A Sierra Leonean Journalist Mentor Who Got Rejected Three Times Finally Shares Her Journey On Why She Never Lose Hope As She Now Becomes A Fellow: The Mandela Washington Fellowship/YALI-RLC Application Journey

Mariatu Esther Kabba is a Sierra Leonean Journalism Mentor working for BBC Media Action Sierra Leone, a Writer and Activist for girls’ empowerment and peacebuilding. She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Strong Women, Strong Girls Sierra Leone.

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Read her journey to the Mandela Washington Fellowship

“My Mandela Washington Fellowship/Yali-Rlc Application Journey

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the U.S. Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) flagship program, bringing African civic, business, and community leaders for academic coursework, leadership training, and networking at U.S. colleges and universities, while the YALI RLC Africa Emerging Leaders Program aims at same but works at regional level within Africa.

I got rejected for the YALI RLC three times! The last thing said to me by an interviewer on my third application interview in 2018 was “Mariatu, the YALI RLC is not for you, we’re looking for emerging young leaders trying to initiate positive ideas to solve problems within their communities”

The above statement made me confused and felt frustrated but guess what happened thereafter? I mentored four of my team members within Strong Women Strong Girls Sierra Leone for this same YALI RLC leadership opportunity and three got selected!! Wasn’t this ironical?? What even made me had the gut to mentor someone for an opportunity I never had to be successful on?? Sometimes, the tiniest strength we could find in our toughest moments could work magic!

So, I cultivated this same courage with motivation from Eastina Boimadi Estobaby, Milton Dumbuya, Abdul Rahman Kowa Edward Kargbo and James Metzger, few of my good people to apply for the BIG Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders and boom! My first application was a bang! Yes I got selected for the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship at age 25!! Little did I know I was too good for YALI-RLC .

The Sierra Leone application process saw about over two thousand applicants but only eight candidates were selected. I’m proud to be among those chosen few.

What made me stood out?? Grace, selfless service, impactful track record, good mentorship and a convincing application. You could be among the next cohort if you’re determined and meet the criteria of the Mandela Washington Fellowship 2022 Application opening.

I got the best of my six-week fellowship engagement at Rutgers University—New Brunswick between July and early August though C-19 was a big distraction. Yet I’m proud to be a member of the #PandemicCohort. I’m ready to share my Mandela Washington Fellowship experience with potential applicants today at our 2022 application roll out session. Please join us if you can! And yes, I’m open to give further application guidance to a selected number of applicants.

Watch out for a piece on my MWF-Rutgers experience soon to be shared here”

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Sallu Kamuskay

Sallu Kamuskay is a Sierra Leonean activist, storyteller, and blogger. He was born in Sierra Leone but later relocated to Guinea as a refugee because of the war in his country. Sallu Kamuskay uses his phone to engage on social media, under the name ‘’Salone Messenger’. He Co-Founded the Salone Messenger platform after his experience of the war, Ebola, and injustices. According to him, silence was the root cause of war, and of many social injustices, we continue to face as a nation. In 2013, during the Ebola crisis, Sallu Kamuskay took the risk and volunteered to fight Ebola. He spent some months in both safe and unsafe places; helping the victims and telling their sad stories. The election in 2018, left a divided country with communities fighting on tribal lines. This inspired Sallu Kamuskay to serve as the coordinator of the United Sierra Leone peace concert, which was organized in 4 major parts of the country, targeting violent communities and troubled youth. Sallu Kamuskay led a group of entertainers, activists, and organizations across the country on a peace tour, a program supported by the European Union, United Sierra Leone, Africa Union, ECOWAS, and the Messeh Leone Trust. Sallu Kamuakay has also served as a staff writer for the Hidden Voices Magazine. Over the years, Sallu Kamuskay has been using his Techno phone to be able to tell stories, the phone he used to tell the story of Gbessay during Ebola who was admitted at one of the Ebola treatment centers after rumors that she had Ebola when the actual sickness was ulcer, she was almost abandoned at the treatment canter with no medication provided to her. She could have died. Sallu told the story via social media and was able to secure funding from the United Sierra Leone to buy her medication and advocated for her. She was later discharged and taken home, He did the same to a patient that died and was abandoned in the street, Sallu Kamuskay used his phone and shared the message across, the corps was later taken and buried. It could have been more disaster without his voice. The story of late America Stress 3-year-old daughter. The hero’s daughter was abandon after his father's death. He shared her sad story and was able to get a sister who has taken the child as her own and is currently providing her with educational support. The article of America Stress can be read on the link below Sallu Kamuskay feels the stories of Gbessay, America stress and that of many others need to be told. The media house we have cannot better tell these stories, they are better reporters than telling human interest stories. He created the Salone Messenger platform and brought together passionate storytellers to be able to tell these compelling stories.

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