Ms. Eleonore Akissi Koffi is an emerging female IT leader and the president of the women’s IT group “Amazoon du Web”. Amazoon provides training to girls in schools, orphanages, and girls’ clubs to improve their knowledge of computers and technology. Based on her professional background, she was a chief candidate to participate in this IVLP program under the administration of Meridian International Center. One of her favorite experiences from the trip was having dinner with her hosts: Ms. Jennifer Francis and Ms. Sharon-Francis-Smith. Even though Ms. Koffi found genuine camaraderie with her home hosts, Ms. Francis offered to put Ms. Koffi in touch with one of her contacts. It was a networking highlight to an enriching adventure in Utah. We firmly believe that citizen diplomacy manifests itself “one handshake at a time”, yet Ms. Koffi experienced it one meal at a time under the hospitality of our magnanimous home hosts.
The first event included a volunteer activity assembling hygiene kits with Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center. Ms. Koffi was impressed with the deep-seated conviction for service, labeling it “[giving] oneself for others.” She also commented that “volunteer work will be at the heart of our action,” since her organization emphasizes “training young girls and women free of charge” in information technology. Although there is an undeniable business component to her work, Ms. Koffi relayed that volunteerism is essential to her work along the West African coast. Later in the day, Ms. Koffi and her cohort traveled south to Lehi, Utah where they met with Ms. Carine Clark, the Executive Board Member at Silicon Slopes. The purpose of this encounter detailed challenges of navigating a career in a male-dominated industry and efforts to promote women in business. As Ms. Koffi interacted more with Ms. Clark, the latter willingly accepted to mentor the entourage of women.
She equally took advantage of stunning, cultural locales by visiting Snowbird, a popular ski resort nestled in the Wasatch Range just 40 minutes southeast of downtown Salt Lake City. Ms. Koffi was so enthralled with the location and ambiance of the lofty retreat that she made striking parallels back home with a city called Man in Côte d'Ivoire. She notes: “it may be a long-term project but the city of MAN with its mountains and waterfalls can really be inspired by Snowbird.” She braved the chilling hike up to the summit, but the joy dancing across her face is unquestionable.