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  • News
  • Young Leaders Stepping Up…

Young Leaders Stepping Up in Tough Times!

ByAnnet Eijkelkamp

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, I stood surrounded by thousands of young people from around the world overflowing with excitement about making the world a better place. We drew energy and inspiration from the moving stories activists shared at the 2019 One Young World Summit in the global metropolis of London. 

Instead, today I scroll through the hundreds of stories in the news about how the COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to disrupt businesses, people’s lives and overall well-being. It’s tough to read, tough to take it all in, and above all, challenging to stay resilient during it all. To stay ‘healthy’ through it all, I often reflect back to my own learnings from a year ago during the 2019 Johnson & Johnson One Young World (OYW) Program when we promoted the theme of “Resilience for Change: How to adapt, recover and grow in the face of adversity.” How relevant, now more than ever, this topic has become. 

Like many of you, COVID-19 forced me to rethink many of my plans for 2020. Leading global employee engagement programs focusing on strengthening health systems and empowering frontline health workers, the pandemic brought about many tough decisions about the feasibility of these programs, like the OYW Summit, and certainly challenged my own resilience. 

Much more than just a conference, the annual OYW Summit is a key milestone within the J&J OYW Program, which is a six-month learning and development program under the umbrella of Talent for Good that is dedicated to building the leadership skills of young people on the front lines of care. While the 2020 OYW Summit sadly had to be postponed due to the pandemic, I’m delighted it’s been rescheduled to April 2021. After seven years of partnership with OYW, I have no doubt the J&J cohort will experience a similarly powerful and inspirational event as they join virtually. 

While our J&J OYW 2020 program was put on hold, we never stopped supporting the more than 240 employees participating in our J&J OYW Alumni network as they create the change they want to see in the world. Since we can’t be gathered in person at the OYW Summit to celebrate the accomplishments of our young leaders, I’m honored to share with you examples of how our amazing J&J OYW Ambassadors are stepping up to lead healthy change in their communities.

For a dose of positivity in your day, keep reading below to meet @YasminKinobe@LezethGarcia@EmmaRichards@MariaPazIllingworth, @SibongileZwane and @ChristineBoxun Liu

From organizing sanitation trainings to elevating the voices of young African leaders, their actions continue to reinforce my belief that professional leadership programs are key to building a generation of socially conscious and motivated change makers. 

Annet

Digital storytelling for OYWYasmin Kinobe, Senior Site Manager, Janssen UK:

“I signed up for a virtual skill-based employee engagement opportunity with OYW through J&J’s online giving.jnj.com platform. The ‘match-making’ platform enables J&J NGO partners to submit short-term volunteering needs and get matched with a qualified J&J employee. I was fortunate to be selected to support OYW in strengthening their digital communications team and disseminate their 2019 impact report.  

Over the course of three months, I authored a series of blogs and developed a large collection of Instagram posts highlighting the achievements of OYW young ambassadors across the world. I was passionate about taking on this task because I believe so strongly in young people’s abilities to help the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. 

From this experience, I learned that in times of change don’t be afraid of it. Use change as a window of opportunity to be creative, to step outside your comfort zone, and support a cause you are passionate about.

I’m so proud to have had the opportunity to bring attention to the incredible innovations OYW Ambassadors are leading to improve health and well-being, even under intense, resource-scarce conditions. Now I have the privilege to be part of a team working on a potential COVID-19 vaccine and I am inspired to think creatively, and to not be deterred by our journey to discover workable solutions in this new world.”

Lifesaving sanitation and hygiene training: Lezeth Garcia, Employee Relations Specialist, J&J Philippines, J&J OYW Ambassador 2018 

“Proper sanitation, hygiene and clean water is a major barrier to good health for families, especially women and children, living in the rural communities of Batangas in the Philippines. As an employee of a healthcare company, I felt strongly there was something I could do to help. I started gathering support and interest from my fellow employees and CSR Coordinator Rachell Linsangan, reaching out to local experts like World Vision, and connecting with the community. Together, we organized “Hygiene Demos” for vulnerable children at schools in Laurel, Batangas. The demos offered students in 1st to 4th grade valuable information about practicing proper hygiene and sanitation, like hand washing, to prevent the spread of diseases.

In partnerships with World Vision’s WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) initiative, we’ve now reached 9 schools and 870 students since July 2017. 

