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Young Seychellois leaders to meet US President today |28 July 2014

For Ms Vengadasamy the programme was well designed with emphasis on experiential learning

The three young Seychellois taking part in the first Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders will today be among more than 500 other African young leaders to meet US President Barack Obama in Washington DC.

The three Seychellois are Sheryl Vengadasamy, an elected member of the Seychelles National Assembly; Fatoumata Sylla, the director general for Youth Affairs in the President’s Office; and Christopher Lespoir, a young pilot.

While Ms Vengadasamy and Ms Sylla have been selected under the Public Management category, Mr Lespoir has been chosen to form part of the young innovators category.

It was in April that the US ambassador to Seychelles, Shari Villarosa, announced the names of four successful Seychellois candidates for the programme. Unfortunately Micheline Khan, who runs her own business  and clinched a place among the Business Entrepreneurship group, pulled out of the programme at the last minute.

In total 70 Seychellois were among 50,000 young people from the African continent who submitted applications for this year’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) fellowship.  

Launched by President Obama in June 2013, the programme aims to help empower young African leaders to make a difference in their countries.

The three Seychellois have been in the US since June for their six-week fellowship programme which include internship at different universities and other institutions, visits, training and the climax is the opportunity to meet President Obama.

Last week they shared with us some of the activities they have been doing and described their experience of a life time.
For Ms Sylla it has been the experience of a life time.

“I consider it an additional chance to be at Howard University, a historically black college and university (HBCU) situated in Washington and as 

Fellows we had the opportunity to visit a number of important institutions such as the US Capitol Hill, Department of State, World

Bank Headquarters, meet congress people, take part in important discussions with influential people and give back to the community through volunteer work,” said Ms Sylla.

She noted that this has honed her skills in public management – effective management and communication, serving the population, using technology for socio-economic growth, women and youth empowerment ... through both theoretical and practical ways.

For her the highlights of the YALI experience have been meeting Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama, being on the ground doing volunteer work and learning about the impact it has in the community as well as visiting some important sites in USA's history (Lincohn Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Frederick Douglas' house, Woodrow Wilson Centre, Smithsonian museum etc.).

“This has allowed me to see first-hand the results of the implementation of US government policies in the communities,” said Ms Sylla.
Ms Vengadasamy decribed her programme as well designed.

“The programme was well designed with emphasis on experiential learning….the concept of hierarchical leadership style versus non-hierarchical leadership, servant leadership and its importance, the significance of participatory approach and stakeholders engagement…it encapsulates the view that knowledge is power…,” she pointed out.

“Our host, the Humphrey School under the guidance of Dean Eric Schwartz and associate Dean Laura Bloomberg, with our programme coordinator and assistant Merri Besnautti and Thor Hong….the long list of professors, lecturers, politicians and leaders who graced our classes everyday….never ceasing to teach us, inspire us and challenge us….be it through subjects such as public affairs, stakeholders analysis, financial management, design making, strategic management, technology, project management, urban planning and the GIS system, human resources and our motivational factors….understanding that not all problems can be solved, how grand challenges or issues can be managed, and the paradox that comes with it… I have been blessed to be placed in Minnesota, whereby the people are so friendly and nice…known for being the state of 10,000 lakes,” Ms Vengadasamy said.

As for Mr Lespoir, who is following his entrepreneurship programme at the University of Texas in Austin described the programme as very packed and well organised.

Mr Lespoir described the porgramme as very packed and well organised

“It would give me the opportunity to further promote my training company called Aviation Training Solutions. We are presently working closely with the Ministry of Health towards the possible implementation of a safety related training within our hospitals. The training is called CRM for Hospitals and it helps to improve safety and efficiency in hospitals. I have over nine years of experience of CRM training in Aviation and I am now ready to help the health sector with such knowledge. I intend to do so with an American based partner called Lifewings LLC who has been a pioneer in such trainings. This opportunity also gave me the chance to raise funds for the project. When implemented, this project will no doubt benefit the country and the people in general,” Mr Lespoir said.

He said the different sessions he followed also included an aspect of leadership training, which also involved very interesting team building exercises at the Georgetown Ropes challenge course.

“We had a number of educational visits to various museums such as George Washington Carver Museum, Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Blanton Museum. We equally had the chance to visit various firms, from Google to LiveStrong foundation,” he said.

Mr Lespoir said all this was blended with a number of networking sessions whereby they had the chance to mingle with many well set business owners.

“This gave me the chance to not only give visibility to my company but to also be an ambassador for Seychelles whereby I gave a number of presentations on the various aspects of our country. Our campaign to become a leading voice in the plight of the small island states was not left out,” he stressed.

“The greatest excitement of all is of course the convention with President Barack Obama, whereby we will get to engage with him in dialogues based on various themes. Our team in Austin will specifically be tackling the issue of stability and security in Africa. There needs to be a change of mindset, a change in the way we do business, and this change starts with us, it starts with Africa,” Mr Lespoir pointed out.




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