Take a song like ‘Blue Bayou” that is a simple song about being on the road. It probably sounds very lonesome but on the contrary, it is a happy song, “Where the folks are fun and the world is mine on Blue Bayou, where those fishing boats with their sails afloat, If I could only see that familiar sunrise through sleepy eyes, how happy I’d be”. It’s a beautiful thought. Similarly, my mind drifted away on a similar experience of my own in a new country going from location to location and traveling across state lines to finally be here in the sunshine state of California that can be only compared to the scenery mentioned in the song. How I ended up here is by no means an act of serendipity. It has a beginning, middle and an end with a chain of events dovetailed into one another.
As a classic Virgo, I found the idea of a secure and defined career path reassuring. However, last year I was challenging my comfort zones regularly. Around the same time, I came across the Atlas Corps fellowship and I’m beyond thankful that I listened to my inner self to send that application out. So rewind to two years back having completed my Masters, I joined an international organization working in the field of conflict transformation in Sri Lanka to find solutions to inter-ethnic tensions that was prevailing in the country at the time. I was hardly in one place where traveling consumed a large part of my time. I was traveling around Sri Lanka to build communities of practice for reconciliation. Come this Fall, as I was celebrating my first anniversary at work, my leadership informed me that my organization has received further funding for my project. At that moment, part of me was happy that my hard work has yielded positive results, while the other part was dreaming for a life changing moment where I can do better for the mankind.
Alas, I received an email from Atlas Corps to say that I have been shortlisted for an interview by a potential host organization in the United States. It’s fair to say the rest is history. Fast forward few months, today I am three months into my Atlas Corps Fellowship. A powerful community of changemakers often labeled in their home countries as misfits who are crazy enough to believe that they could change the world. All my fellows come from different countries, they all seemed to come from exceptionally different backgrounds.
Today, I am counting my blessings as I have been truly given an opportunity to contribute to the entire humanity through my host organization (Philanthropy University). It has surpassed every expectation I had. We are a bunch of Silicon Valley techies who have an ambitious goal of changing 100 million lives by 2020 through our online Courses, Community and access to Capital. I have an amazing team of colleagues who work tirelessly to design an online learning platform that will allow nonprofit leaders in the global south to develop their capacity for social change. The best thing about my team is that every person I have had the pleasure of working with is multi-talented, interesting and inspiring. They are not only architects of online pedagogy but also skilled in a variety of fields such as entertainment, sports and education.
As much as I enjoy my fellowship, it also requires my best judgment all the time. Whilst being an Atlas Corps fellow I can take pride and walk tall. Similarly, the fellowship comes with many challenges that often demands you to be positively looking forward to the big picture and the commitment to the nonprofit sector. As a fellow, living off a limited stipend often demands you to be creative; San Francisco is the most expensive city in the United States. Whilst there are many positive things about San Francisco, it also has it’s shortcomings. The housing is limited and almost unaffordable. The living costs are on the high side and everyone is high on a healthy lifestyle from eating, recreation to spirituality. It is the best place to be a vegan but also it can be an expensive meal. As a fellow, it is both a learning curve, an experience of a lifetime. This is what the Fellowship is all about, you find yourself in the most fantastic situations, whilst try to seize every opportunity.