My hope is that adopting these healthier behaviors will help children and their families overcome the big challenges they face, like the Taal Volcano eruption to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kickstarting this program made me realize that through small steps, we can change the trajectory of health for humanity, one community at a time.” 

And last, let me introduce you to our four 2020 J&J OYW Regional Lead Alumni Ambassadors. Each took part in our 2019 J&J OYW program and is now spending 10% of their time over the next year to further strengthen our J&J OYW Alumni Community Network.

Fostering collaboration: Meet Emma Richard, Manager, Advanced Insights, J&J US

Taking part in the 2019 J&J OYW program was an incredible source of inspiration to make a tangible difference in the world and one that is difficult to fully capture in words. The powerful shared experience of attending the OYW Summit made me recognize why building a strong J&J OYW alumni community is so important to inspire us to take action. 

  “Henry Ford said it best, ‘Coming together is a beginning. Staying together is progress. Working together is success.’ OYW brings people together and the OYW alumni community helps people to stay together. “

After participating in the J&J OYW program, I signed up and was selected to become the regional lead ambassador for the US. In my role as regional ambassador, I amplify the messages of all OYW delegates and ensure that J&J delegates have a platform to connect with one another. This allows alumni to not only build their identities around causes that matter to them and to humanity, but also highlight the work already being completed by young leaders and provide opportunities to connect and collaborate on shared passions. Along with the other regional ambassadors, my goal is also to measure the success that will come from connecting young leaders at J&J who are passionate about improving healthcare and healing the world.”

Inspiring action: Maria Paz Illingworth, Ethicon Professional Sales Representative, J&J Ecuador

“I applied to be the lead J&J OYW ambassador for the Latin America region because I really value the thoughtful structure and resources the J&J OYW program provides young people like me to grow as leaders in our company and our communities. As the J&J OYW Program is relatively new in my region, I’m eager to introduce more colleagues to the program and encourage them to participate in the years ahead.  

Personally, the program helped me become more aware of the world’s most pressing issues and their sense of urgency. 

If we keep on waiting for the perfect time to take action, the moment will pass us by.

I’m now committed to using my leadership skills to educate and inform my colleagues about the issues most dear to me. Words from one of the speakers at the 2019 OYW Summit continue to inspire me today: “We need to be young leaders of today, not of the future.” Let’s not wait for somebody else to come fix what we feel is not working and let’s start doing something about it.”

Leading with an open mind: Sibongile Zwane, Analytics and DREAMS Program Support, J&J Global Public Health, South Africa

“The J&J OYW program is relatively new in South Africa and not many of my local colleagues have participated. As a result, I was so excited to be selected as an alumni leader to help raise awareness of the program. Participating was such a life-changing experience for me and it enabled me to engage with global thought leaders who inspired and motivated me. 

As the regional lead ambassador for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region now, I’m working closely together with my fellow regional lead ambassadors to improve our Alumni communications, digital outreach and external relationships strategies. 

 I’m particularly passionate about amplifying the voices of young African leaders and how they are contributing towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

In this vein, I am working on developing a series of engaging communication activities that provide other young people with the opportunities to lead with an open mind – exposing ourselves to other young leaders, and expanding our peer-based network for current and future collaborations. I can’t wait to encourage more colleagues to sign up and hopefully get the same unique experience as I did!”

Knowledge sharing: Christine Boxun Liu, Associate Manager, Strategic Planning Office, Asia Pacific Center of Excellence in Translational Science, Janssen Asia Pacific R&D

“During these challenging times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize more than ever the importance of continuous global collaborations in the fight against healthcare inequality. 

Particularly important to me, is the role women play in the provision of, and access to, healthcare during this crisis. 

By leveraging J&J’s resources and connections with inspirational speakers in the industry, our J&J OYW program aims to inspire further collaboration and knowledge exchange at all levels, to drive forward healthcare innovations and improve accessibility around the world. 

In my role as Lead Ambassador for the Asia Pacific region, I co-lead the internal online engagement activities and external collaborations for the program. Working alongside J&J colleagues across the globe, it is my aspiration to pro-actively encourage the up-and-coming generations within J&J and beyond, to think innovatively about potential solutions to the social and clinical challenges we face today. For this, we are developing new engagement activities focusing on further strengthening the J&J OYW ambassadors and young talents’ leadership capacity. The aim is to empower them to become the new campaigners for our program and our global employee engagement strategy at large. So far we have been working with OYW Alumni ambassadors in setting up global webinars to create a shared understanding across an international network of young healthcare professionals.”