Damaris talks about the dinner she attended where she had the chance to talk about the positive changes happening in Zambia right now

As we aspire for growth and progression in various aspects of our lives, one thing I have learnt as a Young Leader is to not hesitate grasping any opportunity that presents a chance to learn and make an impact. On Friday the 15th of January, the sun was setting over the horizon, when I received a call from Helen telling me that I was invited to attend a dinner hosted by SolidarMed, a Swiss non-profit organisation that works to improve the delivery of quality health care in Zambia. Exciting right? But wait, that was not all; I was asked to give a talk about the positive changes taking place in Zambia from a young person’s perspective. “Would you like to attend the dinner, Damaris?” Helen asked. Despite my river of emotions splitting into two streams of excitement and nervousness, I accepted the invitation with open arms.

Whether it was learning about identity, tutoring the children, or gardening with Mr Iwell, Our Moon’s residential program provided me with countless opportunities for growth and experience while building my leadership skills. It was through such experiences that I learnt that an opportunity is not only to be embraced with a mindset of receiving but also of giving. When I got the invitation, I did not only think of it as an opportunity to attend an exquisite dinner but I thought about making what I was going to deliver to my audience meaningful and valuable.

One may look at it as a mere chance to dress up and feast on a fancy meal but, with a wider perspective of utilising such opportunities, I saw more. The invitation was offering me a first-time experience of attending such a dinner and an opportunity to build on my public speaking, research and writing skills while offering my audience a valuable perspective. The topic I was asked to present on, was something relevant and has direct impact on me and my community but, I had to do my research and, in the process, I gained knowledge on things I did not know about. I also developed a strong motivation to participate actively in issues affecting my country.

My speech was centred around how young people were agents of change by rising in substantial numbers to participate in the democratic process of voting. I spoke about the influence we young people had on the election outcome, some of the things that caused us to rise passionately and change government, and the transformation we hope to see in Zambia’s economy and governance. I talked about the youth bulge, a common phenomenon in sub-Saharan Africa and how, if it is not properly addressed through strategic policy implementation, will result in rampant unemployment. My speech also highlighted how media was used to educate people on democratic and civic issues.

It was Wednesday the 19th of January and yet again the sun was setting over the horizon. Wearing my heels and feeling confident in my dress (courtesy of Helen), I arrived at Hotel Latitude 15 Degrees. My two streams of emotions – nervousness and excitement – did accompany me, but the latter was soon swallowed in the cheerful atmosphere. I delivered my speech and the receipt of my talk was positive. Some of the members of my audience were international guests and as the night went on, different conversations sparked from my speech and among many other things, I learnt something about how other countries are working towards climate change awareness. This is something I am particularly interested in and I hope to share with you in one of the blogs to come.

And that was how I utilised an opportunity that came my way. I hope you never let an opportunity pass you by due to fear of failure or the unwillingness to move away from your comfort zone. Instead, embrace every opportunity while giving it your best; be courageous!

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