Deciding on what to do now for a “Better Cameroon” tomorrow does not have to be a complex process. Often, it entails figuring out how to translate what we know into what our community needs. Our Youth of the Month, Tibi Chelsea Mah, did just that. Below is the conversation we had with her.
Tell us a bit about who you are?
I am Tibi Chelsea Mah, a young creative who strives to preach peace and moral decency through poetry, spoken word, short stories, and motivational quotes. Being enthusiastic about public speaking, I have taken part in, and have been awarded as winner in over 5 national and international public speaking competitions. As a spoken word artist, I have performed empathetic artistic pieces aimed at sensitizing youths about the need to use words, not swords in conflict resolution.
Why did you start the Words Bridge initiative? What are the objectives of this program?
My desire to ensure that other youths are empowered with the art of public speaking lured me into co-founding Words Bridge. After critical thinking, I realized that the reason most people suffer, and sometimes pick up stones and go vandalic on the streets is because they have not mastered the art and usefulness of public speaking. They often see violence a as means of communicating their dissatisfaction whereas if empowered with the art of public speaking, they would rather stand in public and speak out their grievances in a coordinated and comprehensive manner. It was through the “I have a dream” speech publicly spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. that the history of America was shaken. That is the very mindset we train our speakers to have, the mindset of understanding words and the power of public speaking.
Rooted in the desire to build peace, Words Bridge has as main objective to nurture generations of fearless public speakers. As supporting objectives, Words Bridge aims at promoting peace in our society, empowering youths with effective communication skills, encouraging youth participation in public affairs and providing a safe space for appraisals on issues of public interests.
Tell us about the creation of the Words Bridge initiative, what was the process like?
Words Bridge was born in May 2020, with the launch of the first edition of the Words Bridge Public Speaking Competition which saw the participation of 60 Cameroonian youths who without charge, competed for 5 days. Judged by International adjudicators across Africa, speakers spoke on 7 different issues regarding business, technology, peace, gender, decency, and patriotism as they ascended the competitive ladder from the preliminary rounds up till the quarter finals, semifinals, and finals.
What strategy do you employ in organizing the Words Bridges program to achieve your objectives?
To ensure that Words Bridge attains its objective of nurturing fearless public speakers, public speaking competitions, trainings and spoken word pieces are used. Since its creation, Words Bridge organizes grand annual public speaking competitions which hosts speakers from across Cameroon, and judges from across Africa. During these competitions, all topics spoken on are meticulously designed to prick the minds of the speakers to think creatively and most importantly, peaceably. Through scenario speeches, speakers are put in mental leadership scenes where they are expected to give speeches that proffer solutions to national and international crises.
What specific challenges did/ do you face in running this initiative?
The first challenge Words Bridge is encountering is making people understand the value of public speaking not only in their careers, but also in their daily lives. Most have the mindset that public speaking “is not their thing,” forgetting that learning the art saves one from many unavoidable situations which could appear embarrassing because at some points, society always expects us to express ourselves in public. Also, created amidst the danger-knocks of Covid 19, Words Bridge has been limited to having most of its activities online. This has been a huge challenge because we are in a context where most youths are not enthusiastic about online programs, thus reducing the number of participants we can work with. Network instability and consistent power outages do not make things any easier especially when Words Bridge programs are scheduled to go on for days.
Tell us about some of the achievements you have had with Words Bridge and as an individual which you are most proud of.
In just a year of existence, Words Bridge is proud to have trained about 500 Cameroonian youths in the art of public speaking. Being the lone organization in the country to strictly organize annual public speaking competitions is something worth lifting the shoulders for. As a public speaker, I carry the glory of being the top second public speaker during the African Speech Craft Contest held in April 2020. I also stand as the public speaking champion for the first edition of the VC’s Word Cup, the best female public speaker at the 2018 South West Debate Opens and at the Clash of the Titans Competition. I have had the privilege of sharing my story to youths across Africa during the 2021 SIGA African Youth Forum. Joining my voice through my spoken word pieces to defy hate speech, advocate for peace, as well as help the African Union build on its 2021 theme and foster Agenda 2063 are things that I cannot currently keep away as my distinguished achievements.
In the long run, I look forward to having Words Bridge get into partnerships with national and international organizations so that our vision of making the African continent more peaceful through the art of public speaking would be materialized. With the availability of more finance, I look forward to molting from annual online tournaments to on-site tournaments which will have young people actively delivering critical speeches on issues of public interest.
What do you think our Cameroonian youth need to know/do to be the Better Breed?
To be the Better Breed, our Cameroonian youths need to get to work. They need to start bringing to reality all the beautiful dreams they have painted on their minds and learn to hold on even in the stormy days. No matter how minute their steps may seem to be, they should keep on walking up that ladder of fulfilling their dreams and positively impacting society. Burying what they have in them is tantamount to cheating the world.