There are only a few more rewarding experiences than traveling and making new friends and this was proven for the first YouthMappers Leadership Fellows workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal.
80 students from around the world applied late 2016 to become leadership fellows responding to the call for applications on our network's general email list. As part of the application, we had to write a proposal for a tool for the newly started YouthMappers toolkit. Out of all the candidates, only 20 were chosen.
Before the trip to Nepal, I did not know what to expect. I felt honored about being chosen. Honestly, nobody could prepare for what an enormous privilege it would turn out to be. Not only did I have the pleasure of meeting some of my fellow YouthMappers in person and work with them, but I also had the chance to meet and work with the people that started this incredible movement we have come to love.
The first evening we learned each other's names and favorite activity (after volunteer-mapping of course!) and it was already apparent here that this group was diverse and from all walks of life. During all the activities, this was used as a strength and never felt like an obstacle we had to overcome to achieve our goals. We all did share one passion: to better the world around us. We as youth are definitely building a better future.
The week was filled with activities aimed at improving technical ability like data capture and research communication. Teams also identified specific tools for the toolkit that will be worked on till the 1st of September. This kit will hopefully help to build current and new chapters. I think that my colleagues from the workshop will agree that we also grew as people. In our downtime, we were taken to experience the beautiful city of Kathmandu. We also got the fantastic opportunity to go to a small village and see the Nepal countryside. Some of the fellows even got to overcome their fear of water during our rafting trip.
Our host, Kathmandu Living Labs, also shared their inspiring story about their response to the 2015 Nepal earthquake disaster. A written thank you can never cover the gratitude we as fellows have for Nama and his colleagues for sharing their country with us. This also applies to the faculty of the workshop that not only guided us but also put together this fantastic network for all YouthMappers.
Dr. Patricia Solis especially needs to be thanked for always being a great source of motivation and growing our network.I believe this workshop and the output to come is evidence that Youthmappers as a network does live our tagline: "We do not just build maps, We build mappers ."
Author Frikan Erwee is a student from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and a YouthMappers Leadership Fellow.