22 March 2018

Churchill Fellowship – an opportunity of a lifetime

 “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”- Winston Churchill

The above quote means a lot for me. I first applied for the Churchill Fellowship in 2014 and was not even invited for interview. I thought I would give it sometime and comeback. That was what happened in 2017. I remember getting an email from one of the most successful Churchill Fellows, Citizens UK’s Executive Director, Neil Jameson encouraging staff to apply. His encouragement was echoed by my ex-colleague and former Churchill  fellow Imogen Moore and Zrinka Bralo of Migrants Organise who is a seasoned civic leader with extensive links with Citizens UK and of course a former Churchill fellow. All the three mentioned that the fellowship was one of the most useful things they did and encouraged us to apply.

I kept the emails flagged and took time before I applied. I thus decided to put in application but I wanted to make sure that I gave it my best so that I would succeed this time around. Hence, I spent a few evenings doing a research and being clear on what I wanted to do. Once I submitted my application, I wanted to switch off, but I kept thinking about it. I thought I had done my bit to get the fellowship and if I didn’t get it, it would have meant that there were better candidates. Luckily, I got the email I was eagerly waiting for. Yes, I was shortlisted for interview. Loved it, but I was cautious and not celebratory. In life we don’t always win as we don’t always lose. Hence, I had to prepare for the interview and be once again clear with what I want to achieve if offered the opportunity.

Now that I am a Churchill Fellow I will travel to Canada, one of the most welcoming and beautiful countries in the world, to study about its refugee sponsorship program, especially to see how businesses and schools are engaged in sponsorship. Hence I am revisiting my plans and planning my next steps meticulously. I feel privileged to know many people who can help me organise meetings or connect me with those I am keen to meet in Canada. As a Churchill fellow, I aim high and aspire to meet some prominent figures and I very much hope I will be able to meet some of these amazing people and some good old friends.

Old and new Churchill fellows, Amanda, Neil and Bekele of Citizens UK

I still recall that very email from Neil and subsequent emails from Zrinka and Imogen. They were fellows that pushed boundaries. They were also folks who showed many of us why Churchill fellowship was a good thing. They travelled to learn and came back and inspired us. Yes, I say us as there are two of us from Citizens UK as 2018 fellows. My good colleague Amanda Walters is also a fellow this year as we keep the connection of Churchill fellowship and Citizens UK alive. The most inspirational Neil Jameson was a 1977 fellow who travelled to the US. Of the back of that great opportunity, Neil founded Citizens UK. That great opportunity Neil had and his tenacity to make a difference meant we have a strong guild of Community organisers, who are all striving to make a difference. I am a Churchill fellow now because my organising career helped me to build my confidence; it helped me to challenge established norms and see the world from different angles. Now that I am a Churchill fellow I am determined to be even more ambitious and get the best out of it. I very much hope this great opportunity, of course a once in a life time opportunity, will be useful for me, the communities I am working with and the wider public. It will also be an opportunity for me to share about my experiences in the UK.

Yes, I am fired up and ready to go. I will sometimes in the future sit down and reflect on my journey. Imogen Moore has shared the following as she reflects on her fellowship, “I cannot exaggerate how important my Churchill fellowship experience was for both personally and professionally. I visited neighbourhood based projects in Brazil and the US that were organising their communities to improve children’s health and educational outcomes. The projects I visited and the things I saw gave me profound insight into what we needed to create to give children the best start in life in Southwark, South London, where I was working as a community organiser. The people I met and the space I had to be creative and reflect gave me the impetus to come back to the UK and grow the Parents and Communities Together Project which has since grown to work with hundreds of families and it is now scaling to different parts of the UK. I have no doubts that what I learnt will continue to have ongoing importance and relevance throughout my career.”

I am ready to travel, learn and share; come back to share and inspire others to act. Churchill fellowship, an opportunity of a lifetime!

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