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Mandela Washington Fellows: Week Five Reflection

Last week marked week five for the Mandela Washington Fellows who came to the city of Manhattan, Kansas for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), hosted by the Staley School of Leadership at Kansas State University. This remarkable group of young African leaders are here for a six-week Civic Leadership Institute. Throughout the course of the institute, the Staley School will facilitate opportunities for cultural exchange and leadership development to advance the work of each Fellow by growing their capacity to lead change upon return to their home countries.

The Fellows at Nonprofit Connect in Kansas City

This week’s civic leadership module took the Fellows to Kansas City, where they experienced a one-week alternative break, an immersive service and education experience where they worked together and served at various nonprofits in the region. Through this experience, the Fellows were challenged to understand more fully their own assumptions about service and servant leadership and looked to expend their definition of service, charity, volunteering, advocacy, and social justice work.

At Nonprofit Connect, the Fellows visited with K-State alumna, Jackie Baker, who is the director of marketing. They learned about the organization’s work to link the nonprofit community to education, resources, and networking so organizations can more effectively achieve their missions.

July 18 marked the celebration of Mandela Day. Every year on July 18th—the day Nelson Mandela was born—the UN asks individuals around the world to mark Nelson Mandela International Day by making a difference in their communities. This initiative is inspired by the belief that everyone has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better, and Mandela Day is an occasion for everyone to take action and inspire change.

For 67 years Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity—as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker, and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa. Read more about Mandela Day on the United Nations Website.

On this day, to give tribute to Nelson Mandela’s work, the fellows experienced service at Harvesters, the community food network in Kansas City, Missouri, where they helped with packaging food for the less fortunate. Harvesters is a regional food bank serving a 26-county area of northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas. Harvesters provides food and related household products to more than 620 not-for-profit agencies including emergency food pantries, community kitchens, homeless shelters, children’s homes, and others. The organization also offers education programs to increase community awareness of hunger and teach about good nutrition.

The Fellows also had their hands at work at Hope Faith Ministries, volunteering at the thrift shop and the garden during their visit. Hope Faith Ministries is a community dedicated to meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of homeless and at-risk men, women, and children in Kansas City. The community provides services to facilitate self-sufficient and independent living in an environment which promotes personal dignity. Their services include community meals, clothing, medical, and social service intervention.

As part of the peer meetings, Sharifu Tusuubira, fellow from Uganda, visited the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC). He had the opportunity to meet with physicians in the Sickle Cell Clinic and the Integrated Genomics facility. Sharifu lives with sickle cell and provides a firsthand narrative that addresses issues of care, behavior, stigma, and discrimination. He is also the executive director of the Uganda Sickle Cell Rescue Foundation, a non-governmental/nonprofit organization that was formed with the aim of promoting awareness and sensitization to fight sickle cell disease in Uganda.

Sharifu at the Integrated Genomics facility in the University of Kansas Medical Center

Sharifu also took part in an interview with Cascade Media Group, along with Marcella Katjijova, from Namibia, Jeremias Reis Tavares, from Cape Verde, and Raisibe Matlhako Mahapa, from South Africa. They all were featured in “What’s Up, Kansas City”, which is a show designed to discuss issues that affect the African American community in Kansas City, also to give the organization a different platform to reach Kansas City viewers to inform them what their organizations are about, along with some solutions to the problems that are ailing the community. Follow the links to watch the interview videos of Sharif, Marcella, Jeremias Reis, and Matlhako

On Monday, July 17, the Fellows had a tour of Google Fiber, where they participated in a discussion about the intersection of the technology and urban development. They had the opportunity to discover and try out the virtual reality point. For Narcisse Kiouari, Fellow from the Republic of Congo, the visit at Google Fiber was a unique experience and an enlightenment of the opportunities and challenges ahead. Narcisse is a board member of JCertif International, a nonprofit which promotes information communications technology and cutting edge technology to boost the economy in Africa. His experience in Google Fiber gave Narcisse the impression of reading the intersection between technology and the community. As he began to dream about the possibilities of implementing a work environment where the fiber optic internet connection is used in his country, he also realized the possible challenges. “In my country, and in Africa as a whole, the penetration of internet through optical fiber is still precarious. We still have issues with infrastructure costs, the ability to create local content and traffic to avoid empty pipes, and the use of obsolete technologies,” said Narcisse Kiouari. Narcisse also added that it is an inspiration to see how things work in a more advanced environment, which gives him the knowledge to share with his people back home so, together, they can dream for better despite the political instability and leadership crisis they are facing in his country.

Group picture of the Fellows visiting the Google Fiber office, Kansas City, Misouri

It was a good timing, although not deliberate, for the Fellows to be in Kansas City, Missouri the week of the Kansas City Royals baseball game against the Detroit Tigers. For the sake of cultural exchange, the Fellows were invited to experience the game live from the stands of Kauffman Stadium. Although the Royals did not win that night, the Fellows had a good grasp on the game of baseball and what it means to be “Raised Royal.” It is safe to say that the Fellows had fun in Kansas City, from getting introduced to Kansas City barbecue and Gates, to cheering for the Royals, to touring downtown, the Fellows indeed had a chance to check out the Kansas City vibe.

It is hard to believe that this year’s Institute is coming to an end soon. Nevertheless, great memories continue to be made, and we look forward to growing our relationship with each and every Fellow even after they return home. We encourage our readers to connect with the Fellows on social media to stay in touch with their progress. All campus and community partners are also invited to attend the Fellows’ Graduation Reception and Ceremony on Saturday, July 29, at 1:00pm in Town Hall of the Leadership Studies Building.

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