Early this year, I was sitting my somewhere minding my own business when a sister-from-another-mother sent me information about a YALI (Young African Leaders Initiative) leadership course. I remember thinking, ‘oh this is just what I need’ as I read through the form and realized there would be a module on entrepreneurship. I saw that it was a 17-week course with 5 weeks onsite or online classes but I was not perturbed as I knew I would just choose the online version. Yep, so I applied and prayed.
To my surprise, I found out later (when I was scheduled for an interview) that I had actually selected the on-site training. Oh my God! How was I going to explain to my husband and kids that I would be gone for that long? More importantly, how was I going to survive 5 weeks without my daily dose of hugs from Lalaboo, Longliboo and The Itchy-Beard Man? Thankfully, the kids were on holidays so my chauffeur duties were on hold, but what about other domestic Mummy chores like breakfast? Lord, this is hard! I thought. Well, I mustered courage to tell them and these are some of their responses.
My daughter to my mother-in-law: Grandma, can you believe Mummy is going away for 5 WEEKS?!! 5 WEEKS!! (Ooooh my gosh, I can still hear the scream and unbelief with which she said this!)
My husband: Five weeks? Do you really need it? What kind of leadership training takes 5 weeks? I don’t really think you need it anyway.
My heart sank instantly! I was so sad that day. To me, this was a training I needed for 3 reasons; it had an entrepreneurship module, I would meet and network with women to interview from across West Africa and I loved being in any training! I told God to please help me because I was torn; one part of me really wanted to go, while the other part worried about how I would survive. Miraculously, my husband eventually said ‘ok, fine’. That’s not what I wanted actually; I wanted him to say ‘oh I think that’s a great idea, you really need this leadership course so go for it. I support you’. But I had to make do with ‘ok fine’ for now lol. I made all the necessary domestic arrangements to ensure that everyone would be fine and prepared to leave.
On that Sunday morning, when I had to say good bye at the Kumasi Airport I was just tearing up. Don’t get me wrong, this was not the first time I was to leave my family for a while, but the longest I had ever been gone was for 2 weeks straight. Over and over again, I kept thinking ‘this is really hard!’. Yet I knew I was doing the right thing, choosing to go and study instead of enjoying my kids vacation with them and having all the fun I had promised them. Hmmmm
So we finally got all the way to Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), yes the course was right here in Ghana and no I am not a drama queen! Lol! I met all these really interesting people from 9 different countries. It was even more astonishing when I heard over 10,000 people applied, I thought ‘how did they see me???’ And it was really fascinating to observe the way each different lecturer delivered their presentation. In fact, I was in a Corporate Trainer’s Heaven! I made a lot of notes, but half of it was more about presentation styles than the content of what was actually delivered.
In my opinion, all the lectures we had were very relevant to my growth as they made me think about things I don’t usually observe. For instance, when we took a trip to the slums in Ashaiman, or when we went to Blue Skies to witness how they export fresh fruits to some of my favourite shops in the United Kingdom. It was particularly fascinating to ponder over the unique business model of roasted plantain business in East Legon, Accra and the Grameen Bank in India.
We also had Creative Nights (short skits on subjects learnt) and yours truly was ‘Madam Koikoi’ with 5 PhDs and 10 Masters! But it was the poster session that taught me a great lesson. So we were given tasks to make a pictorial presentation of specific issues in Africa using as little words as possible. The first poster session saw each group energised and poised to win. My group spent sleepless nights researching, paid for additional printing, brainstormed and came up with a poster that we thought was ‘wow’. Yet, my group didn’t even make it to third place. We were so down that for the second presentation, we didn’t even have any energy for it. We just came up with a concept, a rather funny one and even getting the group together to finish it was not a joke. BUT, we won! Hahahahahahaa I couldn’t believe it when Group 3 was mentioned as winners, how did that happen?! Errrrm, that was favour!
In week 4, we took a trip to Western Region with a brief stop at Kakum National Park. Of course, I didn’t get on the canopy walkway! Why would I want to pee on myself in front of all these nice people who thought I was cool? Haha! We stayed the whole week at Protea Hotel in Takoradi. I took a nice walk to the beach with some really fabulous women, ate some fantastic breakfast and had a great networking time in my birth city. Too bad I never got into Protea hotel’s lovely pool because it was just too cold. It was here that I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Jemima Nunoo (https://www.facebook.com/Thefabulouswomannetwork/photos/a.508897335936062.1073741828.503765366449259/633847196774408/?type=3 ) On our way back we went to see the cave in Komenda (where I spent the most part of my childhood), the Elmina Castle and Coconut Grove Beach Resort.
Some of my best moments at YALI were our Girls-Girls chats. You see, I am a married woman oh. There were all these tall and handsome men around and I didn’t want any trouble, so I stayed as close as possible to Christian women. And these women were so amazing with unbelievable stories. Of course, not all could be shared publicly but you can read Frances’ story here if you missed it (https://www.facebook.com/Thefabulouswomannetwork/photos/a.508897335936062.1073741828.503765366449259/620019338157194/?type=3). There were nights we cried, others we laughed; it was just so amazing! The bonding! Through our vigils, we motivated and encouraged each other. One night, while interviewing one of the participants for The FWN, I broke into tears! Her ordeal was just too much to handle.
I cannot end my YALI experience without mentioning the night one participant told me about angels and the fact that I had 3 angels! Jesus! So they were there with me??? I nearly passed out when the lady told me she’d let one of my angels tap me on the back! Jehovah! I was so terrified! I prayed ‘Oh God, please don’t open my eyes to see things I cannot handle’ That night, I couldn’t sleep alone and sleep eluded me! To date, I laugh at myself when I recall that night! Yes I know, I’m such a chicken lol.
Last but not the least, the food! Eiii, I still can’t fit in my clothes as I simply couldn’t resist the GIMPA and Protea food. One morning during the final week, I was trying to fit into my pencil skirt and couldn’t. I asked with all seriousness, ‘Jesus, how could you watch me grow this big?!’ Smh right? Our beautiful course ended with a stimulation exercise in which I learnt some really important lessons about teamwork – lessons I had studied during my MBA but had taken for granted. Oh yes, we had a pitch competition as well – my group didn’t win but we had so much fun practising and preparing for it.
My family came over on my birthday and it was very nice. We spent some time together after the 5 weeks, it was short but beautiful. In all, I would say my YALI experience was really fabulous and worth it.
I am super grateful to the Americans led by POTUS Barack Obama for this brilliant investment in young Africans like me. And to the team that made it happen, God richly bless you. To the wonderful participants that I met, I doubt that I can ever forget you; you are just so precious!
Well, I am not done with YALI, at least not this course. I still have my community service to complete and am excited to announce that it will be a seminar on Effective Networking Skills (apparently I am a Networking guru according to my friend Francisca Ampratwum lol). So why not share? My friends at HapaSpace, Adum have been kind enough to support The Fabulous Woman Network to make this happen. It is absolutely free to participate. Kindly click on link
(https://docs.google.com/forms/d/19tEoAp3JKoaBsqDN_fgQGJjfZmR0eGrSoEwXjb102k/edit ) for more information and to access the registration forms.
YALI is good! Please apply if you can participate. http://www.yaliwestafrica.org/
Ama Duncan is a Fabulous Child of God, Wife, Mother, Corporate Trainer, Public Speaker, Writer, Radio Panelist, Founder of Corporate Training Solutions and The Fabulous Woman Network.
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