard words like geo-engineering, geo-science, geo-matrics, Data Science, etc. Most importantly, I learned that with geographic skills and expertise, one can contribute to resilience and Community development and Change our world by mapping it.
After the training and hearing all about YouthMappers, I concluded by saying,
“IF I HAD KNOWN ALL THIS, THEN I WOULD HAVE BEEN A CHANGE AGENT SINCE HIGH SCHOOL"
I became a member of YouthMappers and even had the opportunity of becoming the first chapter president, based on merit. I started following up, had many trainings, and attended events virtually organized by YouthMappers. I had the opportunity to participate in the Power Grid mapping which was the first fieldwork project my chapter participated in, this kept my motivation and zeal growing. Through YouthMappers, we have organized field mapping projects which have introduced us to many tools and skills to create resilient communities and Contribute to Sustainable Development Goals in our Communities.
While pursuing Computer Science, my major was Mobile Application Development and Technical Troubleshooting. I never thought of Data Science and GIS until I met Evan Trowbridge, who is the Technical expert at the International Center for Tax and Development, an organization that collaborated with our YouthMappers chapter during the Kenema City Council Property Tax Pilot project. This is when I started beating my mind to pursue further studies in spatial Data analysis and GIS. This man used these skills to develop meaningful data and maps that aided the institution for policy-making and urban planning of our City. I thought, having this experience and skills, I could do the same. I began working my mind.
What finally captivated my mind and heart was having the opportunity to be a YouthMappers Leadership Fellow this 2023. Although it was my first time sitting in an airplane, traveling abroad and seeing new things and meeting new people was a great experience. (I can’t share the details right now because you won’t stop reading!! as there is so much fun about the Summit which I will share with you in further blogs.) The most interesting part of the summit was seeing young people who shared with me how they are using their Career Paths to change their communities and create avenues for development. I learned so many skills that have made me feel like an expert in GIS, the skills I learned just within days, to be frank enough my university didn’t offer me that much because it was easy learning from the mentors. I interacted with these professors as if they were my Course mates which made the learning environment interesting. “How I wish, these professors were my university tutors", I would have been overjoyed.
At the summit, I met with Rory Nealon who was one of the summit mentors. In my home country, my chapter organized and conducted a field mapping project to map all ICT and Library Resource centers within our City. We went out to the field and collected the Data using Kobo Collect App, but the problem was analyzing the data in QGIS. Although having some experience in using QGIS tool we tried doing this for months analyzing this data and we couldn’t. At the Summit, after having training on QGIS I met with Rory and asked for his assistance. Believe me, it was like magic to me when this man fixed what we had been fighting to accomplish for months with just some simple clicks. I admired him when he wrote lines of code that analyzed the data which I thought
could take more than a year to Produce results and findings. since then, I took a vow to myself that I have to pursue spatial data science and GIS so that my Community, Country, and region won't go for experts abroad and we can be the experts ourselves. With the skills I have, I can coordinate and manage projects. I am presently implementing the Water Resources and Flood Risk Mapping Project.
I want to say “Kudos” to YouthMappers for the motivation the opportunities, the skills, and the experiences. I must say that these skills and experiences will last forever and many developments are happening and will continue happening through this, I am proud to say we YouthMappers are making the world a better place for all. A Big thanks to Youthappers, for not only giving youths the opportunity to build maps but also making us become mappers.
I end by saying:
“Build Maps Today, And Save Mother Earth For The Future “
About the Author
My name is Momoh Lamin, a student at the Eastern Technical University of Sierra Leone. I am a member of YouthMappers and the outgoing President of my university’s YouthMappers chapter. I am also a 2023 YouthMappers leadership fellow. I am pursuing studies in computer science, majoring in mobile application development.