Alumni Spotlight – Hammed Kayode Alabi – How Sozo Networks Positioned Me for Career Opportunities in the Development Sector

  • Name: Hammed Kayode Alabi
  • Organization or Project: Kayode Alabi Leadership and Career Initiative 
  • Occupation:  Social Entrepreneur/ Regional Manager – Peace First 

Tell us in 50 words what you or your organization does? 

I am the Founding Executive Director of Kayode Alabi Leadership and Career Initiative (KLCI). We help children in rural communities develop life and 21st-century skills needed for the workforce and future economy. We empower youth educators toward empowering secondary school students in rural communities in Nigeria through activity-based workshops and boot camps. 

Why did you start this work? 

I have lived in 3 different slums/rural communities in Lagos, Nigeria. I lost my mum at 7, and my dad became unemployed at the same time. I also stayed out of school for a whole academic term. This sparked my interest at age 15 to teach basic literacy and numeracy skills in a low-income private school in Igbogbo, Lagos. I strongly believe that children in rural communities are solutions to the problems they are facing if they have access to quality education, skills, and opportunities. I believe they can be solutions to my dad’s unemployment, and I also believe that they are not learning some key skills in school, such as creativity needed for the workforce. This is a huge gap as they might become unemployable when they graduate. So this is how we birth KLCI to empower children in rural communities to solve their own problems and develop key career readiness, life and 21st-century skills. 

How did you come across Sozo Networks?

I heard a lot of work about Sozo Networks in 2017, and I am really inspired by how they were preparing teenagers with life and essential skills before turning 18. So I started following the founder, and when I saw an opening to volunteer for the Before I turn 18 projects in Ajegunle, I gave my shot and later fully applied to join the main team. I later became the Director of the Volunteers Program. 

How has the Sozo Networks Impacted you, your career or your work?

Sozo came as a great blessing to me. It allowed me to learn how to build a volunteer-led based initiative. Currently, we have over 60 volunteers leading our work in my initiatives. More so, as a volunteer, I got a Scholarship to attend the Sozo-Appalachian State University Grant Writing Masterclass, where I developed key competencies in Grant writing. I won Peace First mini-grant and went ahead to work with Peace First and managing grant applications in more than 30 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sozo Networks positioned me for an opportunity such as this. I also got into the Carrington Fellowship and got a $5000 grant to create Teaching Edge NG, the first learning management system for teachers in Nigeria and empowering teachers with contemporary pedagogies and innovative teaching methodologies. Sozo allowed me to take leadership roles that deepened my knowledge in the non-profit space.

What are your achievements so far? 

Through KLCI, we have been able to train over 60 volunteer trainers and empowered over 3057 students in three states in Nigeria in the 21st century, Global Citizenship and leadership skills, our Skill2Rural boot camp has been able to empower 150 students, 15 teachers from over 20 schools in Olambe, Matogun Community Nigeria. 99% of our beneficiaries now see themselves as problem solvers.

Rejoice Otitoloju is one of our success stories. Rejoice at age 15, created the Say No To Girl child abuse initiative to empower young people in her community life skills and sex education. More so, one of the projects, “Project Ilera Mobile Clinic emerging from our Skill2Rural Boot camp made it to the semi-final of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Nigeria Beyond the School Challenge. 

Individually, I was 1 of the 20 who joined the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative in 2018 and won the US Consular General Awards. I won the Keenista Africa Youth Essay Competition Award (Top 2 -7). I was one of the 7 to join the Global Team of the Peace First Fellows-in-Residence, where I support youth social innovation projects in more than 30 Sub-Saharan Africa Countries. I have spoken in the Middle East and Africa on youth social change. 

How many of these achievements were after you participate in a Sozo Networks Program?

I got into the Carrington Fellowship Initiative after volunteering for Before I turn 18 Ajegunle. I also got the Peace First Microgrant to organize Skill2Rural Boot camp after participating in the Grant writing training and finally working with Peace First as a Fellow-in-Residence and Regional Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa! 

My plan for the future is to create and build an education design hub for children in rural communities to co-create solutions to the biggest problems in rural communities and have access to mentors. More so, deepening my educational policy and development knowledge and work with development agencies to increase funding for education in poor communities in Africa and Nigeria. 

In what other ways can the Sozo Networks help or support your work?

Connecting me to think tanks and mentors who will help me continue making a profound impact in my life and work.

Distance is NO Barrier to Development – Sozo Networks YID Fellow, Blessing Ashi Testifies

Chinese Philosopher, Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.

The Sozo Networks experience of Blessing Ashi began earlier in the year when she was selected as a Sozo Networks Youth In Development Fellow. Like many other Fellows, she says the journey has been great and affords her the opportunity to learn the rudiments necessary to becoming a better leader. While the program would be wrapped up soon, the leadership of the network has deemed it fit to bring young world change-makers every weekend to share their stories of how they started and how they overcame some obstacles.

According to Blessing, something very profound she has learnt thus far is that everyone has a story. Last week, in a bid to keep its YID Fellows motivated, Sozo Networks hosted the Executive Director of OneAfricanChild, Victoria Ibiwoye who shared her journey to the developmental space. At a young age, Victoria currently sits as a Board Member for several organizations and was also appointed as the youth representative for the SDG Education Steering Committee in UNESCO and a 2019 MWF Fellow. During her session, it became so obvious that you would succeed where your passion lies. Sozo Networks YID Fellow, Blessing Ashi says as she highlights her take home from the online training:

1. The journey to success has a lot of hurdles but the determination to finish strong would keep you in the game. 2. If you keep at the great work, you would be celebrated even when you are not there  3. If you have the opportunity to attend a stakeholders meeting, maximize the tea break (Engage leaders because a lot happens over a cup of coffee) 4. While others are clamouring to get signed autographs from renowned individuals, get to know them better and learn what keeps them going 5. You don’t have to fall to become better, learn from people’s failure and run with it 6. Opportunities don’t come dressed in Agbada (Lol) opportunities come for the prepared 7. Keep at it even if you failed initially 8. For every time you get a rejection mail, you should always strive to learn what you could have done better preparing for next time instead of giving up 9. You need the God factor to survive. God can take you to any height regardless of your age 10. Learn to negotiate. People would always offer you what they deem fit, but you have a right to negotiate based on your capabilities. Never settle for less.

Sozo Networks is committed to raising world-class leaders. With excitement, having gained the first-hand experience, Blessing urges youths to embrace any opportunity from Sozo Networks, grab it with both hands because, with Sozo Networks, there would never be any regret. Blessing looks forward to meeting more leaders in the next few weeks. It is important to note that the YID Fellows are young Nigerians located in different states. Sozo Networks is maximizing online platforms to extend training opportunities to young social change makers.

Can you identify with Blessing Ashi?

Leave us a comment or share your Sozo Networks experience with us via safeprojectnigeria@gmail.com or visit our website www.sozonetworks.com



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