Transforming into leaders in the midst of a pandemic: Mastercard Foundation Scholars at Gondar and their motivation to giving back

As the global community tries to cope with and adapt its ways of life to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ethiopia is facing a steep uphill battle. As one of the least developed countries, the effects of the pandemic are fairly magnified.

At the University of Gondar, all students – including Mastercard Scholars – were sent home as a precaution to the rapidly spreading virus. But our Scholars are finding ways to support their communities and help others respond in a positive way to the challenges and threats that arise with COVID-19.

One such instance of Scholars’ willpower and fortitude in these trying times is what Atsede Geta is doing in rural Ethiopia. Atsede who is studying her graduate degree at the University of Gondar and is a Mastercard Foundation Scholar took it upon herself to create a group focused on shedding light on the concerns of COVID-19.

One of the shortcomings of the virus reaching the Ethiopian mainland is people’s lack of understanding and initiative to heed advice when new terms and developments are brought to them. Many in rural areas are not aware of what is going on internationally and hence do not show a sense of urgency or restraint in such matters. It is for that very reason that Atsede chose to spread awareness in her hometown. In addition to awareness building Atsede Geta also took it upon herself to purchase and distribute hand sanitizer to local priests in the area.

When speaking on the awareness creation of COVID-19 Atsede expressed confidence in herself to accomplish such tasks in the present and undoubtedly in the future. “I feel more than capable to serve my Community,” she said, “and I think I made a difference by informing my people about the pandemic since they have minimal exposure to mainstream media.”

One of the more amazing things that are happening during the pandemic period is Scholars willingness to help people of the community with their professional skills.

Though they have not graduated quite yet Scholars could be observed aiding in matters that are pertinent to citizens. One such instance is a Scholar named Fikadu Werku from the town of Alamata. Using his newfound skills from his University education he decided to give free legal service to 4 financially disadvantaged families. Such legal services could cost fairly a lot when calculated, but the free service is a clear sign of the Scholars transforming into great leaders right before our very eyes.

When speaking on his contribution and service Fikadu shared that the Mastercard Foundations Scholars Program has “sparked his enthusiasm to engage in life changing activities.”

The first year Msc Scholar of International Human Rights Law expressed that his contribution to society in the form of providing legal aid to women and children, engaging in environmental awareness and encouraging people with disabilities to work are areas where he would like to work in the future. During the pandemic he has felt a sense of stewardship to help the helpless and from his ongoing efforts he has made the most of his time at home.

During the current hardships such incredible work being done by the Scholars is a testament to the talent and forward thinking initiatives of these soon to be leaders.

Ethiopia is one of the least effected countries in the world when it comes to actual cases of COVID-19. But as the entire world has shown things could get worse quickly. For that very reason Ethiopians of all pins and stripes are taking precautionary measures to weather the storm.

What makes the story of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars different is their ability to serve their communities in these tough times as people with disabilities and disadvantages. It is for that very reason that the Scholars must succeed and, inevitably, will. The Scholar’s commitment to serve stretches from Ethiopia and spreads regionally and from the looks of their work the Scholars will create a better society not only for their respective countries but also for the region as a whole.