Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mandela Washington Fellows and me

“When you think of a single individual that embodies the kind of leadership qualities that I think we all aspire to, the first name that comes up is Nelson Mandela.” – Barack Obama, March 28, 2013

EVER HEARD of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders? I hadn't either.


I had the opportunity to interact with 50 of these young professionals and get to know four in particular. Here's an explanation of the program from the Young African Leaders website.


"The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training and networking.


"In 2016 the Fellowship will provide 1,000 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. higher education institution with support for professional development after they return home.


"The Fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities and countries. In 2015 Fellows represented all 49 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa."


Forty-thousand applied in 2016; from them 1000 were chosen! 


Iowa snagged 50 of them: 25 are participating in seminars, classes, workshops and community enrichment experiences for six weeks at the University of Iowa and 25 are doing the same at Drake. At the end of the six weeks, all 1000 will convene in Washington.


Lance Noe, who's an active member of the Rotary Club of Des Moines, the club I belong to, is the Director of Drake University's Center for Professional Studies and an academic director for the Fellows studying at Drake. He invited the Drake 25 to our club for lunch last Thursday, July 14, and asked if 25 club members would be willing to serve as one-on-one hosts at lunch. 


I volunteered, and I was paired with Landy Tafangy (she goes by Tafangy) from Madagascar. Talk about your young leader . . . holy cats! She's an air traffic controller, a medical doctor with a specialty in aviation medicine, and because health care is desperately needed where she lives, she started a clinic where 10 people work. Did I mention that she's married with three children, and wait for it . . . she's 32!!! 




Friday afternoon John Pappajohn addressed all 50 Fellows, the 25 from Drake and the 25 from the U of I, at the John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center, followed by a reception that I was invited to attend. What a remarkable and accomplished group of young leaders!



Left to right: Khady Nakoulima from Senegal, Tafangy from Madagascar
me, Chipo Chikomo from Zimbabwe at the reception

At lunch the day before, I asked Tafangy if she might be interested in getting out to hear some live music Friday night after the reception. Paul was scheduled to play a street party with Parranderos, and I thought it might be fun for her to come with me and bring along as many of her Fellow friends as would fit in my car, so after a stop at their apartment complex to change clothes, we were off to the party.



Left to right: Tafangy from Madagascar, Jeffrey Arhin who's a dentist from Ghana, me,
Gloria Njiu from Tanzania who's an IT specialist and starting an organization for women entrepreneurs, Selamawit Wondimu who is an architect and housing
project developer from Ethiopia.

Dancing and fun ensued. I bought them each a Metro Arts Alliance Jazz in July t-shirt as a souvenir. They signed each others' shirts, I signed them, and I got Parranderos' band members to all sign.



Lynn Hicks, also a member of my Rotary Club who writes for 
the Des Moines Register, happened to be there with 
his family, and was a gracious dancing partner for our guests.






FYI: The thing I heard the most from all the Fellows at the reception was how much they love Iowa and how very, very, very nice Iowans are. I said, "Well good. That's what we ought to be." 


Take that, D. Trump, you xenophobic fear-monger.

2 comments:

  1. Wow what a great article Kelly. We are Forever humbled to be selected and meet the great people of Des Moines.

    We had lots of fun on Jazz in July and the memories are staying with us.

    Welcome to Tanzania. Let's see how nice our people are as well... :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow what a great article Kelly. We are Forever humbled to be selected and meet the great people of Des Moines.

    We had lots of fun on Jazz in July and the memories are staying with us.

    Welcome to Tanzania. Let's see how nice our people are as well... :)

    ReplyDelete