Thursday, November 26, 2009

Re: Building your leadership capacity- An opportunity.

“Hi Jenny, my Name is Ambassador Auwalu from kano, I saw the Atlas corps Fellows Programme online and pick interest in it, can u please advice me on what to do?” This is an example of some of the feedback I have been receiving about the Atlas Corps Programme since the publication of the above article. While some ask for more information, others ask for a guide on how to apply. Then, there is the category of people who just respond by saying that they have the qualification but no experience in the nonprofit sector. To this last group of people, I’ll simply say, no hassle, your season will come. Meaning, don’t apply if you have no experience and interest in the nonprofit sector. There is no need to use such opportunity as a form of escapism as in the long run, you might look back and say to yourself “What a waste of time!”. For this race is not as easy as its spelling even though the setting is in Washington D.C., Baltimore and Maryland.

Meanwhile, if you are reading this column for the first time, or you missed the article “Building your leadership Capacity- An Opportunity” published November 8th, I will indulge you with the news in a minute. To all those who are avid readers, here is the exciting news- The application deadline has been extended from November 20th to the 3oth. Meaning, you have some additional days to go online and apply for a place as a fellow. And no, this is not a DV lottery. Like I said earlier on, please do not apply to be an Atlas Corps Fellow if you are not interested and committed to the development sector in Nigeria. And even if you are very involved in the non-profit sector, remember to ask yourself, “Why should I apply to be a fellow?” Do not jump at this opportunity because I say it is exciting and rewarding (of course it is!). Make sure your motives are in the right track to avoid any disappointment. And keep in mind that after applying, there are still other stages of screening through all applicants. And I tell you, this process is very thorough- so applying is just the first baby step.

Are you still keen about giving it a try? Go online to and start with the eligibility survey form. If you are confident about the program, go to and apply. To cut the long story short, only apply for the fellowship programme if you: have 3 or more years of relevant experience in the nonprofit/NGO sector, have a degree or its equivalent, speak, read and write fluent English, and most importantly, are committed to returning to Nigeria after the one-year programme!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Did you watch Sesame Street as a kid?

(The Opening song)

Sunny Day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame Street

Come and play
Everything's A-OK
Friendly neighbors there
That's where we meet

Can you tell me how to get
How to get to Sesame Street

It's a magic carpet ride
Every door will open wide
To Happy people like you--
Happy people like
What a beautiful

Sunny Day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame street...
How to get to Sesame Street
How to get to...(Sesame Street).

When you get to Sesame Street, you’ll find Muppets interacting with humans! But Oh! feel free to call the Muppets by their first name- Cookie, Telly, Zoe, Bert, Elmo, Ernie, Kermit, Oscar, Rosita and of course the famous Big Bird. Sesame Street- an award winning kid-loving educational program on TV is celebrating its 40 years anniversary. Talk about the longevity of a children’s program that transcends culture and borders. Today, the rest of the world watch an interesting episode of the US first lady, Michelle Obama, visiting Sesame Street to show Elmo and some of the children how to plant their own vegetable gardens.

I was a Sesame Street fan as a kid. I remember watching the interesting interaction between the Muppets and the human characters. To me, it was simply entertaining and educational. Helping children learn basic life skills in a fun way. It was an elevated Cartoon program. The author of the book “Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell once stated that Sesame Street was built around a single, breakthrough insight: that if you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them. And the program has maintained that stance over the years, from generations to generations, holding the attention of children around the world long enough to educate them.

As a kid who watched Sesame Street back in the day, I didn’t have to spend the whole day in front of the screen to enjoy TV. After each episode, aired during the kiddies’ program schedule on National Television Authority Channel 5 (NTA2), we all switch back to reality and play, as kids should play- in the company of one another. Watching old episodes of Sesame Street on Youtube (internet) brings a lot of nostalgic feeling, leaving us hoping that this generation of producers and TV content creators will understand that television is also an educational tool, and take a cue from Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett to create child-friendly contents that will shape the future.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Building your leadership capacity- An Opportunity

“How much are they paying you for telling people about this programme?” My friend asked, wanting to know why I was so keen on telling as many people as possible about this unique opportunity to enhance their knowledge. And by people, I mean young non-profit leaders in Nigeria who are interested in building their non-profit management skills in all ramifications.

What is this all about? A colleague forwarded to me an interesting opportunity created by Atlas Corps, which I’ll love to share with all young leaders out there, especially those working in the NGO sector, taking the lead to bring about a positive change in their community.

Atlas Service Corps is an international non-profit organization that develop leaders, strengthen organizations and promote innovation through an international network of skilled professional. They train young professionals through an exchange programme designed to shape, enlighten and strengthen young visionary leaders. They are currently seeking nonprofit leaders from around the world to apply for their 2010-2011 fellowship positions in Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD and Bogota, Colombia. Expenses are paid in this prestigious fellowship program, including a living stipend, health insurance, and training.

Applicants must have 3 or more years of experience in the nonprofit sector, a college degree, fluency in English (and Spanish if applying to volunteer in Colombia), and a commitment to return to their home country after one year. Candidates from outside the U.S. are placed at outstanding host organizations in Washington, DC or Baltimore, MD including Ashoka, Asian American LEAD, CentroNía, Grameen Foundation, and Population Action International. Candidates from the U.S. are placed at organizations in Bogota like Global Humanitaria and Oxfam GB.

In addition to volunteering full time at their host organizations, Fellows are enrolled in a management development training program and join a growing network of nonprofit leaders from around the world. For more details about eligibility requirements and the application process, please visit: . The deadline to apply is November 20, 2009. We shouldn’t wait to get paid before sharing some great links!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Essayist Called Matthew

There are some experiences that do not come our way every day but bring joy and big opportunities whenever they show up. One of such is winning a national essay competition.

When I was invited to come down to Lagos from Jos as one of the finalists of the 2009 edition of Omololu Falobi Foundation Essay Competition, I had mixed feelings. Obviously, I was not sure if I would win, and if I didn’t, just going all the way to Lagos and returning empty-handed would not be funny.

But I remembered that attending the award ceremony was not just about receiving the award alone – I would also have the opportunity of meeting some of the dignitaries listed on the invitation letter. This appealed to me because a similar situation in 2005 had a life-transforming effect on me.

I had been invited for the second stage of the Mike Okonkwo Essay Competition for Secondary Schools. I went and eventually won the first prize. Some of the contacts I got from there have been of tremendous help, for example, the chief examiner of the competition, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo’s encouragement has spurred me to achieve more.

The Falobi competition was no different. I went and was lucky to go home with the first prize. I went to the ceremony with my two brothers based in Lagos and they were no less happy than I was. "This is the third time he’s making us proud like this", one of them declared to the gathering on coming to the stage for snapshots with me. The third he referred to was the Nigerian Stock Exchange Essay award in 2006.

The occasion was particularly touching as the journalist in whose honour the essay was organized, Mr Omololu Falobi, was assassinated in 2006 by men suspected to be armed robbers. Though I had read about him from the internet, listening to people recount firsthand how he affected their lives was particularly poignant.

But, I asked myself, why does this country always consume her most passionately loyal children? As a eulogist puts it on the internet, "he was like a man in a hurry to do what he had to before he left". Mr Falobi was indeed passionate about fighting HIV/AIDS through the media, and he succeeded.

For me, writing essays is not just about winning but making my voice heard on a topical issue and proffering solutions to identified problems. However, I always write with the belief that I’m as good as other entrants, and so have a chance of winning.

My experiences should motivate Nigerian youths to believe in themselves, contribute to society positively, and never give up!

Guest writer: Matthew Adeiza, 2009 Essay winner