How a Lesson in Giving, a Mothers’ Beautiful Heart, and a Mosquito Led a Mosquito Control Specialist to the Racing Upwards Fellowship at The Athena Advisors

06 April 2023

As children we all aspired to grow up to be like the superheroes in our favourite comic books. In my household, our comics ranged from Spiderman to the Pink Power Ranger and more recently, Black Panther. I, however, always wanted to be exactly like my late mother. My mother always looked beyond herself, selflessly helping others.

In 2014, I dropped out of university to help my struggling single mother. During this time, she had adopted three other children and chosen to relocate to her village to help local communities. During this time, my mother taught me so many valuable lessons, like “people always forget everything, except how kind you are” and “kindness imprints on hearts”. This phrase made sense. Our house was always filled with guests and I grew up watching communities be fed, dressed; widows finding not only help, but much-needed friendship in my mother. She taught me so much about giving.

By watching her, I developed a passion to help and volunteered at an NGO, Vision Trust International. During this time, I took a keen interest in helping children and teen mothers and in 2014, I established an organisation: Wonderfully and Fearfully Made. Being very young and without a completed degree, support for my organisation was non-existent. In order to motivate my mentees academically, I decided to go back to university and follow my path in Biology. In 2016 I fell in love with mosquitoes and took strides towards furthering this passion, leading me to an MSc in mosquito control. However, I still felt empty and needed to give back to the community. This led to my sister and I to cofound an organisation, Mollela. Mollela means ‘light’ and we aim to bring a light to those that feel hopeless, through offering help.

In 2020, Covid took our lovely mother and also affected our organisation as it was a very hard time financially. This led us to look for creative ways to raise funds for women and children who were affected by Covid. We met many hurdles. As an organisation, we realised we needed help with fundraising and management.

Currently a PhD student at the University of Liverpool, I am in the early career stage, moving slowly closer to becoming an independent researcher. I have secured several grants that have helped me to do extensive research, as well as securing my MSc funding through the Wellcome Trust and my PhD funding through Medical Research Council UK Research and Innovation Doctoral Training Programme (MRC UKRI DTP). Only recently, I won a GBP 5,000 Student Excellence Award which will be invested in conferences and networking.

What I have learnt is that fundraising is an important skill needed in every career and that the process can be very daunting if not done correctly. Many institutions struggle because they are unable to ask for help. The Where, When, Who and How of fundraising is very crucial to successful fundraising.

In 2023, I saw came across an advert for the Racing Upwards Fellowship. I immediately knew that this is what my career and Mollela needed. I applied and was selected. A month down the line, I can say I am where I was meant to be. This fellowship has already taught me several valuable skills. I hope to learn how to be an effective leader, and apply my learnings to Mollela.