June 23, 2021

Creative Competition Reflects Diversity and Talent of YALI Network Alumni

From a shy girl who refuses to die to the impact of alumni funding, learn about the top three winners of “YALI at 10: My Life, My Community, and My World.” This creative competition was organized by the U.S. State Department, in partnership with the Wilson Center, to demonstrate how YALI has impacted YALI alumni, their personal and professional development, and their communities and around the world.

Out of more than 200 submissions of short essays, videos, poems, songs, and sketches that demonstrated personal reflection, growth, and what being part of the YALI network has meant to them, 15 winners were selected and announced at the YALI 10 Virtual Summit. Out of these 15 recipients, here is a closer look at the top three winners:  

  • Dr. Chidzani Mbenge, a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow who wrote The Shy Girl Who Refuses To Die Shy, is a medical doctor specializing in public health medicine whose broader interests include medical research, preventive medicine, and health policy. She is part of Botswana’s COVID-19 national contact tracing team, and she is also a student mentor and community development advocate. 
        Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Mbenge’s winning poem, 
        The Shy Girl Who Refuses To Die Shy:

        Despite the palpitations, the stomach knots
        I brace through leadership, For I am a YALI Alumni,
       That discovered that I am a leader on my own right, 
        I do not have to pretend to be someone else
        I can be the best version of myself
        Shy and reserved I was born,
        But we cannot judge a fish for its flying capabilities,
        When its strength is swimming
  • Uche Kenneth Udekwe, a 2018 YALI Regional Leadership Center (RLC) alumnus who produced How YALI has Impacted My Community and My Country, is an SDG health advocate, social entrepreneur, and the CEO/Founder of Natal Cares. With a master’s degree focused around Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICTD), Uche speaks six Nigerian languages fluently and is passionate about using ICTD to solve humanity’s greatest challenges.

    Watch Uche’s winning video, How YALI has Impacted My Community and My Country:


  • Hyasintha Ntuyeko, a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow who wrote Her Period Doesn't Measure Her Potential, is a social entrepreneur and registered professional engineer. After finishing her first degree at St. Joseph College of Engineering and Technology, Hyasintha went on to found Kasole Secrets Company LTD, which develops innovative solutions to address the menstrual health crisis in Tanzania.

    Here's an excerpt from Hyasintha’s winning essay, Her Period Doesn't Measure Her Potential:

    For the past 6 years since my participation in the Fellowship; am so very proud that I was able to scale up my business as well as Menstrual programs to the degree that is really impactful. My first funding for Menstrual programs came from the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania ($10,000); and thereafter we have been trusted and managed to receive up to $70,000 per single Menstrual program from other partners. The leadership skills and practice gained through fellowship helped me to run and grow my team and secure local and international partnerships, something which really increased our revenue up to 10 times.

Congratulations to all the winners of the creative competition and cheers to our YALI exchange alumni!

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