Dear AIESEC in Uganda

1 Jul

when I heard of you the first time, I had just been in Africa for 4 weeks. The person who I first met, was Ram. We were facis together at EALDS 2008 in Nanyuki, Kenya. If you know Ram, you know the first impression and will smile now!

At that time I had been in AIESEC for over 4 years. I had been to many countries and even more conferences.

It was a conference like no other. A conference, where I realized the importance of AIESEC to Africa. The relevance of a youth leadership development organization is already incredible high. The impact of a student-run organization that practices integrity, participation and initiative cannot be valued in Shillings!

In the next 18 months I interacted with you severally. I met and worked with Frank, Eunice, Chris, Wakib and Peter, who are all very special individuals, from who I learnt that there is responsible leadership, that there is selflessness and that things can run differently in another place. They taught me that there are fine differences in cultures in East Africa and I learnt to value them! I went through a tough time, loosing my “assumptions”!

At IC 2009 in Malaysia I experienced your delegation: A rather quiet group, many beautiful girls, who stand out whenever they started discussion but I got fascinated by the unique spirit that the MCP spread.

After I lost the MCP elections in Kenya, I took heart and applied as President of AIESEC in Uganda. A breathtaking idea! Filling out an application for you although I had never seen you was hard! Developing strategies and getting the on-ground picture over email? You challenged me from the start!

But you made me feel welcome and valued.

I formed my team of 10, knowing that we were going to be 11 at some point!

In India you were crowned over all African countries. We were called on stage to receive the UBS Award for Regional Excellence! We were proud about the generations of leaders and especially the Amplifire team, who worked so hard on making this possible. They grew you through growing the LCs. It sounds so easy, but I was yet to find out how hard it is.

Our first conference, our first proposals, our first reports, long team meetings, legislation, new projects and initiatives, partnerships signed, partnerships lost, promising leaders and resigning ones, two new expansions and other LCs limping. It felt like flying and it felt like crawling. A hard time with long nights and early mornings! Frustrated moments, then a good word, smiles and hope!

The team traveled to India, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, the Netherlands, Mexico and Norway. Sometimes we took bodas, taxis, buses, stairways, horizon, KCs, Queens, sometimes air-buses, sometimes planes and sometimes we walked!

The 11th person joined us on in January, amazing! Alumni, Members and Leaders were surprised, but we Titans were clear about it: We have to love each other in all situations and everybody’s contribution is unique! So today I congratulate you: We are changing perceptions every day!

When we brought you the ING Award home, we made you a role model for dozens of other small countries. A country with 16 OGX can send out 80 people just the next year? 136 Leadership positions in 12 months with 300 members? Our unique project structure make it posible. 211 incoming exchanges realized by 6 LCs, a unique rate in the global network!

Great events like the Career Week, Y2B and the Annual Dinner take long preparations but lead to treasured moments! An amazing “Sweet 16” Dinner started the Titans goodbye from you and the Planning Conference shows the ambition, diversity and brilliance of the 2015 generation!

I wish you all the best. I know you are going to treat people harshly, like you treated me and my team.

You give experiences, that shake people up and challenge them to the core. You take a lot and you don’t always reward within weeks or months. Some efforts you don’t seem to reward at all or even notice!

Let me not get caught in that trap! Your reward comes late but I know it comes!

Every coin that somebody spends on you, they spend on themselves. Every word file, every letter, every wiki, every presentation, is a milestone on building ourselves. You give networks, you give skills, you give friends for a lifetime.

Being responsible for you during this year was the greatest challenge I could have ever imagined. The year of the 11/7 bombblast, Pakalast National Elections, some big shoes to step in, an empty bank account, promises to fulfil and debts to clear.

We promised you to make “The Noise we need”… In the last 12 months we sometimes got tired from making noise. We lost focus on what is needed. But we definitely tried and there is a lot we delivered!

Crazy Parties in the MC house, Entrepreneurship trainings, HIV outreaches in the villages, the Career Week in the universities, we sat next to important people in official meetings and they stared at us in aaawww showcasing our activities. We defined policies and build a democratic youth driven system. We stopped complaining about what we can’t change and just contributed what is needed!

We made friends with our interns and house mates. The amount of flags in our living room truly shows the diversity of our year. We matched colors that were not regarded matchable.

We promised you to change “One Life, One Day!”. We sent out 90 students on international internships this year. We changed hundreds of peoples perceptions within East Africa, we sent students to Colombia, Germany, Finland, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Botswana, India, Singapore, Oman and more countries. Our international volunteers have educated thousands of children, teachers, women and men in urban and rural areas. Encounters that are opening up new perspectives and opportunities! Trainings to our members, project and event leaders, LC leaders are just the beginning… the challenging job role and the networks is what enriches their studies!

We reached 336 out of our 366 Exchange Goal but we DID change lives every day!

The biggest contributors to my personal path this year were my MC team members, my LCPs and a group of very special alumni… Individuals, who let themselves be lead by me, who lead me, who explored new ways of doing things, who followed agreements, who broke agreements, who explained themselves, who taught me how to be a girl, who showed me how to be a woman, who inspired me to be a mum, who laughed with me, who made me laugh, who advised me, who shared their food, who lent and borrowed clothes, who shared their worries, who gave me feedback, who got stuff done, who didn’t do sh*t, who danced and sweated, who closed the door, when silence was needed, who opened the window, when oxygen got scarce.

I am very happy to have you!

But after all the pictures are taken, what only you know is how deeply AIESEC touches Uganda and how much deeper it can touch the country and change Eastern and Central Africa. I am dreaming of the day when we expand to the neighboring countries. I can see hundreds of members attend a  National Conference. I am dreaming of the 1000th Ugandan students to go abroad. I can’t wait for the years when you will comfortably submit your bid to host a global Conference!

Having done what I could, I am now leaning back a bit and give other people the chance to steer you forward to greater heights. Taking the responsibility for you means the chance of changing hundreds and thousands of lives and the fate  of a thirsty country!

You are just amazing and have given me so much…

Laughter, Rumors, Tears, Scars, Scandals, Memories, Friends!

I will be a part of you for the next 16 years and more!

Thanks to Ram, Frank, Wakib, Eunice, Ivan, Eva, Matthew, Jimmy, Donah, Nashera, Emma, Joram, Nassir, Abu, KJ, Peter and Cindy for the never-ending inspiration you gave me and untapping the strength I needed for this year!

Thanks to Hugo, David, Malina, Fiona, Amos, Abraham, Ismael, Femi, Kaisha, and many other MCPs for sharing your thoughts and experiences with me!

Thanks to my parents for their great support and anyone else who were part of my year, members, interns, alumni, friends and enemies.

Thanks to Matoke, Rolex, Bread and Butter, Gologo and Sunda!

Be strong, AIESEC in Uganda!

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