Sunday 18 April 2021
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My Mandela Washington fellowship and PDE experience

Having been selected as the 2019 Mandela Washington fellow from Namibia has been one of my greatest highlight for the year 2019. The Mandela Washington Fellowship, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking.
The program selects young emerging leaders in the Public Management, Business and Entrepreneurship as well as Civic engagements tracks for a period of six weeks in the states.
I was fortunate enough to have been selected with 14 other fellows from over 500 applicants received from Namibia this year. Not only that, but this journey has also connected me with 699 fellows from Sub Saharan African countries in the states for a period of six weeks.
Having left Namibia on the 18th June this year, I was placed under the civic engagement track in Philadelphia at Drexel University where I spend six intensive weeks with other fellows.
The experience during this six weeks exposed me know more about the American system and governance, I also got to learn more from other African fellows especially on the challenges and accomplishments in their countries, and how young people have been playing a pivotal role in the development they foresee and want to see in their respective countries.
The six weeks at Drexel also challenged me with a lot of inner questions and decision that I as a young person should be bold at in order to contribute not only on my personal development but also to my community and nation at large.
Upon the completion of the six weeks, all fellows met in Washington DC to conclude the summit with different activities and guest speakers such as Mr. Ben Carson (United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) as well as Kay Coles James who is the president of The Heritage Foundation amongst the rest.
Beyond the summit, I was also fortunate to have been selected amongst the 70 fellows from the 700 fellows to remain behind in the states for the Professional Development Experience (PDE).
The PDE program selects 70 fellows from the overall 700 fellows to remain behind for duration of four weeks, whereby they are placed at a US organization based on their tracks.
During this duration, fellows work with those respective organizations where they learn more from those organizations as well as also apply their knowledge and skills to those organizations so that the organizations also learn from the fellows.
For my PDE I am placed at an arts organization called Hip Hop for change in Oakland, California. Hip Hop for Change uses Hip Hop as a tool to raise awareness on social justice issues in the bay area.
During my PDE I was also introduced to different bodies and organizations such as the Rotary Club, I met with different artist that uses their arts for social justice issues, I also had a side visit to Facebook head office to learn more about the work they do especially in the African continent.
My PDE began on the 5th of August and is on until the 31st of August where I will return to Namibia and apply the skills and knowledge gained.
What I learned and realized the most was that, skilled gained is a good thing, but what matters the most and leave an impact, is what you do with those skills gained. My wish when I return back home is to engage with different youth organizations, other organizations and institutions to raise awareness and work on issues of arts, social justice, human rights and the power of media and ICT.
Let’s engage, let us plan and most importantly let us ACT.

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