Members of the United States Government Exchange Alumni Association on Saturday held their maiden dinner in Lagos.

The association, the umbrella network for Nigerian professionals from several U.S. Department of State exchange programmes, used the evening to unveil the body’s website and social media facilities.

“For the past 15 months we have run a virtual office, we have been communicating effectively on the (WhatsApp) platform but for the very first time we are creating a physical platform for us to meet and know one another,” Jude Ememe, the association’s president, said.

“We believe today that coming together will be synergistic as it will help us… as we know each other we can leverage on our strengths, our skills, and our networks.”

The exchange programmes under the association include the International Visitors Leadership Programme, the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Programme, Mandela Washington Fellowship, Fulbright Junior Scholar Development, Fortune 500 Women, Techwomen, and the Young African Leadership Innovations in Science and Technology among others.

Mr Ememe said there are about 350 members of the association in the southwest.

This dinner is going to be an annual event from now on,” he said.

“Everyone that has done one exchange programme or the other, we are bringing them onto this network.

“If you recall when the association was inaugurated on the 13th of June 2017, the association was founded based on the strong conviction that irrespective of the various exchange groups, coming together will help us know each other and relate better with each other.”

Opeyemi Oke, the chief judge of Lagos State, commended the association’s president for his efforts to keep the members together.

“I am where I am today, all the glory all the adoration I return to the almighty God,” Mrs Oke, the special guest of honour at the event.

“But there is no way I will write the history of my life without mentioning the role played by the American government for giving me that opportunity to be part of the Hubbert Humphrey programme in 1999.”

Mrs Oke said her participation at the exchange programme taught her about the importance of giving back to society.

“And I learnt something else, when you have a vision don’t get distracted by any other thing, put your mind on it and then just work on it.”

In his keynote address, Russell Brooks, the public affairs officer at the U.S. Consulate, urged the members of the association to imbibe the culture of ‘volunteerism.’

“Volunteering is the most fundamental act of citizenship, offering your time, skills and service to others is a quintessential example of the good neighbour or good Samaritan. Doing good because you can and because it is the right thing to do,” he said.

“Everybody here has accomplished great strides in their individual fields, each of you is also committed to volunteering, committing yourselves for a cause you believe in order to make a difference within your local communities and in Nigeria as a whole.”

The night also saw several members of the association – and the organisations they run – receive awards for their outstanding contribution to the society

Omowale Ogunrinde’s Foundation for Skills Development got the award for the Education and Learning category; Harrison Gwamnishu’s Behind Bars Rights Foundation got the Social Justice and Human Rights category; while Peju Layiwola’s Women and Youth Earth Foundation from the Creative Arts Department of the University of Lagos won Arts and Culture.

Otto Orondaam’s Slum to School Africa got the award for Science, Technology, and Innovation category while Olamide Ayeni’s Pearl Recycling got the Energy and Environmental Sustainability award.

Recognitions for outstanding personality were given to Ibrahim Aliyu, an official of the U.S. Consulate; Ralph Akinfeleye, a professor and former head of Mass Communication department at the University of Lagos; and Mrs Oke.

Reference: Premium Times