Picture a fully rebuilt Sierra Leone where every citizen has fulfilled their potential. Yeniva Sisay-Sogbeh is trying to make that a reality. A consultant and value creator, Yeniva is bringing change to her country through education and youth development.
For Yeniva, what she does isn’t just a job. As a consultant, her goal is to create value for her clients and inspire people to expand their horizons. Yeniva also does this with her experience in youth development, she’s spent over 18 years in that sector.
You call yourself a value creator, what does this mean?
As a consultant, facilitation is at the heart of what I do. My work is to help programs, products, and people expand. I approach my work from a creative manner. What that means is throughout my career I have worked in education, training and development, marketing, facilitation and business development. These are very diverse experiences.
I love what I do and I don’t just consider it just a job. In any one of my consultancy assignments, I have my goal to create value for my clients. By way of growth, capacity development, increase in sales, brand recognition, visibility or whatever the assignment may be, I show up to create and deliver value.
The twist to being a consultant is you are with each client for a specific amount of time. It can be anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 years, so you have to be focused on the value creation you bring to the table in that set amount of time.@iamyeniva - I teach to inspire people, especially young people to expand their horizons. Click To Tweet
Tell us about starting EXCEL Sierra Leone, what were the particular challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
I first began my work in youth development over 18 years ago. As a beneficiary of after school programs, I know the value of the life lessons I learned inside and outside of the classroom. Founded in 2007, EXCEL Sierra Leone (Educational Excellence, Community, Empowerment, Leadership —a community based organization CBO) has endeavoured to reach some of the most promising young people in Sierra Leone to participate in collaborative educational enrichment activities, programs and support services.
EXCEL seeks to pioneer the transformation of the education system in Sierra Leone in order to develop a culture of academic excellence. This transformation focuses on empowering the next generation to become leaders, creatives, innovators, thinkers, and change-makers who are not only inspired, but in action to re-define Sierra Leone. We envision a Sierra Leone where everyone has an opportunity to fulfil their potential and achieve educational excellence.
Running an organization comes along with many challenges, from staffing to keeping overheads low. I would say our biggest challenge however is finding the funding needed to support our programs and services. Many grants are focused on primary schools, girls child education etc, which are very important causes.
However, I find that there are few geared towards secondary school students. We have had to remain creative, finding alternative ways of raising funds inside and outside of Sierra Leone. I have been determined not to allow these challenges to derail or discourage the team. We remain optimistic and seek assistance through partnerships and mentoring from other experienced organizations.
What motivates you everyday?
Getting up everyday and setting out towards my goal of and doing the work I love and enjoy. Knowing the work I do in the community, private sector or development; impacts my community and my country. That is powerful.
I am also motivated by the shift that is happening on the continent and how people in the world see, view and respect Africa. That makes me proud and I am motivated to contribute to the shift.Yeniva Sisay-Sogbeh: We envision a Sierra Leone where everyone can fulfil their potential Click To Tweet
Your mantra is “I teach to revive the heartbeat of a generation gone numb”, tell us the story behind this
Being an educator is my passion. I teach to awaken the possibility that is in each of us. There is so much happening in the world and we see our youth growing up way before their time due to a variety of circumstances.
I teach to inspire people, especially young people to expand their horizons. To revive the heart beat and thirst for change through education and excellence. My greatest wish is to see all of the young people I encounter #EXCEL.
You’ve appeared in the documentary, “Am I too African to be American or too American to be African”, can you share how this experience was like?
This was a dream come true. Being a first generation African in America, we have a unique experience and story to tell. It seems as though we have heard the Jewish- American, Asian-American, Latino- American story but never our own. It was such an honour to share my perspective and my story as a part of the cast.
I think it is imperative that African women tell their own stories and through this film, I have been able to contribute to the discourse around what it means to be a part of both worlds. It is something I wanted to do for a long time so I am grateful for the opportunity. It has been awesome connecting with others just like me all across the world!
Why do you think you were awarded the Young Fem-Leader at the Illumessence National Women Awards (INWA)?
I was humbled by this great honour. To be recognized amongst some of the most powerful and inspirational women in my country blew me away. I have been a catalyst of many movements which advance opportunities for changing the narrative of the Sierra Leoenan’s especially woman and girls.
As the founder of EXCEL Sierra Leone, many young people from the program have gone on to attend some of the best universities all over the world. As the co-founder and Founding President of PowerWomen232, the first professional women’s network in Sierra Leone. A founding member of the Ma Dengn Association producers of the annual Ma Dengn Beach Festival, which celebrates Sierra Leonean culture and many more.
I am passionate about rebuilding Sierra Leone and I have been hands on in my leadership and I think these are some of the reasons I was given the INWA Award.@iamyeniva - Being an educator is my passion. I teach to awaken the possibility in everyone Click To Tweet
Tell us which Sierra Leonean woman do you believe the world should be looking at right now?
- Manja Kargbo for her business and entrepreneurship
- Aminata Dumbuya who works with power for All Solar Energy and Waste Management
- Digital storyteller, Nadia Marie
- Sarran Jabbie of Brand Kultured
- Joy Spencer who is a life coach
Any parting inspiring words for #MotherlandMoguls reading this?
We live in a time where you can do pretty much anything in the word you want. Go out there and create the life and career you dream of! Don’t be limited by titles. Never stop learning. Continue to invest in personal and professional development.
You have a rare gift to share with the world, find your magic and stay in it!
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