BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) – A group of 25 men and women representing 20 African countries are in Bloomington this summer as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship program.
The goal of the program is to empower young people who have already proven their leadership and ability in improving life in their home countries.
On the afternoon of July 10, they could be seen, in jeans, shorts and T-shirts, weeding and gardening at Rev. Ernest D. Butler Park before the rain cut their time short.
Their interests range from journalism to sustainability, education, gender equity and more, all of which will be addressed throughout their six-week program, four of which will be spent in Bloomington.
Tatenda Mapfumo is from Zimbabwe and wants to know more about journalism.
In her home country, Mapfumo helped found a media startup called Tipster. During her time in the United States and in Bloomington, she’s learned about other media outlets and how they relay stories and information to readers.
She said she wants to reinforce the positive aspects of the media and how it can be a great tool to inform and educate people.
She has also had the opportunity to create her own podcast in conjunction with the Indiana University Media School.
“I love the media school; I fell in love the moment I saw it,” Mapfumo said Monday. “We don’t have this back home, we just don’t.”
IU and Ivy Tech Community College are partners in the program; this is the second year of the program in Bloomington.
“They come with such great energy,” said Courtney Huynh, a program manager for the IU Office of International Development. “They have their own perspective to share with us.”
The program was started by former President Barack Obama in his 2014 Young African Leaders Initiative. Every host institute – for instance, IU – designs its own agenda for the fellows.
This year, 1,000 fellows represent more than 48 African countries. Each year, the program continues to grow. More than 64,000 applications were received, and from those the 1,000 were chosen.
While in Bloomington, the Mandela Fellows balance academic lectures and discussions on constitutional law, leadership and gender equality. They’re also involved with community service with other volunteers and groups around the city, such as Monday’s work at Butler Park. The group could also be seen walking in Bloomington’s Fourth of July parade.
The home countries for the Mandela fellows in Bloomington are Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire (two fellows), Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya (two fellows), Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria (three fellows), Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe (two fellows).
One Mandela fellow, Paul Yohana Saing’eu, from Tanzania, explained how the fellowship had helped him explore the power of connections, networking and working together.
Back in Tanzania, Saing’eu founded Wings of Mercy, an organization devoted to counseling and development for women and children.
Saing’eu hopes to finish the fellowship and return home to Tanzania to improve policies regarding women, gender and education.
The fellowship is the first time he has set foot in the United States.
“I love the environment. I love Bloomington,” Saing’eu said.
The Mandela Fellowship isn’t just a chance for the fellows to learn, but a chance for those in the U.S. to learn from them.
“The relationships are everything,” Huynh said.
For example, a local family, the Millers, in Greene County, offered to house and feed all 25 fellows for at least part of their program.
The Miller family took the Mandela fellows to church, fed them barbecue and helped them shop at local stores. And the family also learned from the fellows, in turn.
“This family feels like they know Africa now,” Huynh said.
Martha Miller said the first year they opened up their home, many of the fellows were calling her “Momma Miller,” just as they are again this year.
“They love us as much as we love them,” Miller said by phone. “They’re just amazing.”
Those connections, those relationships exist even a year later, she said. On social media, she sees messages and exchanges between the fellows and the people they met in the U.S.
The idea is to help kick-start partnerships that will help create and enhance international projects and programs at IU and beyond.
IU’s Kelley School also hosting international group
Other international students, from countries including Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are also in Bloomington this summer. They are in a four- to six-week program with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business after having won a Coca-Cola scholarship program.
Source: The (Bloomington) Herald Times, http://bit.ly/2ua2ItA
Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com
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