Case Study: Princeton in Africa – Resilience Program for Fellows and Staff.
Objective: Princeton in Africa is an independent nonprofit organization that places recent college graduates, from any college or university accredited in the U.S., in yearlong fellowships working with a number of premier organizations across Africa. In 2015-16, Princeton in Africa had 51 Fellows working in 15 African countries supporting 31 organizations. Fellows are placed with a variety of organizations working in diverse sectors such as public health, education, conservation, international humanitarian aid & development, and income generation. In addition, many organizations have been recognized as social entrepreneurs.
With a placement rate of approximately 10%, admission into the program is very competitive — Fellows who are accepted are extremely accomplished individuals who are eager for experience working in Africa, particularly in the humanitarian and development field. For many of the Fellows, the yearlong fellowship is their first job out of college. Due to the nature of the fellowship program, Princeton in Africa is conscious of the challenges Fellows may face living and working in Africa for a year and is committed to providing appropriate resources to help Fellows cope with the potential challenges and remain resilient while working in challenging conditions.
Solution: Recognizing the need to support Fellows before, during and after their fellowship year, Princeton in Africa has joined with the The KonTerra Group to provide support. Since all KonTerra counselors are former humanitarian and development professionals themselves, Fellows are able to discuss their excitement, apprehensions and concerns with professionals who understand what it will be like to live and work in the field.
Prior to departure, Princeton in Africa conducts an annual pre-departure orientation and training to help prepare Fellows for their fellowship year. A specialist counselor from The KonTerra Group attends this annual pre-departure orientation to conduct a training session specifically on stress management and resilience for humanitarian and development professionals and those working in a similar capacity for other organizations in Africa. The session not only encourages Fellows to pro-actively think about their own personal resilience and self-care plan, but is also an opportunity for Fellows to meet and become familiar and comfortable with at least one member of the KonTerra team. Following the orientation session, Fellows are given the contact details of several counselors from the KonTerra Group and Fellows are encouraged to reach-out whenever they wish throughout their fellowship year for confidential, individual talks, as needed. KonTerra also provides custom-tailored educational materials, which are distributed to Fellows as part of their handbook at orientation and emailed as reminders throughout the year, again encouraging Fellows to be conscious of (and pro-active regarding) their personal resilience. Finally, Princeton in Africa staff also benefit from the expertise of The KonTerra Group, with trainings for all staff on critical issues as well as the opportunity for senior leadership to work closely with KonTerra experts if/when instances arise throughout the year which require strategic guidance from a mental health and resilience perspective.
Result: The collaboration between Princeton in Africa and The KonTerra Group has received very positive feedback from Fellows who have utilized the services and from senior leaders who manage the program. Fellows report feeling better prepared for a successful fellowship year, grateful for the access to individual support, and appreciative that Princeton in Africa is so attentive and supportive to the needs of Fellows in what is undoubtedly an exciting time for these future humanitarian and development professionals and others who will go on to pursue other fields of work, but retain a lifetime commitment to Africa.