Fellows are young energetic men and women who are committed to working towards grassroots development. The majority of fellows are between 20 and 30 years old. They come from different minority groups, depending on the location of the programme. They have either seen their own community or other communities struggle as a result of the external environment.
The value of the fellow is someone who can motivate and facilitate.
- Member of Village Development Committee, Labutta township, Ayeryarwaddy division
For some, an acknowledgement of inequality and poverty is the motivation for becoming a fellow, for others the fellowship programme is perceived as a way out of a context of inequality and poverty since the training is thought to lead to better waged work.
The fellows’ experience in volunteerism and community activism means that they will have had prior knowledge of working with communities. Most fellows are graduates or have at least completed high school.
Fellows undergo an initial intensive six-week course of training, after which they live in a community (either their own community or another) with the aim of supporting this community to “stimulate change and development, according to the communities’ priorities”.
Follow-up training supports fellows to deepen their work. It is important to understand that fellows are not intended to become community leaders as such, particularly those from outside their own communities. Rather, the role of fellows is to facilitate and galvanise potential community leaders into action, and thus they are better described as ‘community facilitators’ or ‘community motivators’. They also play the role of mediating between different groups in the community.
By linking different people within and outside the community, and creating the space for debate, they enable further linkages to take place. They bring together the elements to make fire, and then add the spark.