Alumni Spark Impactful Collaborations through Virtual PDEs
For the first time, in spring 2023, Fellowship Alumni from across Sub-Saharan Africa participated in virtual Professional Development Experiences (PDEs). Open to participants from all cohorts, the 30 selected Alumni spent six weeks working with U.S. organizations while living and working in their home countries. This part-time commitment and flexible virtual working environment created rewarding collaboration opportunities for Alumni hoping to strengthen youth and educational initiatives, develop green infrastructure, and create access for rural communities, among other projects.
I once applied for the PDE in 2018 during the Fellowship and l was not accepted. lt was a blessing because l have grown and matured. I see things differently now. l am gaining more [from the Alumni PDE] than what l would have gained in 2018.”Sabelo Comfort Mlangeni, 2018 Fellowship Alumnus, Eswatini
Creating effective STEM engagement strategies
2018 Fellowship Alumnus Sabelo Comfort Mlangeni from Eswatini is a high school STEM teacher and the founder of Beyond the Walls, an organization offering skills-based education to refugees and women in prison, which he founded after his Fellowship. This spring, Sabelo participated in a PDE with Academic Solutions Group, a data-driven consulting company that works with educational institutions to develop strategies to help them achieve their goals.
During his PDE, Sabelo provided a valuable perspective on how U.S. companies could apply organizational change to be effective in Africa. The Academic Solution team agreed that working with Sabelo during the PDE was a mutually beneficial experience.
“From the first interaction, it was clear that there was positive energy between the team at Academic Solutions Group and Sabelo,” his supervisor Jason Porter, Senior Education Consultant, said. “We were excited to learn from one another, and Sabelo produced ideas for collaboration that encouraged us to find more ways to work together.”
Sabelo also gained a better understanding of the effectiveness of properly implementing STEM in a classroom. He said, “I discovered that delivering a STEM program is about more than just the content, but also about how participants apply the content in their daily lives. It is about empowering participants to use what they have learned to make a difference in their communities.”
Addressing GBV using new platforms
Those six weeks [were] full of learning moments…which has transferred skills and knowledge to me in a different way.”Ketline Delcy Dos Reis Cabral Semedo, 2021 Fellowship Alumna, Cabo Verde
2021 Fellowship Alumna Ketline Delcy dos Reis Cabral Semedo works for the Ministry of Justice of Cabo Verde and also serves as the coordinator for Associação Maracanã. As an anticrime advocate, Ketline strives to reduce the crime rate by designing and coordinating innovative strategies and policies in the education system. During her PDE, she worked with the Battered Women’s Project Justice (BWJP), a legal resource for gender-based violence.
During her experience, Ketline accessed the National Gender-Based Violence Learning Community (NGBVLC), an online platform focused on addressing and ending gender-based violence. Through the platform, she learned new skills, engaged with her peers, and participated in real-time discussions.
“Those six weeks [were] full of learning moments with experts in GBV, law, attorneys, advocates, which has transferred skills and knowledge to me in a different way,” said Ketline. “The PDE has impacted my professional and personal life positively [and] has changed my viewpoint about GBV.”
Increasing green urban development in new local contexts
As a Senior Town Planning Officer with the Federal Ministry of Housing, 2016 Fellowship Alumnus Kabir Mohammed Ibrahim designs new residential layouts for affordable housing development. His PDE Host Organization, The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), promotes sustainability in building design, construction, and operation.
Before his PDE, Kabir was familiar with USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating systems and how it could be implemented in Kaduna, Nigeria. During the six-week placement, he built on his expertise and provided contextual knowledge on “green building” urban planning in Nigeria while gaining insight from the LEED for communities to support his work in Nigeria and creating access to sustainable, affordable housing.
He said, “LEED for communities, if adopted and incorporated into Nigeria’s urban development programs, will facilitate the development of new communities that rely on renewable energies, emit low carbon, foster environmental sustainability and ultimately accelerate the achievement of Nigeria’s energy transition plan objectives.”
Increasing resource access in rural communities in Texas and South Africa
Lusindiso’s passion and drive made his placement exceptional. Not only did he participate in projects, but he also inspired his colleagues.”Alicia Boyd, Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Behavioral Health Services
2021 Fellowship Alumnus Lusindiso Holiday from South Africa works as a Case Management Specialist focusing on bullying and harassment in the workplace. He recently completed a PDE with Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Behavioral Health Services (BHS), a division looking to raise awareness of mental health resources.
Throughout the six-week experience, Lusindiso applied his experience working with rural populations in South Africa to build surveys identifying the needs of rural non-profits in Texas. He says, “I feel that as someone who was born and bred in a village, I understand better the lifestyle, the needs, the services, and strategies required to address the challenges encountered and experienced by rural people.”
Looking forward, Lusindiso hopes to establish a foundation that will focus on mobilizing resources to support community development projects for marginalized groups in South Africa.
Promoting human rights through technology
2022 Fellowship Alumna Aïchatoun Amadou Toure is the founder and chief executive officer of Codesign, a company developing IT solutions for businesses in Mali and West Africa. She is also the general secretary of Musodev, a Malian organization for the promotion of women through technology. This spring, she applied her experiences to a PDE with Byte Back, an organization working to close the digital divide by providing historically excluded communities an equitable pathway into the digital economy.
The team made it a priority to help me reach my goals and excel. I learned more in those six weeks than I would have in a long year of school.”Aïchatoun Amadou Toure, 2022 Fellowship Alumna, Mali
Aïchatoun’s PDE helped strengthen her skills in design thinking and leadership, and she plans to apply the lessons she learned at Byte Back to her startup in Mali.
“Aïchatoun’s most important contribution is how her desire to improve herself and her organization raised our own performance,” her supervisor said. “Those of us who are still working with Aichatoun can see how she’s already applying other lessons learned to improve her organization.”
Written by Jennifer Manzanillo and Abbie Wade