The flight that helped me discover myself

By: Sheila Kilonzi (Kenya)

It is a good programme, you will not regret it’ exclaimed my supervisor when I sought his opinion about applying for the African Nutrition Leadership Programme. I applied and I was selected. But there was a problem – where were the funds to attend the programme going to come from? ‘Don’t worry funds will be found – apply wherever you can’ said my supervisor in a relaxed mode. Seeing his determination, to have me attend the programme, the importance of attending dawned on me. Considering this was coming from a person who has walked with me and understands my capabilities, I gave finding the funds the seriousness it deserved. Finally, I managed to pay the training fee and booked a flight ticket.

Leaving my work and a recuperating mother behind, I headed off - destination Elgro River Lodge via Johannesburg. I said to encourage myself ‘God never does anything without a purpose’. In a couple of hours, I landed amidst fears of COVID 19, and in the next day, I found myself staring at the famous Elgro River Lodge. Surrounded by twenty-three other participants from eleven countries, I wondered what the next ten days were going to hold. A big smile and a warm hug from Jane assured me of great things to come. From within, a voice was telling me that I was here for change, so I needed to be prepared to change to become the leader I desire to be.

In the midst of my wondering mind, I hear the support team, in the introductory meeting, say ‘the ANLP is a safe space to discover yourself, this is where you get experimental learning, you can do the things you think you can’t do, expand your networks, learn about yourself and also have FUN’. My mind starts to settle down to the business of the ten days at this isolated place.

The next morning here I was, scared of heights, called to do something I thought I could not do. I had to face the high ropes. Walking along logs, wires and poles twelve metres high requires self-motivation in addition to the cheering voices from the group below. I said to myself ‘Do it so that you can have a voice to motivate others.’ So, I went up and finished the task successfully. Om reflection, I realized the many opportunities I had let go of because of fear. I now looked forward to the next task.

‘You are here to expand your networks’ reminded me of the motivation letter that I wrote in my ANLP programme. The structure of the programme gives one the advantage of easy networking - the teams, the committees and the roommates provide the opportunity to network, learn and grow. The different personalities, abilities and practices in different organizations, institutions and countries, all enrich the learning experiences. As I reflect, half-way through the programme, all these networks, combined with the various sessions and structures, have contributed to my discovering myself.

Yes, we have also had fun, lots of it, through the team building activities courtesy of Neels and Andries. Besides this fun, I have learned the essence of planning, strategy and communication. Today you are reading this blog because I have learned to ‘stir up myself’ and bring out talents that were hidden before I took that flight to Elgro River Lodge to discover the leader in me.

The journey is not yet over. The quote, by John F. Kennedy, on my name tag reminds me ‘Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.’

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