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31 Jan

True Social Impact Starts With Its Authors

One cannot contribute to changing others’ lives if one’s own life has not changed. From a volunteer to a Fulbright MA holder in Sustainable Development from a US institution, Sekou Mansare’s life was changed to enable him to start and lead the change-maker Jeune Espoir.  This article tells the story. 

After benefiting from several educational activities within it between 2004 and 2008, Sekou began running Centre Espoir in Dalaba, Guinea, as a volunteer in 2008 to teach English, computers, and hold leadership workshops.  From 2008 to 2014, as they hosted about 60 people who came daily to the Center to learn and grow, Sekou and his team developed a language lab room, built digital curricula for teaching computer skills and English, and built a virtual computer room.  Although his involvement with Centre Espoir was a service to his community, many people tried to demotivate him. For instance, a friend of Sekou told him that working at Centre Espoir, especially in a small town like Dalaba, was nothing but a waste of time. His friend assumed that there is not much going on in such places. However, in 2014, to everyone’s surprise, Sekou was selected to participate in President Barack Obama’s flagship Mandela Fellowship program because of his service to his community. Sekou likes to call this opportunity “God sees.”

Through the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) for Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Sekou studied at Rutgers University, completing YALI’s civic leadership institute as well as participating in a Presidential Summit in Washington DC.  Sekou benefited in two ways from the YALI program. First, he gained a clearer picture of his vision for his community and became better equipped to carry out the mission. He learned about the history of civic organizations, leadership, civil society, civic engagement, organizational development, challenges and perspectives for civic management, and community organizing and advocacy. Second, Sekou’s professional network grew exponentially during the program. YALI gave him the opportunity to make his voice heard, raised supporters’ attention toward his work and allowed him to learn from other Fellows who were evolving in similar areas of interest. Overall, this experience led to the creation of Jeune Espoir.

Shortly after his YALI experience and running Jeune Espoir for about a year, Sekou was selected to participate in YALI’s USAID Africa Based Interventions by interning at the Guidance Counseling and Youth Development Center for Africa (GCYDCA) in Malawi. Sekou interned with seven YALI fellows from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Botswana, Ghana, Zambia, Namibia and four Queen Elisabeth Fellowship interns from Canada at GCYDCA.  Among other things, Sekou and his intern team ran a youth needs assessment research project in Lilongwe, built the African Guidance Counseling and Youth Development’s website and e-learning platform, and shared experience with the youth of Malawi through workshops. With this experience, Sekou learned how to effectively work in a multicultural team as well as what to do (and what not to do) in a civic organization.

Two years after returning to Guinea where he improved and expanded the work of Jeune Espoir, Sekou was selected for the Fulbright Foreign Student Program to go to the School for International Training in Vermont and complete a Master’s in Sustainable Development. As part of this Master's program, Sekou worked for the International Research Exchange Board (IREX) in Washington, D.C. as an intern for half a year and as a program associate for another half a year. Currently, Sekou is back in Guinea working for Jeune Espoir, extending the organization’s projects to other educational centers and schools, and launching new projects.  He also works as an independent evaluation consultant.

Sekou never expected to go to the USA or to do his Master’s from an American institution. However, through his willingness to serve his community with the small number of resources he had, he was provided with opportunities and tools that allowed him to grow academically and professionally.  He changed in ways that enabled him to bring about change in others, based on the changes in himself.  To learn more about Sekou’s experience and Jeune Espoir, feel free to reach out to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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