PAYLP Virtual Alumni Reunion: November 17-20, 2020

In partnership with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), Meridian hosted the first-ever Virtual Alumni Reunion of the Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) from November 17-20, 2020. Although in-person leadership exchanges could not take place throughout 2020 calendar year due to the ongoing pandemic, Meridian engaged both anglophone and francophone student and adult mentor alumni from all program years over four days of networking, skill-building workshops, inspirational speakers, and opportunities to reconnect with communities throughout the United States.

The PAYLP team used a variety of digital tools and adapted virtual programming models to provide inclusive access to the online event, despite diverse levels of internet connectivity & bandwidth among alumni living throughout the African continent and beyond. Programming for each day of the PAYLP Virtual Alumni Reunion featured a mix of live events, pre-recorded video content, group chat discussion prompts, and resources for all participants.

Event Activities & Speakers:

Day One (November 17) sought to Re-Energize this powerful network of ambitious and civically-minded emerging African leaders through dynamic keynote speakers, interactive networking sessions, and an exciting alumni social event.

  • Highlights included: Keynote Address from Mr. Jay’Len Boone, the 8th U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations, a special video message from Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, Virtual Concert exclusive featuring performances by five artists from the Next Level Hip Hop Diplomacy Program
  • Meridian also hosted four Networking Sessions throughout the day to give alumni the opportunity to reconnect with fellow alumni from the past six years of PAYLP exchanges, representing over 39 countries throughout Africa

Day Two (November 18) included dialogue sessions & skill-building workshops for alumni to Re-Discover key capacities built while participating in the PAYLP exchange program that could be put to use throughout community service and social entrepreneurship projects launched at home

  • Highlights included: Media Literacy & Citizen Journalism Session presented by Voice of America’s Ms. Ndimyake Mwakalyelye (Chief, VOA Zimbabwe Service) and Mr. Mwamoyo Hamza (Chief, VOA Swahili Service); “Lead the People” Leadership Workshops presented by Mr. Jude Feranmi Adejuwon, Nigerian author, youth advocate, and founder of the Raising New Voices Initiative; Social Media for Civic Engagement Workshop presented by Ms. Akua Gyekye, EMEA Regional Program Manager, Public Policy & Elections at Facebook; Diplomacy Simulations facilitated by GlobalTies Kansas City, using resources developed by the National Museum of American Diplomacy; Adult Mentor Roundtable facilitated by Usher’s New Look Foundation

Day Three (November 19) introduced participants to opportunities to Re-Engage with the U.S. Department of State, including collaborations with other ECA exchange programs and special resources available for alumni of Department of State exchange programs throughout the continent.

  • Highlights included: Opening Remarks from Ms. Chris Miner, acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Professional and Cultural Exchanges; Presentation & Ask Me Anything Session with EducationUSA, Featuring Pinias Oscar from U.S. Embassy Namibia; Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network Panel Discussion featuring YALI/Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni from Sierra Leone and Kenya, and ECA/YALI Representatives; Informational video from Department of State/ECA Office of Alumni Affairs
  • Meridian also hosted Reflection Sessions in both English and French that brought alumni together to consider the impact of their exchange experience, lessons learned, and steps to build momentum for future collaborations within the PAYLP Alumni Network

Day Four (November 20) spotlighted PAYLP's U.S. City Partners, who planned activities to Re-Connect alumni with host families and American community members who believe in the bright future of youth driving Africa’s advancement.

  • Partner organizations from Burlington, VT, Detroit, MI, Huntsville, AL, Kansas City, MO, and Seattle, WA shared welcome videos, organized community conversations, and hosted workshops with community superstars such as a conversation with Vermont State Senator-Elect Kesha Ram, Values-Based Leadership & Cultural Traditions Session with GlobalTies Alabama, Social Entrepreneurship Workshop with Motor City S.T.E.A.M., Community Journalism for Community Change with Seattle-based journalist Ms. Kamna Shastri, and a Resilience Workshop with Ms. Bianca Bevis & GlobalTies Kansas City

The event culminated with each participant making a "PAYLP Pledge" outlining their renewed commitment to community engagement and plans for future collaboration. Alumni had a wide range of responses, among them:

  • “I pledge to help the youth in my community be confident in themselves and their abilities through personal development and public speaking training. I remain convinced that the future of my country and our continent is in the hands of the youth, so we will work for the future now, together.” (PAYLP 2018, Burkina Faso)
  • "I will always put my skills at the service of the community. I will not serve my personal interests before those of others. I will give my time and my expertise, my support and my energy to defend a good cause, no matter the storms." (PAYLP 2014, Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • "I hereby pledge to commit myself to the service of my community and the entire human race. PAYLP has given me the leadership skills and platform, it's now my duty to make it useful. I will continue, in my power to positively influence more teenage girls and women in my community. I believe in the power of women because I see invisible powers and more potential in young women. I will continue to empower women on my Girl up! platform in South Sudan. I will continue to make networks far and wide to enable this dream to come true. I will voluntarily serve my community with no consideration of tribe, ethnic groups or any other factor. I am ready to face any challenges that may come on my way." (PAYLP 2018, South Sudan)
  • "I pledge to use every resource within my reach, physically or virtually, material or non-material to create the needed positive impact in my community and Africa at large. I pledge to gradually reduce and eventually eliminate plastic wastes pollution within my community... I intend to transform plastic wastes littering our streets and highways and work to reduce the housing deficit in Nigeria and Africa." (PAYLP 2014, Nigeria)
  • "Leadership skills are the best skills that everyone needs, in order to achieve his/her better future. I believe that the best way to be a leader is how well you practice the knowledge gained. I promise to promote change in my community through positive relationships." (PAYLP 2019, Liberia)

About the Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP):

Meridian has implemented PAYLP since the program’s inception in 2014, and continues to support an alumni base of over 800 emerging leaders and adult mentors from 40 countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Now more than ever, we recognize the importance of sparking and sustaining connections for interpersonal support and international collaboration to create solutions for some of the most challenging issues the world has ever seen. 

This program was funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and implemented by Meridian International Center, in partnership with the Foundation for International Understanding through Students (FIUTS) at the University of Washington, Seattle, GlobalTies Alabama, GlobalTies Detroit, GlobalTies Kansas City, and the Vermont Council on World Affairs.


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