In his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, Victor Frankl writes that those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’. Words that have been existentially therapeutic to me, in my life journey as I live out my vocation. Every time I read the Certified Training Program (CTP) or sit through discussions, I feel as though I am meeting concepts of “dignity” and “freedom for excellence” for the first time. I understand them at a deeper level, and see their applicability to my life more clearly each time.
When I met WYA in 2016, I would have never guessed how intensely my life would be transformed. I was finishing my undergraduate studies, eagerly waiting to launch myself into the ‘real world’. In retrospect, I did not really understand how much thought needed to go into my career choice, and the dreams I was to pursue.
A few weeks before graduation, my classmates and I were discussing internship programs in Nairobi, and one of them talked about a youth NGO that was hosting an Arts Forum. She also told us that this would be a great platform to meet the directors of the organization and ask about their internship opportunities. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of my journey in WYA. I vividly remember going for the interview, and getting the internship acceptance email. A young doe eyed girl looking for something to give herself to: a mission to live for.
I met some of the most ambitious, hardworking, and brilliant young people in my internship batch. They were people who made me want more for myself. My experience with the undergoing the advocacy training, taking the CTP for the first time, and organizing projects sharpened me and gave me a new perspective on life. I experienced a renewal of spirit.
I was privileged to be the Africa Regional Program Assistant later on, and to be among a group of young people chosen for the WYA headquarters internship in New York. Being in New York has introduced me to a deeper level of self. Everything about my time here has felt like a training. Adjusting to the different weather, food, and culture has not been easy. I have learnt so much regarding my work as well. I was involved in planning and executing the WYA Ball and International Solidarity Forum, where my project management skills were honed.
The Advocacy and CTP discussions we had were amazing. During the discussions, the interns got to share country specific examples of how the lessons were applicable to their lives. I talked about my experience growing up in Kenya, and listened to my fellow interns hailing from Mexico, Colombia, and the Philippines as they shared theirs. My belief in the capability that young people have to bring positive change in our societies was deeply reaffirmed.
I enjoyed being at the UN headquarters; experiencing how various policies are discussed and agreed upon. I am forever grateful to my fellow interns for their friendship and support. I am fortunate to have met this group of inspiring young leaders who I believe will spearhead the fulfilment of WYA’s mission even when they go back to their countries.
Victor Frankl writes that in the hardships that he faced at the concentration camps, he realized that what kept them alive was the hope that they would be reunited with their loved ones. This gave them a purpose for their lives in those circumstances. He writes that life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answer to its problems, and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual. The knowledge that I have a responsibility to my society is what drives my passion towards creating positive change.
The moment I understood the power of good mentorship and true understanding of self, I found my ‘why’. I am passionate about good mentorship because it is a strong tool to model young people to reach their highest potential. I truly believe that good mentorship will enable young people to drive change and development for Africa. WYA guarantees this through the CTP, conferences such as the Emerging Leaders Conference and Youth Summit, where young people experience a positive transformation. I am so fortunate to have this platform to grow as I mentor the young people we are able to reach through these programs. The journey to finding your ‘why’ is definitely worth pursuing with the mentorship WYA provides. I invite more young people to join WYA by reading and signing the Charter. I also encourage young people to apply for the internship programs within their regions and even at the WYA headquarters in New York.
Written by Cynthia Maingi, a WYA Headquarters alumna from Kenya and the incoming WYA Africa Regional Director