Aurelius Butler – Liberia Fellow
For Aurelius Butler, the path to the Liberia Fellows Program was different than most—he did not grow up in Liberia or live through the Liberian Civil War. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and raised in the United States (U.S.), Aurelius first visited Liberia in 1997 when his Liberian parents brought him on a trip during the first post-war elections. Upon arriving, he knew that his heart had always been in Liberia. Knowing that he would return one day, Aurelius continued to pursue his education in the U.S., earning a graduate degree in International Development from the University of Minnesota. In 2011, Aurelius evaluated the Liberia Fellows and President’s Young Professionals (PYP) Programs—innovative programs that prepare highly qualified Liberian youth for leadership in public service, and equips them with tools to positively contribute to the overall development of Liberia—for an internship in his master’s program. Intrigued, he decided to apply and met with both success, and the opportunity to live in Liberia, declaring that, “it felt almost as if the program was created for me.”
Within his first year as a Liberia Fellow, Aurelius began serving as the Special Advisor to the Government of Liberia’s (GoL) Minister of Gender and Development. He shares that the experience has been incredibly fulfilling as he has taken on many responsibilities in his position, including representing his Minister at noteworthy events. In addition to attending United Nations and World Bank meetings, Aurelius even traveled to Rwanda in a high-profile position to conduct a review of gender policy with diplomats from all over the world. The opportunities offered in the Liberia Fellows program, including creating leadership positions, exceeded his expectations. Aurelius has also had the chance to work with a PYP on a new unit in the Ministry that focuses on girls’ issues, the Adolescent Girls Unit (AGU), serving as a Technical Advisor. Empowered to make important decisions in his department, Aurelius also leads the Peace and Reconciliation Fund for the Peace Building Office (PBO).
As with the PYP Program, mentors play a significant role in training those accepted to the Fellows program. Most of the guidance Aurelius receives comes from two deputies and the Minister Proper. They foster an environment where Aurelius can grow professionally. Aurelius notes, “When opportunities come up, they make sure that I’m aware of them. When things come up, they let me take the lead, which I appreciate.” In particular, he has a strong working relationship with the Minister who often brainstorms and collaborates with Aurelius to help develop future projects in their Ministry. For instance, one idea led to the formation of an innovative program with the Barefoot Institute—another project Aurelius leads that trains elderly Liberian women to become solar electrification engineers.
Of all he has learned throughout the Liberia Fellowship program, Aurelius believes his most valuable skills are leadership, and knowing the value of taking initiative within his department. Impassioned by his work, he plans to stay in Liberia after the program ends, hoping to continue working on gender and child issues.
He proudly mentioned that the other fellows in the program are “blossoming in the program,” and recommends that future classes of Fellows and Young Professionals be prepared for anything and take the initiative on projects, even when not asked to. He has worked hard to become more efficient at his job with excellent results. Aurelius is happy and proud to be part of the Liberian government and Liberia Fellows program.
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