Feeling so emotional ☹

To every beginning, there is an end, a beginning which started from the hustle bustle city of Lagos, Nigeria, and led me to Washington DC, USA, on Jan 21, 2020, through the Atlas Corps Fellowship. An audacious journey of exploit and discovery in the grand boat of Making Cents International, on the path youth development & engagement in the international development sector. For 19 months, I sailed the globe through the lens of technology to different parts of the world, building bridges, connecting to people and nurturing relationships that mattered; from the great lands of South Africa, the Island of Philippines, Guatemala, the Himalayas of Nepal, Pakistan, Tanzania, Indonesia, Peru, and more.

No alt text provided for this image

Mine is a journey destined by God, Perfect Host + Perfect Team = Awesome Experience. I was placed at Making Cents International, an international development and consulting firm that focuses on providing services and solutions to topics around Youth Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, Women Empowerment, and Agriculture. At Making Cents, I worked to support, facilitate, manage, design, implement and evaluate youth development and engagement programs on YouthLead.org, a global network of young changemakers founded & funded by USAID under the YouthPower Learning project. In the course of my fellowship, I grew and transitioned from my role as Knowledge management & communications fellow to becoming a Youth Engagement and Programs fellow.

In those 19 months, and together with my team, we added over 6,500 Young social change leaders from over 180 countries to the YouthLead Network, contributed to 40 knowledge sharing and facilitation of about webinars, grew YouthLead social media strength by more than 14,000 followers (Facebook & Twitter), implemented more than 5 major youth development & engagement programming initiatives including the YouthLead Ambassadors program, Photo contest and more, facilitated the YouthPower – Youth in Peace & Security Community of Practise and contributed to two knowledge products, The YouthPower Learning Project & Engaging Youth in Disaster, Conflict, and Peacebuilding Efforts to say the least.

As evident in the works and results achieved by the team, I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better host, from the beautiful giggles of Lindsey and Cassandra to the friendship in Cole, Nilima, Rachel, Ikenna, Caitlin, Jess, and Ikenna, to the warmth from Maria, Sussan, Tijana, the lovely jokes from Sarah & Ali, heartfelt smiles on the faces of Hillary, Anne, and Kea, to poise in Tim & Eva.

No alt text provided for this image

Unfortunately, my journey as a fellow has come to an end. I want to take this moment to express my sincere and heartfelt gratitude to every single one of you for the beautiful moments of love, laughter, smiles, and fun. Not only did I make lifelong friends, but I have also made families. A special shoutout to Atlas Corps, my fellow fellows, the over 42 YouthLead Ambassadors and to my immediate team (YL Squad Rangers) – Maria (Mama YL), Sarah (Grand Force), Rachel (Comms Ranger), Ikenna (Approval Knight), Mike McCabe (Lord YL – Idea whirlwind), Hilary Taft (Sensei YL), Ephrem (Baby YL), Siena & Elena (Int Rangers) for this opportunity to serve and work with you… Thank you for the strength and can-do spirit and for always challenging ourselves to take on the very BIG & Challenging tasks. Again, thank you for the learning, growth opportunity, the trust to lead, make mistakes, and improve.

In the words of PYD, through this experience, I have built, strengthened, and renewed my sense of agency grew my assets and contributed to the enabling environment in which the Global Youth Development Agenda can be achieved.

Abolaji Omitogun & Valerie Lorena pose for a USAID photo

Least I forget, I got into MBA school too 🙂 & USAID Launched its Global Leadership and Education for Advancing Development (Global LEAD) you should definitely check that out. 😁