Monday, June 07, 2010

What being an Atlas Corps Fellow means to me :)

My goodness! How the time has flewn. How did it get to be June so soon? Time flies when you are living! Goodbye May, Lets springforth June!

When it is June and you are on Atlas Service Corps Fall Fellow in D.C., many things start flying through your mind... starting with big time reflection… (of course you don’t have to wait 10 months into your program to do deep reflections).

The tenth month reflection is a bit different. When I stare into the mirror and ask myself “has this fellowship been worth it?" I respond differently. And my response? Long story! But it has been one of sharpening my axe and rediscovering myself... a good opportunity to learn, unlearn and grow! Well, this is how I share my experience. Others will tell their story differently, that is what makes the program unique-- you learn to create your experience and tell your own story.

I came into the program as a passionate Journalist with strong interest in youth development. As the program progressed and is still progressing, I am experiencing my own share of paradigm shift. As Emily Dickinson writes: "We never know how high we are, Till we are asked to rise. And then if we are true to plan, Our statures touch the skies. The Heroism we recite would be a normal thing. Did not ourselves the Cubits warp for fear to be a king--" Being an Atlas Corps fellow and working in One World Youth Project (OWYP) has been a very life altering experience for me. The experience has been really challenging, fabulous and remarkable. I do not mean to sound like I’m counting my chickens before they are hatched, but ten months into the program, I look back with a heart full of thanks to God for this opportunity to grow.

I have had my shares of ups and down. But the challenges totally increased my perseverance and tenacity. In most cases, I learned to see the cup as half full instead of half empty; you need a good doze of optimism to maximize this experience. Also, I have learned to be humble and teachable. Sometimes it is very easy to want to jump on your high horse and prove your point. But, to be honest, I have learnt it pays off to stick to the high road and choose integrity over reputation.

Professionally, I have learnt a lot just working at OWYP. I was really blessed to serve in the area I’m most passionate about. Youth development and fostering mutual understanding between cultures is something that excites me. The short stint I had to work in DC Public school also reaffirmed the sense of urgency I have always felt—an urgency for people to realize classroom education is not enough and for organizations working with youths to focus more on directly building capacities at grassroots level instead of limiting efforts to conferences and summits.

This experience also exposed me to various development style, and criticism of the development sector, especially those working to build Africa. It got me doing some serious soul-searching on the value of ‘development’ I’m told "Missionaries, Mercenaries and Misfits" by Rasna Warah and "Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa’" by Dambisa Moyo- are two books I must read to better understand this trend. Now I’ve to start saving up to buy these books. With the meager stipen we live on as fellows, you get to learn how to manage your finances…prioritizing what to spend on and what not to spend on. It is also part of the excitement of volunteerism.

I count the months gone by and count my blessings. I thank God for the grace to stay on course and not chicken out at the slightest challenge. If you are signing up to be an Atlas Corps fellow or know someone who is selected to be a fellow, encourage them to maximize the opportunity and stay true to the course—and never give up! As Jim Rohn once said "Some people plant in the Spring and leave in the Summer. If you're signed up for a season, see it through. You don't have to stay forever, but at least stay until you see it through”

Being an Atlas Corps Fellow means rising up to be the best and for me, the best is yet to come, by God grace!

1 comment:

Florence said...

I am very proud of you Jennifer. I trust God that your seeds will grow evidentially to testify what sown life can give birth to...Keep sowing. You are making impact!