Young African leaders honor Mandela’s legacy through service

2018 Mandela Washington Fellows completing outdoor community service.
2018 Mandela Washington Fellows participate in community service.

In recognition of Mandela Day on July 18, Mandela Washington Fellows from across Sub-Saharan Africa will honor Nelson Mandela’s legacy through community service across the United States.

This year, Mandela Day celebrates 100 years since Nelson Mandela’s birth. The 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows will honor his legacy of service leadership by completing approximately 10,000 hours of community service in the United States during their six-week Fellowship. 

For Fellows, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a continuation of Nelson Mandela’s legacy of peace and service through leadership. The flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), this U.S. Department of State–sponsored Fellowship empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking opportunities. 

Jayne Chelsea Bango is a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow from the Republic of the Congo. This summer, she is participating in the Fellowship’s Public Management Institute at Howard University. 

“Mandela exemplified servant leadership by putting the interests of his people first. This is what we’re trying to channel on Mandela Day,” Bango said. “When a shepherd is with his sheep, you see the sheep in front and the shepherd leading and overseeing from behind. And that was Mandela. Do you want to lead? You must put your people first.” 

“Our students are becoming better leaders because of their interactions with the YALI Fellows.”

Ruta Shah-Gordon, Wagner College

As part of the program this summer, 700 Fellows are participating in Academic and Leadership Institutes at 27 colleges and universities in 22 states and the District of Columbia. They develop lasting connections with Americans and enrich local communities while enhancing their skills through classroom sessions, experiential learning, and community engagement. 

For the past several years, Fellows have volunteered as mentors for MOVE Beyond the Bench at Wagner College in New York. The program is designed to help enhance student learning through academic, cultural, and civic development. This is one of the many organizations Fellows will volunteer at on Mandela Day. 

“Our students are becoming better leaders because of their interactions with the YALI Fellows,” said Ruta Shah-Gordon, vice president for internationalization, intercultural affairs, and campus life at Wagner College. “They find some of their most rewarding experiences through cultural exchanges and mentor sessions with Fellows.” 

Selected by U.S. embassies throughout Africa from a pool of more than 37,000 applicants, the 700 Mandela Washington Fellows in the 2018 cohort are leaders in public service, business, civil society, education, agriculture, and other fields. 

“Through the Mandela Washington Fellowship, these young leaders expand the skills and connections they need to succeed in their own country and community,” IREX Vice President of Global Programs Alicia Phillips Mandaville notes. “At the same time, the United States benefits from the connections they establish with organizations and small businesses here, as well as through the people-to-people relationships they forge.” 

Upon returning to their home countries, Fellows will continue to build the skills they developed in the United States through professional development and mentoring opportunities. 

“When I think about who to learn from—I think Mandela,” said Bango. “He may be gone physically but his values and legacy will live on forever.” 

Following the Academic and Leadership Institutes, the 2018 Fellows will convene in Washington, D.C. from July 30 to August 1 for the Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit: Living Mandela’s Legacy.  Follow along on social media for updates about the Fellowship and more information about how the Fellows are honoring Mandela’s legacy through leadership and service. 

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX.