It’s quite common to see volunteers from developed countries leave the comfort of their homes to go and offer services and expertise in developing countries. However, what’s not common is seeing volunteers from developing countries travel to the developed countries to provide professional services. Very few organizations invest in this type of investment. Identifying young leaders from the developing countries and matching them with host organizations in developed countries to provide professional services. This is what sets Atlas Corps Service apart from other organizations. Like its logo the organization looks at the world outside the box. A non-profit organization based in Washington DC with a mission to develop global leaders. In the process they also build the capacity of organizations and promote innovation through learning across borders.
Four years ago while pursuing a degree in Communications & Sociology at the University of Nairobi. I came across a call for application for fellowship programs in US and Columbia. As I kept reading, I was intrigued by the unique approach that Atlas Corps was taking to develop young leaders into global change makers.
I later talked to my then supervisor about applying for the Atlas Corps fellowship knowing that should the opportunity present itself, I would be destined for bigger things. So I sent my application and since I had not completed my degree, I had to wait and reapply after completion of my studies. I did and soon I got confirmation to being a finalist. I was so excited but this excitement was short lived because my application did not fit the profiles of any of the then available host organizations. Soon days turned into months and then into years. This however did not dampen my spirit. Not one to give up, I joined the Atlas Corps Community Leaders class, a new initiative that was started in 2013. This platform gave me the opportunity to share my projects with other top fellows as well as have access to distance learning opportunities. Atlas Corps having recognized my outstanding background and work continued to seek host organizations that would be a good fit. Meredith Newmark a Senior Program Manager with Atlas Corps kept me posted on the continued search for new host organizations.
While waiting, I enrolled for a Masters Degree in International Studies at the University of Nairobi. I also continued to work with grassroots organizations doing what I love best, empowering communities with knowledge and skills to make informed choices. Grassroots organizations make a lot of difference with the little resources at their disposal.
The Perfect Fit
Finally the long wait culminated in Atlas Corps finding a host organization whose foundational goals rivaled my passion for empowering communities to impact social change. It happened so fast, I couldn’t believe that in a span of two weeks, I had two successive interviews and became an Atlas Corps Fellow. Global Press Institute couldn’t have been more perfect. This is a non-profit organization that uses journalism as a development tool to impact social change. Founded in 2006 by Cristi Hegranes, GPI trains women from the developing media markets around the world to be award-wining journalists. Quality news coverage by these women provides the word with the opportunity to see the developing world from a new angle.
As we mark this year’s #womensday we celebrate women who are empowered to ignite positive change through their writings. The unique approach taken by GPI has seen news coverage influencing policy changes for the better. This approach has seen women empowered and access to information increased. Global awareness of the developing world and its people is also slowly changing with stories being told by people who live it.
My first month has been an enlightening experience meeting other like-minded young leaders from over 13 countries. I am learning that to make a difference in this world, you do not have to wait for the ‘big break’. Start with what you have whether it is talent, skills or knowledge; resources have a way of finding those actively changing the world for the better. I inspire change by contributing my skills to streamlining communications at GPI. I believe that the one-year fellowship program is just the beginning of bigger and better things in the near future.