Impact Stories & Blogs
Our team share their insights and perspectives on the impact our program is having on youth in East and Central Africa.
Julie Munyi Ogwapit, Kenya, Cohort 2
2015 was a tumultuous year for me. I was employed and doing fine but at the same time, I was a little bored and restless and dreaming of doing something more meaningful and impactful with my life. I began working on a business plan for a soft and life skills training program for kids and started exploring options to elevate my skill set. It was during this time that I came across an advertisement for the YALI RLC EA program. The description appealed to me particularly the transformational leadership element and the opportunity to develop and refine my business ideas. I quickly submitted my application and was delighted to be accepted for cohort 2.
The classroom sessions were engaging and eye-opening as were the discussions and debates in the hostel afterward. I was blessed to share a room with a charming and very smart Ugandan lady named Rose, who could make me laugh until I cried as we chatted in our room after dinner. I met the most amazing people and made lifelong friends. What stood out most for me is that there are very few programs that offer such a deep level of self-reflection and enable a person to identify and articulate their passion, purpose, and legacy. Beyond the practical training and networking, the YALI RLC EA experience gave a safe space to clarify who I am and what I am about.
A few months later, there was recruitment for facilitators at the Center and I applied. I was selected! The program was in Nairobi and I was employed and living 400km away in Mombasa. I had to make some tough choices but the program had helped me clarify my purpose such that I knew capacity building in entrepreneurship and leadership was my way forward. I quit my job, registered my consultancy business and began offering youth training programs in addition to training at the Center.
Towards the end of 2016, I felt a little stuck. My consultancy was doing ok but the soft and life skills Center had not taken off and my pilot programs had not done as well as I hoped. I decided to apply for the Mandela Washington Fellowship to benchmark how similar programs are structured in the US and gain a network of advisors and potential funders to help me get my project off the ground. I was selected for the 2017 cohort and I had a wonderful experience at Lehigh University, PA where I was awarded the Servant Leadership Award.
When I returned to Kenya after the US component of the fellowship, I was honored to be elected to represent Kenya on the YALI RLC EA Regional Advisory Board and to later Chair the East African Board.
In 2018, Lehigh University invited me back as a project mentor and facilitator in global summer entrepreneurship called the Global Village for Future Captains of Business and Industry. This summer, I will be heading back to the US with Lehigh again but to the San Francisco program for teenagers as the Academic Director.
I wanted change back in 2015. I wanted to do something more meaningful and impactful. I never dreamed that I would change careers; join YALI RLC EA and have the amazing opportunity to interact with, coach and develop the most amazing young leaders in Africa; be setting up meetings and tours with Silicon Valley names I have only read about in business articles; gaining curriculum development and program management experience.
It is said that a journey of 1000 miles begins with 1 step. My current journey began at the YALI RLC EA and I am eternally grateful for how far it has brought me.