The world is getting smaller day by day as it offers you the power to explore the diversity of the world map on your fingertips. Absorbing this feeling, there would be no extensive exploration of this inexplicable world like a global citizen until today. Envisioning the world map by holding the hands of 19 YouthMappers fellows, led by amazing facilitators, was enough to catch a glimpse of the seven continents in those eight days.
"We don't just build maps, we build mappers”
These words from the YouthMappers inspired me to apply for the fellowship of the YouthMappers 2017 Leadership Initiatives. I received the email from Prof. Patricia Solis on 24th January 2017 and to my joy I was selected as a fellow of the YouthMappers Leadership Initiative. This was like receiving the Hogwarts letter from a Harry Potter story! I felt excited knowing that I would represent the Dhaka University YouthMappers chapter as well as our red and green national flag in Kathmandu, Nepal. The YouthMappers Leadership Initiative is the first of its kind and gave me the opportunity to meet other youthmappers I had only connected with virtually. This initiative will inspire new mappers all around the world!
On May 20th the quakes of excitement and anxiety passed through me as this was my maiden flight abroad. A demure smile spontaneously crossed my face as I thought to myself, “you have waited for this moment for a long time”. Boarding the plane, I knew I was leaving behind the landscape of my country but the discerning Himalayan hill tracts were ready to welcome me. The enormity of the Himalayas evoked a flow of stream inside my soul. Convincingly, I reached the Park village resort with the warm welcoming ‘Namaste’ from the reception desk and a soft cotton scarf as a gift.
The following morning, while taking my breakfast, I met Carrie Stokes, Chief Geographer & GeoCenter Director at USAID. A few minutes later, we met Prof. Patricia Solis and professors from Texas Tech University, the George Washington University, and the University of West Virginia and the enthusiastic people from USAID Geo Center and our host Kathmandu Living Lab (KLL). The warm welcomed by KLL Nama and his team members made us feel ecstatic to be working in their facilities.
As an informal meeting of YouthMappers, the introduction session was very different. We were instructed to introduce ourselves kinetically without speaking and I signaled ‘I am Maliha, from Bangladesh and I like to write’. In that session, we would memorize the names of the participants and facilitators. There is one thing I learned very quickly in that session: people from different parts of world pronounce your name differently. Often it sounded Malihaa, Malika, Maliaa and much more but the different pronunciations made our diversity meaningful. This session showed me that the diversity among us is an asset to the world.
May 22nd began with ‘It is a great day to be alive’ Prof. Patricia soils said and I knew this was one of her favorite quotations. She presented the journey of the Youthmappers along with how the 62 universities were connected with each other around the world. Then the main program started with presentations by each fellow on the utilization of open data, the involvement of the community, youth leadership, and much more. Everyone was amazed to see the ideas that were flourishing to make the world a better place through mapping. The Geocaching activity with the utilization of Maps.me consisted of five groups searching for 3 envelopes with information on Youthmappers and OSM within the arenas of park village resort. My team won the activity and was given a beautiful Map Box field dairy. This made my group members Yasmilla and Saurav and I very happy. Then for dinner, we went to Wunjala Moskva. While sampling the traditional Nepali food, we watched beautiful traditional Nepali dances. The peacock dance was my favorite because everyone was enthralled by the performance and requested an encore presentation.
By May 23rd, we were acquainted with some shortcut techniques, JOSM validation, and using Kobo toolbox thanks to Prof. Nuala Cowan. As a student of disaster management, utilizing the Kobo toolbox is useful to me to collect data offline. The KLL team shared how they worked with the affected people to surmount the crisis during the disastrous earthquake through OSM. It emboldened us learning how the youth came forward to reshape the situation. The most amazing session was taught by Prof. Brent McCusker, he taught us how to write a designated research topic through his "keep it simple & silly" rule. We were required to select from a list of topics, my team, which included Yasmila, Benedict and Faridah, chose ‘Compiling best practices for effective communication and visualization of OSM based research’ mentored by Prof. Nuala Cowan.
The next day began with a lot of preparation for a three hours boat rafting trip, 18 km down the Trishuli river. While on the river mighty waves were coming through our ways, we were rapidly paddling with intrepid smiles. Our eyes were mesmerized by seeing the calmness in the mountains circumvented by the Trishuli river. These three hours rafting made me realize hard work produces success and confidence and confidence is the best tool for someone facing new challenges in life. In the afternoon, we did a fieldwork exercise using Kobo. It was great fun especially since I was teamed up with a vibrant girl like Julia who was my roommate and a great friend. All of these experiences I gained will be worthy inspirational stories for my family and friends.
On May 25th we returned to our resort by crossing one of the highest bridges over the Trishuli river. On the bus, all the groups discussed strategies for making an informative final presentation with our mentors. After returning to our resort, Prof. Richard Hinton, introduced us to QGIS with very informative session.
The following day, each member of every team presented their research topic. It showed each team had learn many new concepts during the workshop. I could see the spark of ideas from all of the other teams. The certificate ceremony included snapping thousands of the pictures of my colleagues and I holding the certificates surrounded by our inspirational facilitators. It was a great privilege for Manjurul, Mumtarin, and I to represent Bangladesh among the 20 participants. It was a great moment for me to receive my 'Best Blog Award' from Prof. Patricia Solis. The enthralling days were coming to an end like it started yesterday. On May 27th we completed Mapilliary activities by wearing the cool Mapiliary T-shirts in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. Then some opted to visit the Thamel area and returning to the villa engaged in a little shopping.
The last day, May 28th, closed with a discussion of centered on our career goals. Inspired by YouthMappers, I am choosing to advocate for my country’s challenges in the face of climate change. I choose to avail the people and future generations in vulnerable areas of the world using OSM and other tools to hasten development.
Reliving all the flashbacks and the countless memories I made with the 19 participants will last a lifetime. It was an incredible moment for us to have shared those 8 days of our life under one roof with these incredible people. We are grateful to each member who were involved with the YouthMappers Programme. We all believe that we are the youth and we have the potential to transform the world. We are proud to be the pioneers of YouthMappers legacy and must pave new pathways by our welcoming all the future YouthMappers.