Being the first YCI volunteer in Mwanza has been an enlightening, although admittedly sometimes challenging experience. I am working mainly with the Mwanza Youth and Children Network, which is a local NGO that focuses on empowering youth as active participants in development through wide variety of programs. Over half of Tanzania’s population is in the youth category, so it is an important resource to tap into.
MYCN has a desire to expand their online presence and community. They are very aware that social media and networking are important to the youth generation, and have asked for training in this capacity. Most of the people here already have Facebook, but lack thorough understanding about how to utilize it and how effective it can be for an organization like MYCN. As a result, they have utilized me, the YCI Marketing and Communications Innovator, as their resource to train the MYCN staff on all things social media!
At first it may seem odd that a local NGO in a developing country would be concerned with online resources over other development needs. But wireless technology in Africa is in the process of a huge boom. There are still so many areas without electricity and running water, but everyone has at least 1 cell phone if not 3. Africa has completely skipped wired technology and gone straight to cellular and 3G data (or 3.75G if you have Airtel). This phenomenon has made it necessary for local organizations like MYCN to take advantage of all technology mediums available in order to reach their targeted youth audience in Mwanza, while also strengthening their online presence for potential international donors. “Development” doesn’t always look like what you might expect.
So far we have conducted 2 full training sessions with the MYCN staff about utilizing their new Twitter, Facebook, website and blog. They are still in the early stages, but are very eager to learn, and despite a slight language barrier are able to ask excellent questions and answer mine (to which they get a sticker, which have been a big hit!) Many of the staff members are showing great interest in learning to interact online above and beyond our training, and often come to me with questions about their own profiles throughout the week. Their enthusiasm has been somewhat surprising, but very encouraging to me, especially since I began this volunteer post completely unaware of my expectations. In the end, I have achieved far more in just 3 short weeks with MYCN than I expected at the start, even despite daily power outages and the inevitability of “Africa time.”
Feel free to check out any of their “beta” online resources, although please keep in mind that this is only the beginning, so they are quite bare at the moment. Hopefully as a result of the ongoing training, their content will continue to grow, even after I leave.
- Meredith Radke, Youth Innovator, Tanzania 2013