It is with great delight that I recount my HELP Fellowship experience, even though it is of little proportion at this very moment, to you my cherished audience.  One thing must be made known as early as possible; the HELP Fellowship is like ‘the eye of a needle’. The term is metaphorically used to describe a very narrow opening which is difficult to pass through.  In fact, there have been claims that one of the gates into ancient Jerusalem was named “The Eye of the Needle” and a camel could only pass through if it was bent and unloaded. Christianity (Matthew 19:24) and Islam (Quran Surah Al-A’raaf verse 40) use the term to delineate a difficult and rewarding task. As such, it seems more than fitting to appropriate it to the quality, efficacy and excellence of the HELP Fellowship.

 This experience of mine is here demonstrated in three phases: the rugged application phase, the nutritive pre-work phase and the expository work phase. I had doubted my ability to move beyond my comfort zone and perform well in a community of brilliant minds and each of the phases of the HELP Fellowship has been instrumental in self affirmation of my potential.

In truth, when I first caught sight of the call for application into the Fellowship, I treated it with indifference. Then, when I clicked the application button and saw the questions, fear captured my mind. It was as if a mighty wind threw me out through the window of the room. The questions left a mark, an indelible mark of attraction on my soul. And so, I struggled against this wind and if you can imagine, I forced myself back in to the room. To my amazement, all other elements in the room were not touched. So, why me? At this very moment, I became calm, composed and returned to the questions. Then I began to search for answers, some of which I threw out the window as they did not meet the expected standard. Thus, I continued in this mentally draining fashion until I was completely satisfied with my responses.

Even after scaling this wall, I was asked to scale another (as high as that in Game of Thrones), which would determine whether I would be selected or not.  This time, it was a video contest, requiring military precision, creativity and the magic touch, like the use of a dragon by the Night King was needed for success. As fortune would have it, I found my own dragon and it took me to King’s Landing through the eye of a needle.

 One single element, the introspective element, made the application phase difficult and this made me remember Socrates’ famous line: “know thyself.” This is why I call it the rugged application phase.

Now, it happened that after the final selection had been made and after we had been grouped on an online platform for the sake of co-mingling, the management of the HELP Fellowship decided to expose our minds to the tip of the iceberg of the program. This was done through a course on Innovation Management. Consequently, I came in contact with the concepts of innovation for the first time and had to study diligently as not obtaining the pass mark meant ejection from the program. And so, my mind was broadened and given generous nourishment before the actual work commenced.

After this course, we were ready for full exposure to the rudiments of the program: reasoning, expectations and comprehension. I particularly enjoyed this phase because Fellows had the chance to finally meet, share and work on ideas physically in an innovative fashion. This strengthened the community to an impressive degree. It behooves me to mention that I was thrilled and overwhelmed as I met very brilliant individuals and experienced both practical and functional education. At the end of the day, it was not the question of ‘what’s next?’ but a statement of ‘let’s see’, as Fellows were given capstone projects and tools to actualize them.

Overall, I am thrilled because I have always wanted to be a professional researcher outside of the academic environment, but I hadn’t found the proper resources and mentors. And these, the HELP Fellowship provided.  I am passionate about the promotion and preservation of Nigerian cultural heritage as I believe a strong connection between humans and their culture reduces mental confusion and encourages productivity. And so, it was the case that when I saw that one of the capstone projects, “Digital Approaches to Preservation of Cultural Heritage for Next Generation Learners”, was directly related to this, and when I chose it and was given, I was drunk with happiness to the degree that my mind almost exploded. It was an amazing opportunity to build my professional career while carrying out a project in one of my areas of interest.

At this stage, if you happen to wonder what the HELP Fellowship is about, please know first that HELP means Hutzpa Excellent Leadership Program. Don’t be alarmed; “Hutzpa” is a Hebrew word which means the courage to achieve a task. The HELP Fellowship is concerned with the formation of excellent community-members for the African and Nigerian societies by focusing on developing the individual: their intellect, character, attitude and behavior. As has been demonstrated above, it is where human potential is unleashed and channeled towards productivity. I love it because here, excellence is the watchword.

Drinking from this fountain has been awesome and decency thus, requires me to recommend it to all and sundry who cherish excellence, improvement and development to be part of this community (#thehelpfellowship).

Written by: Chibueze Clinton, 2018 HELP Fellow