“Diplomats must identify opportunities for commerce and cooperation, and facilitate the cultural, educational, and people-to-people exchanges that create the networks of current and future political, civil society, and educational leaders who will extend a free and prosperous world. ” US National Security Strategy December 2017 – Page 33
From time to time (every time there is a new administration in the Whitehouse and whenever the President determines it to be time for an update) the Whitehouse creates a long document called the National Security Strategy. It is publicly available, nothing classified in it. President Trump released his first version of it this week, and the above is a quote from it. Click on the image above for a link to the document on the Whitehouse website.
In addition to adjudicating visas, one of my projects has been helping to “facilitate the…people-to-people exchanges that create the networks of…leaders who will extend a free and properous world.” I’ve been participating on the board of directors of the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative for the last few months. Walter Carrington was the US Ambassador to Senegal from 1980 to 1981 and the US Ambassador to Nigeria from 1993 to 1997. The Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative is a fellowship funded by the US Consulate General Lagos, to develop young Nigerians into “ethical and impactful leaders.” Fellows are formed into groups and assigned mentors from the Consulate as they do social innovation projects designed and implemented by the fellows.
Recently, Ambassador Carrington and his wife, Dr. Arese Carrington, visited Lagos and we hosted a meet and greet with them for the current fellows and some of the alumni of the program. I was the board member who introduced Ambassador and Dr. Carrington to the group, so I dressed up for the saturday event. These days, “dressed up” includes the American and Nigerian flag lapel pin I bought after Flag Day.
- Education – creating audio/visual tools to help highschool students study for their WAEC exams (junior and senior secondary school exams and college entrance exams).
- Teaching girls to be digitally literate. The team discovered that several schools did have computer hardware that was just sitting idle, but none of the teachers knew how to use it. They then recruited volunteers who had tech knowledge and matched them up.
- Teaching farming skills and business development skills for farmers, with sustainable practices for both.
- Sexual abuse awareness projects, focusing on raising awareness that boys are victims as well
- Governance project. This group helped a local fishing community learn to engage the government. The community is a slum built out on stilts in the lagoon right next to Victoria Island, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Nigeria. Notwithstanding that, the residents there have never enjoyed even a single watt of electricity from the national grid.
- An essay and debate competition to get kids involved in the community conversation
- A health education project for pregnant women and caregivers. Cervical cancer prevention via awareness and training for doctors and nurses, implementing WHO best practices for screening and referral for treatment.
- Malaria prevention program, providing nets and sanitation guidance
- Creating a development toolkit for sustainable training of girls and young women on sexual and reproductive health – started 2012 and now in 13 African countries.
- Teaching girls computer skills and coding
Hearing about those I was jazzed, and excited to be a mentor in the upcoming year. The best part for me, however, was hearing the alumni follow up their report on their CYFI project with an, “and after CYFI I worked on…” Those project included:
- Creating a subscription service for sanitary pads, with each subscription also sponsoring 1 girl with products to that she can attend school without missing a week each month.
- Developing a shared commercial kitchen at the above mentioned fishing village to allow safe and sanitary processing and packaging of surplus catch for local sales, with a goal of expanding sales to supermarkets in West Africa.
- Training nonprofit leaders in auditing/finances/project planning.
- Earthplus – environmental nonprofit to engage government and citizenry on propper disposal of municipal waste.
- Climate journalism training
- Public Health doctor providing advice and guidance to an HIV AIDS care organiation
- End malaria campaigh, engaging major regional banks including Access Bank and Zenith Bank with a goal to eradicate malaria
- Community learning hubs – afterschool clubs to give kids access to tablets and print books to help with reading
- Creating a reporting forum for corrupt practices to increase transparency in governance.
I’m glad that this part of diplomacy remains a part of our National Security Strategy. This sort of program is powerful and has long lasting results.