On the 18th of March, I received an email from the US Consulate that pissed me off! I wasn’t angry at the Consulate or whoever sent me this email; I was angry that a global pandemic had come out of nowhere and threatened a great opportunity I had been looking forward to for 5 months. I completed my application to join the Atlas Corps Fellowship in November 2019 and after 3 interviews and some paperwork, I was excited to travel to the US to begin this amazing journey, but COVID-19 said NO WAY (JOSE)!!!
For many social change leaders and enthusiasts, fellowships are a great opportunity to learn, grow your network and gain significant experience & exposure into global social development. When the fellowship gives you the opportunity to travel out of your home country for the first time, it is even more exciting. So, when COVID-19 hit, it was hard to take for me and many other global social leaders looking forward to serving in the Atlas Corps Fellowship.
But if there is something dealing with social change has taught me; it is that problems persist, but it is up to people to solve them. In social leadership, we deal with a lot of persistent social problems; Human Rights, Women Rights, Environmental Sustainability, Financial Inclusion, Youth Leadership, Poverty Alleviation and so much more. It takes a lot of resilience to deal with these issues, and I dare say the best attribute a social change leader possesses is GRIT. The determination to work hard and persist regardless of the obstacles.
Fast-forward to the 11th of May 2020, I began my Atlas Corps fellowship virtually; a show of GRIT and determination. Atlas Corps decided against all odds, to record a win over the pandemic and inaugurate a pioneer set of fellows engaged in a blended fellowship! Host organizations determined to onboard virtual fellows and provide them the opportunity to lead social change online!! The amazing fellows displayed enormous strength and courage to pursue an entirely new social leadership program over Zoom meetings, Slack channels and other virtual tools!!!
The Blended fellowship is an excellent display of “Winning against all odds”. Big and small challenges spring up out of nowhere and we stay determined to achieve our goals regardless. For me and the other fellows, it presents an opportunity to pioneer a movement; to test an entirely new approach and prove that even while locked in our homes, we can influence the world and make it a better place. For future fellows (blended or not), it is an inspiring example of how to deal with seemingly insurmountable challenges that might arise in the future. For past fellows, it displays the versatility of the organization they chose to represent and an assurance that their legacy will live on.
I just began, and I cannot wait to share all my experiences along the way. Will I contribute to building a new sustainable city in different nations across the world? Will I participate in solving several social problems in my immediate & the global environment from my little desk at home? Will I build a strong network of great global leaders and share interesting ideas to advance our mutual social causes? Will I learn the requisite skills to advance the social causes I am most passionate about and become a global social leader? So many interesting questions and I cannot wait to answer them all, virtually or in person!