“US Exchange Programs Alumni Not Networking”

Fellows who participated in the recent Alumni Conference in Monrovia

A beneficiary of United States exchange programs says the lack of networking among US exchange programs alumni in Liberia is hindering the achievement of the needed impact.

Hundreds of Liberians have benefited from educational programs, both long-term, and short-term, in the United States with the aim of returning to impact their communities in various ways.

Some major programs that have taken a lot of Liberians to the United States for studies in different fields of disciplines, include the International Visiting Leadership Program (IVLP), the Young African Leaders Initiative (now the Mandela Washington Fellowship), Hubert Humphrey Program, Community Solution Program, FullBright and other miscellaneous programs for capacity-building and on-the-sight experience.

These programs educate beneficiaries in health, education, social work, entrepreneurship and communication to return to their respective countries.

Eddie Jarwolo, the founder and executive director of the National Youth Movement for Transparent Election (NYMOTE), told the Daily Observer at the end of the US Embassy organized Alumni Conference on April 21, that while individual alums (fellows), including him, are making strides to impact their communities, there is a shortcoming in terms of network among fellows.

Jarwolo has been privileged to participate in four of the exchange programs, including Community Solution and the International Visiting Leadership Program (IVLP).

He added, “today’s program is good and it brings us to a sense of networking; there are some fellows coming after us who we do not know, and it is good that we know one another in order to network and make more impact in society.”

According to Jarwolo, fellows returning from the US exchange programs are not documenting activities they are involved with here, something he said is arising from poor networking.

“We are not networking; we do not have a strong network and no one is willing to play a strong leadership role to put the group together,” Jarwolo said.

This is the second time that the US Embassy Public Affairs Department has called an alumni conference to get beneficiaries acquainted with one another and form networking groups to make a better use of what they learned at various fellowship programs in the United States.

It can be recalled on August 8, 2017, the first alumni conference was called at a resort in Monrovia where the second conference this year was also held.

The purpose is to create a sense of networking, undergo refreshing lectures on topics of interest, and to share together impacts fellows are making in their respective communities.

A 2016 Fellow of YALI, Josephine Sellie-Drobia said since she returned to Liberia, she has been engaged in mentoring teenage girls who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and unwanted pregnancy.

Mrs. Drobia’s engagement in this social work is making an impact despite challenges and constraints associated with dealing with such a group of people in a society.

She said she has observed that mothers do not keep a proper watch on their girls, but warned them that “in case you get your bastard belly (pregnancy), you will get out of my house.”

This, according to her, is not solving the problem, and that is one reason she is prioritizing teenage girls in her engagement.

United States Ambassador to Liberia, Christine Elder reminded participants that only Liberians have the potential to change their country and not the average Americans who come here.

She told the fellows that she was also privileged to participate in exchange programs in other countries, and it opened her mind to do other things differently than the usual way.

She referenced entrepreneurship as an engine of growth for the economy and also health and education as two key foundations on which any nation can be built.

Amb. Elder also stressed the need for professionalizing the press because, by that, she said society will be stable.


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