TAKE ME BACK TO THE YOUTHMAPPERS LEADERSHIP FELLOWS SUMMIT!
Filling out the forms for the YouthMappers leadership summit in Jamaica, little did I know I had the qualification, let alone the chance to get chosen. I was competing with hundreds of people worldwide who are enthusiastic about changing and defining their world by mapping it and making a difference. I was competing with people who might have been in the YouthMappers organization much longer than I had. I thought about the competition a lot. But then, I realized there's competition at every phase of your life.
The day you start thinking about it, you lose your peace of mind, and as a result, this gave me a critical life lesson: "don't compete with anyone." I just filled out the forms because friends were filling them out and encouraged me to do the same. More so, I understand it's better to try and fail than not try when the opportunity strikes. For some reason, fear is our most significant limitation as young people because we don't realize that after we take on the most complex tasks, we attain better spaces. But being selected to be a part of this program gave me hope. It gave me hope to face my fears. It gave me hope to find myself. Because sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself. And this is what the Summit taught us.
This year's leadership summit encompassed three thematic areas, which stand to be the most critical aspects currently around the globe. These included: Mapping for Climate Resilience, Activating Youth Leadership, and Promoting Equity and Inclusion. Hence the Summit experience began.
The Summit taught us to love and respect each other's cultures, views, and opinions and build bridges. We learnt to make solid connections and establish more extraordinary relationships with peers and mentors. During our final presentation, we witnessed fellows portray a few of their cultures, beliefs and traditions, which helped us to understand, respect and appreciate their cultures much more. More importantly, we could share something about ourselves, learn something about others, and share a mutual understanding of one another's background and culture. We "may all have different religions, languages, and different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race" and, more importantly, one YouthMappers association. We get to immerse ourselves in other cultures beyond our own.
The Summit taught us to advocate and map for climate resilience. Currently, climate change is a significant challenge being faced globally. Exploring and examining different solutions, we brainstormed through the guidance of the passionate and enthusiastic climate ambassadors among us on how to help combat climate injustice. Because sustainability is the responsibility of every individual, we must take responsibility for shifting our behavior so that we can trigger the type of change that is necessary to achieve it. We are more confident that we can actively and directly advocate for our environment and make it much more sustainable.
The Summit taught us to be good leaders who "know the way, go the way, and show the way". The Summit helped us understand the definition and meaning of authentic leadership through how we respond to the many challenges we face in the different regions, countries, and chapters worldwide by providing lasting solutions.
In a world where inequality and segregation are an everyday trend, especially where women, girls and people with disabilities are the most vulnerable, we came to understand how we can utilize the Geospatial knowledge to create equal spaces for everyone regardless of their sex, race, religion, education background and status. Through all this experience, I understood that YouthMappers is a community that embraces everyone for who they are and not what they have. I am proud to be a part of such a wonderful family where we define our world by mapping it!
Not forgetting our wonderful and artistic photographer who before taking a group picture of us always echoed these words, “if you can’t see me then I can’t see you”. Pondering over this statement made me realize that as YouthMappers, we have a lot more to do because if we cannot see the vulnerable, the poor, the disaster-stricken areas and villages on the map, how then can they be provided their basic needs? How then can organizations provide social amenities for them? How then can their basic rights be achieved? How can resilient communities be created and finally, how can we define our world by mapping it?
At last, after a good nap on our return, I woke up to the echoes of reality smiling down on me and to the loud voices of mom calling me to do the dishes and babysit the younger ones, to the reality of our stay in Jamaica not lasting forever. We now have greater zeal and desire to share the mapping language and power of YouthMappers and geospatial tools with members. There is the burning desire to map and save humanity, the desire to build determined and resilient mappers, the desire to be a good YouthMappers ancestor and the desire to let our hope and not our fears shape our future. The knowledge and skills learnt will last forever with us in all these.
Kwadwo Agyenim-Boateng and Edith Namusamba
YouthMappers Leadership Fellows
University of Cape Coast and University of Zambia