The University of Liberia YouthMappers (ULYMS) chapter held its first training session on July 3, 2018 as a way of re-introducing YouthMappers to students and reawakening the chapter. The overall objective of the training was to introduce students to YouthMappers and give students a basic idea on how and why the network was established, who are the members, which regions YouthMappers are actively working in, and what it is all about. Additionally, the training was held to:
Encourage students to engage with OpenStreetMap (OSM) and open source tools.
Explain OSM and train students to edit on OSM and enhance their technical skills and empower them to identify local issues that need mapping.
Ensure the students understand the impact of the data they will collect and how this can be utilized for social change
We achieved the objectives through a lecture, PowerPoint presentation, and video by Mr. Emmanuel Myers, President of Liberia YouthMappers. The training attracted participants from three departments of the College of Engineering namely, the Geology, Civil Engineering, and Mining Engineering departments. Initially, we anticipated only 30 students would attend the training, but in the end, 162 students signed up to participate in the training. In total, 41 students came to the training interested to know more about YouthMappers and with the interest to join the global movement.
The training was divided into three sessions. The first session was used for lecture using the PowerPoint slides and live internet pages. The second session was also used for lecture but with a video demonstration. And the third session was purposely used for questions and answers and closing statements. The entire training lasted for two hours, starting at 11: 00 am and ending at 1:00 PM. The training was officially opened by Christian Weah, president of ULYMS and founding member. In his opening remark, he thanked the students for deciding to form part of training and provided reasons why the training was being held.
Back in 2016, EHELD/USAID contacted some students and that included Christian Weah; introduced them to the Youth Mappers Programs and urged them to form a YouthMappers Chapter at the University of Liberia. The founding leadership included Dennis Zinnah as president, Tarlor Chea as Vice President, and Christian Weah as Secretary. In order to form a Chapter, the leadership succeeded in drafting and adopting a constitution, setting up an email account which was used in the application process. Fortunately, the application was accepted and the University of Liberia YouthMappers Chapter joined a network of Universities around the world that are galvanized to change lives through mapping.
Since then, despite receiving news update, access to programs such as fellowship, workshops, seminars, etc, ULYMS had been challenged in carrying out a mapping tasks and being able to incorporate other students that might be interested in joining and contributing to the chapter. In fact, ULYMS Chapter leadership had been ineffective for some time. When Dennis Zinnah travelled to China, Tarlor Chea as well, and some other executive members’ abundant duties the Chapter got almost at a dead-end. It was against this backdrop that this training was organized – purposely to introduce the YouthMappers OSM to the students which would pave the way to the revamping or reawaking of the Chapter. Christian concluded by encouraging participants to see the Youth Mapping Program as an opportunity to learn and to help make the world a better place.
Following this, Mr. Emmanuel Myers was then introduced as the facilitator of the training and President of Liberia YouthMappers. He began the training with a question to find out if any of the participants had heard about YouthMappers. For some seconds there was no response which indicated that none of the participants were actually familiar with YouthMappers. Against this backdrop, Mr. Myers lectured about the founding of the YouthMappers Program stating that it is a consortium of globally connected student chapters that create maps to support real-world challenges. He noted that the program is on a mission to end extreme poverty by integrating a geographic approach into development programming. Through mapping and geographic analysis, USAID for instance is able to understand where the people in greatest need are located and how to reach out to them. The second aspect of Mr. Myers presentation was focused on YouthMappers Projects. These projects are tagged: Flooding Resilience, Food Insecurity, Humanitarian Crisis, Disaster Reduction and Environmental Stewardship. After explaining the Projects, Mr. Myers talked about the YouthMappers Affiliation. He said the program supports university efforts to offer meaningful global learning experiences, build a socially engaged citizenry, enhance long-term scientific capacity around the world, and foster youth leadership. Affiliation to the program offers the chance to network with others around the world and exchange information, ideas, and results and to find ways to apply knowledge to development decision making. He said the first step is by starting a youth-led chapter of YouthMappers on your campus and applying to officially join YouthMappers . Once approved, the next step is to organize mapping activities, add needed data to OpenStreetMap, collaborate with other chapters and share result. Going forward, members of active chapters will be eligible for leadership recognition, and fellowships opportunities. Mr. Myers lastly shared a list of YouthMappers Chapters, showing the University of Liberia, Stella Maris Polytechnic, African Methodist Episcopal University, and Cuttington University. These are institutions in Liberia that are certificated as YouthMappers Chapters. He disclosed plans to have all these chapters fully active and working together.
As stated earlier, the focus on the second session of the training was to introduce participants to OpenStreetMap and the mapping tools. Mr. Myers demonstrated the use of the OpenSteetMap using sets of video instructions. He explained to the participants how to get to the open source tools online, and how to start by first setting up a user account. After setting up an account, users have an option to select a new project that is available or continue from an existing project. There are tools on the platform that allow users to edit on the map and to add data or information to an edited map. The demonstration was very revealing and practical. Participants had a practical feel of how maps are created by YouthMappers. Each step in the process of creating maps on the online platform was explained. After the two lecture sessions, Mr. Myers facilitated a Q&A session where participants were urged to asked questions.
As a closing activity, one of the participants, student Victoria G. Tye volunteered to summarize what she acquired from the training and she also used that opportunity to express her commendation. Afterwards, participants posed for group photos. A package containing a YouthMappers banner, stickers, diary, balloons, a Certificate of Affiliation and a letter was received from Mr. Emmanuel Myers and handed over to ULYMS.
Christian Weah is the current president of the University of Liberia YouthMappers Chapter (ULYMS) and president of the Geology Electrical Mining Civil Engineering Student Association (GEMCESA). He is pursuing his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering. Christian is also a volunteer at Water Mission International and an active member of the LCAC Scholars Program. He is passionate about engendering positive change in his community and the world at large.