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  • Charles Chilufya - 2020 YouthMappers Research Fellow - University of Zambia

YouthMappers A Bank of Sustainable Skills for students.

What I learned in YouthMappers when I was a student

I have always remembered what happened when I was a student that day in the afternoon. I can’t unveil the whole incident without highlighting what caused it and in this case, YouthMappers started it. That was in the 2nd year when YouthMappers continued to give students an equal opportunity to thrive and find their path in their careers. In my case, I don’t regret that I chose YouthMappers as a student over many other organizations. Career-wise, I wanted to be a computer or Data scientist but the University never gave me the chance to choose what I wanted, therefore I was pushed into Records and Archivist management and graduated as an information specialist.

In YouthMappers as a student, I learned different skills in both academics and leadership. I have never learned any course related to mapping or GIS in my profession, but I freely acquired these skills from YouthMappers. Further, among the most important things YouthMappers value is inclusive and equal access to opportunity. I came from a background that has nothing to do with Geospatial and geography but I was allowed to join YouthMappers and gained a lot of skills which I have also taught to many communities. As a student, I acquired skills from theories and practical points of view without learning them in class but through YouthMappers programs ( Mapathons, online training, YM Validation hub, field challenges research fellow program, leadership fellow program, and a community project, to mention but a few.

I took advantage of the YouthMappers short course to advance my skills in mapping. I first started with a beginners’ course on how to map with JOSM, ID Editor, chapter management, field data collection tools, OSM ecosystem, and organizing mapathons. I managed and got 6 beginners certificates. Later on, YouthMappers advanced the courses and I decided to be the first one to take them. Luckily enough, I managed and acquired another butch of 6 advanced certificates. Away from these certificates, YouthMappers taught me how to conduct research, contribute to society, team building, and leadership development, and how survive in society. YouthMappers introduced me to validation through the YouthMappers validation hub and exposed me to exploring and understanding mapping beyond remote edits.

All in all, these certificates sharpen my skills and advance my mapping knowledge. I managed to leave behind a very strong and successful YouthMappers Chapter at my university because of the Chapter management courses I took. I also started my journey of training others around Open mapping participatory while I was a student with YouthMappers.

All these skills I acquired from YouthMappers allowed me to join HOT’s first cohort internship, and OSMF (OSM Foundation) as an active contributor to open mapping. I also used my field mapping skills to participate in a data collection project organized by the OSM-Zambia. I was also selected as a research fellow and I led a group of 13 young people in a deeply rural area to collect Data.

Eastern Province: Data collection (Evlyn, Mweemba, and Charles).

Life as YouthMappers Alumni

I have been a student and it’s so nice being part of many organizations. I must also say that many opportunities come as you are at school because life after school has a different point of view. I have enjoyed a lot in YouthMappers from theory to practical benefits. YouthMappers gave me the knowledge I wanted and the opportunity as a student. However, if you have chosen YouthMappers as a student, you are on the right track and please do not leave faster than it can push you.

As a graduate in 2022, YouthMappers brought all research fellows and regional ambassadors from all over the world to attend the international conference which took place in Florence, Italy between 19th to 28th August 2022. I was among these great minds in Italy, we networked, laughed and we ate together. This was a great opportunity where young people could meet, network, collaborate and represent their specific chapters.

This opportunity came to me because when I was a student, I decided to be part of YouthMappers and never left. This was a great moment for YouthMappers members to meet again for the second conference since 2017. This gathering was the combination of the 2020 research fellows, regional ambassadors, YouthMappers technical supporters, directors, communication team, researchers, founders, etc. Truth be told, one edit landed me on the plane. This was my first international trip and I enjoyed my tiresome trip for one day from Lusaka, Zambia to Florence, Italy.

I learned that YouthMappers is the community of communities as Patricia put it, meaning it cuts for many communities and generations. YouthMappers believes in building young people to be self-sustainable and be able to identify a problem, conduct research, and offer solutions on their own. The conference opportunity exposed me to a lot of knowledge and skills including web creation, Mapmyrun app, QGIS, Geocat, Field data collection tools, Streetcomplete, Everydoor applications, etc. I met and participated in a lot of OSM presentations and social dinners. This gave me a chance to explore and interact with a massive number of members of OSM contributors across the globe. Isn’t that great? YouthMappers launched its documentary and shared the book written by young people in YouthMappers. It was during this time that I met my OSM-Africa Family.

Lastly, I had a chance to meet and talk to Dr. Patricia Solis. It was a dream come true for me because I used to follow her works and was inspired a lot. Meeting Dr. Solis physically really moved my dream to great heights. I cannot wait to be like Dr. Solis soon.

OSM-Africa meeting

Opportunities that came because of YouthMappers’ background.

After school, I decided to reorganize myself and join society, especially in the least developed countries like Ours, Job opportunities after graduation are really hard to find. I decided to continue Mapping because that’s how I drive sustainable development goals. Mapping is something I am passionate about and love. I remembered how I was picked to join the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team HOT for Southern and Central Africa Hub as a Mappers volunteer in Zambia on a project led by the HOT-ESA team. I was not picked because I had finished school but the background and skills I had acquired while as a student with YouthMappers. The YouthMappers has so much to offer to Students but it’s all up to a student to decide and pick what they think will be best for them. I am glad I picked a great path and I don’t regret belonging to YouthMappers as a student. I also volunteered with Crowd2Map Tanzania, and MapUganda, and worked with OSMZambia, worked with MapMalawi, etc.

Based on my experience with YouthMappers in October 2022 I applied for Crowd2Map Tanzania as a volunteer. I decided to contribute to the FGM and add many buildings to the map. This opportunity was given to me due to YouthMappers’ background. More opportunities came because of YouthMappers, indeed it's a bank of skills for personal development.

In 2022 I received an email from the World Bicycle Relief in Zambia and they explained that they found my email address from the YouthMappers website, on one of my blogs. They engaged me with other fellow young people to collect data using KoBocollect. This was an application I learned from YouthMappers and HOT-ESA training. This opportunity came because I made the right choice of belonging to YouthMappers as a student.

Participatory Open mapping for locals Under HOT, I was among the trainers

I had an opportunity to share the skills I learned from YouthMappers and HOT with many communities and young people.

In conclusion, my short message to all students joining YouthMappers today, please do not leave prematurely, exercise a little patience and see what retirement package of skills the YouthMappers impact on you.

Data collection in Lavushinda district under HOT-ESA Hub and Local impact.

Training in Isoka district with HOT-ESA Hub and Local impact.


  • YouthMappers, USAID, DR PATRICIA SOLIS (Ph.D.), HUMANITARIAN OpenStreetMap TEAM (HOT) and Eastern & Southern Africa Hub, World Bicycle Relief, YouthMappers University Of Zambia Chapter (YMUNZA)

  • Local Impact, Crowd2MapTazania, MapMalawi,

About the Author.

Charles Chilufya:

B.A. in Records and Archives Management, 2020 YouthMappers Research fellow. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Mapper, OSM contributor, and Mapper of all times.

Original Publication


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