JEAN-CLAUDE PONGAULT ELONGO
One Year Later
Since returning home from Philadelphia, what has been your most successful achievement or accomplishment related to leadership in civic engagement?
Since I have come back from Philadelphia I have realized that every day I want to support the creation of the International Francophone Pride network. I am now on the board of directors for that international network, a big achievement. Something else is that I am supporting is the homosexual and LGBTQ communities, we have gotten money to help with food supply and emergency accommodation during Covid-19. Right now, we have started to help people and are waiting for the bank to give us more money to find this emergency housing. We have made a guide against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. What we are doing now is that we will start a workshop with 200 LGBTQ+ people to bring awareness to this violence and discrimination, as well as monitoring the violence that is happening now with a workshop of 22 people to help those affected. We also have received funding to make a movie to sensitize the Congolese population to violence and discrimination of sexual identity and separate funding to make a book.
How have you engaged with other MWF alumni since returning home?
There is the Yali network in Congo but I have not met many others in it yet. In the international level we are talking all of the time though and keeping in touch.
Have you maintained contact with people from the Philadelphia area, if so, who and how?
That question! You are going to make me cry. I think with Marilou, it has changed a bit with time but we keep in touch well. I am talking with Mabedi and we were supposed to meet up but naturally with Covid-19 it has not happened. Also, Adam and Anne. Philly is my home and my place and I love everyone from there.
What do you miss most about Philadelphia and Drexel?
I really miss all of the nice people, especially my cohorts, because we were a family. The Drexel staff as well like you, Mabedi, Adam, Anne. It was really special. I want to make a song to sum up this experience, as it will be my dream coming out of the fellowship, as I am still thinking of it every day. Being at Drexel specifically I really miss it because of so many great memories. But I want to know now what I can do with the future and how I can partner further. I am a fellowship alumnus but I was also a Drexel student in a sense.
Talk about your 3 biggest take-aways from your time at Drexel and the Fellowship.
1. The knowledge. When I came to Philly I was not ignorant, but by the time I left, Drexel and the fellowship had given me the opportunity to think about myself and learn about mental health, something I had not known much or cared about before. It taught me to take care of my own mental health and realize it when I need help for burnout, etc. Before I would sacrifice myself for what I am doing but now I know I need to take care of myself in order to take care of others. Also, knowledge on English – My English has improved so much. 2. The contacts and networking. When I first started I did not have too many contacts but meeting certain people have been such valuable contacts. I have made my own network. Now it is a very big opportunity for me in doing business, as I move forward the contacts I made in Philadelphia have been great. 3. The third is awareness, the certificates that I have gotten. It was very big because I was an activist and now I have come back with awards and more awareness.
What would you pass on to future Drexel fellowship cohorts?
You should organize a talent show like we did. It was so amazing and I highly recommend it.
For students, they choose to go to Drexel. For us, we are assigned and do not know what awaited us, but when we left Drexel it made me look back and know that I would choose Drexel if I could go back to the beginning and choose. Economic power can make a big difference as we are all working on the ground to better our communities. My niece has been accepted to the Mandela Washington Fellow and I am so proud! I have helped and mentored her to apply and she will be coming to the US next year.
JC would like you to please check out the following links!
The International Francophone Pride Network Event: