Leadership and Entrepreneurship Incubator (LEI) hosted by Asante Africa Foundation completed its 8th annual session of awakening dreams and creating change makers. Having attended the first full scale session in 2010 with my BFF, we returned this year with our two teenage daughters.
As in prior years, the program established strong ties across the participants, building bridges across borders (typically between Kenya and Tanzania, but this year also across the ocean to the United States). These ties strengthen the East African community by demonstrating we are more similar than we realize — all high school students are stressed out by grades and relationships, struggling to make choices true to their goals while feeling pressure to conform to society’s expectations, and consumed by their smart phones and social media.
The sessions provided 100 students an opportunity to understand their personal values and dreams. Then, they created action plans to achieve them. The students explored the dangers to be avoided to ensure their dreams become reality. In one session, boys and girls were separated to discuss where they feel safe and where danger exists. The girls were surprised the boys felt threatened (night time was the most dangerous for the boys). The boys hadn’t realized their safe places (i.e. home and school) where the locations girls felt most vulnerable. Both groups came away with a better understanding of how they can support each other.
Across the four days, LEI opened new possibilities in the minds of the youth, helping them to envision a future they didn’t realize could exist. Adults shared their paths and explained careers both familiar and unfamiliar (i.e. a lawyer, a beekeeper, a video gaming studio, a civil engineering students doing deejay work to pay for this tuition). The students practiced collaboration and worked on creating a safe space to share ideas. At the end of the week, they put their ideas to the test in the business competition.
While students were working on their dream maps, a cohort of 22 teachers were learning how to take the material back to their schools and broader communities. These teachers will help the students with their “pay — it — forward” projects (a requirement for students to attend LEI the following year as a mentor), and establish local leadership clubs. The inclusion of a parallel teacher track has shown to expand the reach of the annual session to 10x students and enables the grass roots community development embedded in the Asante Africa Foundation mission.
As a member of the board of directors, seeing the LEI program move from pilot to established program was rewarding. Being a corporate executive, I could appreciate the results of all of the work to mature the content, and measure the impact (at both the individual and community level). As a parent, watching my daughter fully integrate into the East African community she hears me talking about was amazing.
To learn more, get involved or donate, visit Asante Africa Foundation.
To view pictures from the summit click here!
Written By — Heather Newlin