Fulbright alumna Maya Angelou once said “courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” The fight against the recent Ebola outbreak has highlighted courageous healthcare practitioners and advocates around the world. In Sierra Leone, 2010 Hubert H. Humphrey alumnus Joe Bangura has joined the ranks of the dedicated women and men who are working to prevent the spread of Ebola.
Joe is a dynamic entrepreneur who uses his status as a national radio personality to provide information and motivate his audience to move forward during a time of crisis. As host of a one-hour, daily radio show titled “Join Hands to Drive Ebola Out” on one of the most listened to radio stations in the country, he stands at the forefront of the mass media efforts to help Sierra Leoneans take action against the Ebola outbreak.
Through his position as Head of Corporate Affairs in Sierra Leone’s biggest mobile phone company, Africell, he has arranged for the mobile cell phone services of Africell to be donated to health organizations free of charge to disseminate Ebola messages. Additionally, Joe exchanges notes on a weekly basis with staff of the BBC Media Action Trust and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop content for his show. He met with the first CDC team upon their arrival in Sierra Leone, and he advised on the roadmap for the CDC’s operations in the country.
Joe is also widely known in Sierra Leone for his “Life-by-Design” motivational television show. One of his biggest achievements through this show is the mentorship and personal financial support of a young adolescent student, who had built an FM radio transmitter from materials he picked up from scrap heaps. With help from the group “Friends at MIT,” the student won an invitation to participate in the World Maker Faire 2012 in New York and became the youngest person to participate at the Visiting Practitioner Program at MIT that same year. Joe also mentored this young man as he prepared to take part in the 2013 TEDxTeen talks in New York hosted by Chelsea Clinton. He is currently supporting several other upcoming youth leaders from low-income communities in Sierra Leone in business leadership and civic participation.
Beyond his role as a humanitarian, Joe is CEO of a micro-finance business that serves small and medium-sized enterprises. He spent the 2009-2010 academic year as a Humphrey Fellow at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Administration and Whitman Business School, where he honed his business and leadership skills. Through his leadership and by applying the skills gained on his exchange, his micro-finance business has grown almost tenfold over the last four years. As an ambitious entrepreneur who sees opportunities in his home country, Joe has also established four other growing businesses which involve publishing, software development, management consulting, and a multi-media production house.
Each month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Alumni Affairs Division, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna. Joe Bangura is this month’s outstanding alumnus, and his work will be recognized throughout December on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official website which serves more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.