How to Cope with Mandela Washington Fellowship Rejections


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So I have been reading a lot of comments and reactions following the notification of finalists for the MWF 2019. The ones that struck me were the opinions of those rejected for this year's fellowship. I addressed those I could but thought it better to share my experience publicly, perhaps it might cheer someone up and motivate others.

I applied to the 1st cohort which was the MWF 2014 , I made it to semifinals, got interviewed but was rejected. I felt terribly hurt because I was doing amazing work (and I am still doing same) and needed capacity building, exposure, and all other support I could get at that time. I had high hopes of being selected but I wasn't selected.
Guess what? Life had to go on. I did not stop working because of MWF rejection. I had ongoing projects, I had a vision for my organization. MWF wasn't born when I began CWHAD in 2012 , so why should I stop working???? I forged ahead.
2015 , I tried again. This time I wasn't even invited for interview. I was rejected again , from the "doorstep". LOL. It was easier to bear the pain. I moved on.
2016, I tried again. I made it as a semi finalist a second time. God decided to send me a special blessing that was due to arrive same departure time as the fellowship. A baby! I showed up for the interview pregnant, though it wasn't easily noticeable, but the lady on the panel suspected and asked " are you expecting?" There was no way I was going to deny that and so there and then ,'boom'! I was told to try again the following year.
Then the big year came. 2017. This year I was soooooo sure. I made semifinalist a 3rd time, has a fantastic interview, I was so excited about the interview I called Adepeju Jaiyeoba and told her. She congratulated me and I drove home fulfilled. Notification time came and they slammed me another rejection. What????? How????why???? It was like a dream. No way! This must be witchcraft. OMG! What didn't I think?!
Guess what? I wasn't deterred. All these years of rejection, I was still doing my work and improving myself. I did other trainings and got other opportunities. I told myself I wouldn't stop trying until I hit 35years and know that I no longer qualify. Then I would say MWF is not part of God's development plan for me.
2018 came, I tried again. Only this time, I was a bit reluctant because I had other plans for the year. I submitted the application maybe less than 48hrs to deadline. I made semifinalist again, but this time I was pregnant again, and due that same departure month, June. Nigerians would say "my village people were hitting the drum for me". LOL.
Again I called Peju. She encouraged me to just attend the interview, regardless of my 2016 experience. I listened and I went. I went with an open mind, determined to just share updates on my work since the previous interview. The panelist were impressed. It seemed like another good interview just like 2017 , only this time I just prayed for God's will. To me, whether I make it to finals or not, I wouldn't go because my baby was due June 12th.
But God had other plans.
Notification time came, and I was SELECTED! I was selected for MWF 2018. My joy knew no bounds but i was still going to have my baby.
Long story short, I had to inform IREX and requested a deferral to 2019 and it was approved, provided I was still within age limit by this year.
I would be 35 this year, I got confirmed a finalist yesterday, I still have my babies, I still have the NGO running, and I am now better positioned to utilize the opportunities and trainings from MWF.
What's your excuse for giving up on yourself?

By Helen Nonso Odega 
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