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Meet the Mandela Fellows

An elite group of Sub-Saharan African professionals comes to Boise as part of a State Department program


They have some of the most impressive resumes in town, but they won't be in Boise long. Since mid-June, Boise State University has hosted a cohort of 25 Mandela Fellows from countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, including doctors, educators, crusaders for social justice and shapers of public policy, as they volunteer, network and tour their way across Southern Idaho. They're on the hunt for strategies and tools to take back to their home countries, but, according to Boise State Community Engagement Coordinator Maya Duratovic, who has been their guide during their stay in Boise, the City of Trees is getting something in return.

"We realize that we have it really well here. We hear about the struggles that we're going through and we feel silly about the problems that we have," she said. "The fellows, they get this amazing leadership training, but our community is also learning."

The fellows will be in Boise until the end of July through the Young African Leaders Initiative, founded in 2014 by Barack Obama. The program was designed to bring young professionals to U.S. universities for academic coursework, connection-building across government, nonprofit and private sectors, and community engagement. Since its inception, YALI has brought 3,700 such leaders to 49 institutions of higher learning; every year, typically 50 schools apply to partner with the program, with under 30 ultimately being selected.

This is Boise State's first year hosting Mandela Fellows, and so far, their schedules have been packed with coursework, and introductions to Boise-area institutions and leaders. They've volunteered at the Idaho Foodbank, the Women's & Children's Alliance, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, World Village Festival and more, and gotten a taste of city with excursions like camping trips and floats down the Boise River.

Joao Esmael lived it up at the World Village Festival. - LAUREN HERSHEY
  • Lauren Hershey
  • Joao Esmael lived it up at the World Village Festival.

Ingrid Denadi, Benin, works in community health education development and is also a French-English translator. When she has completed her Mandela Fellowship, she would like to work with an NGO to increase women's and children's opportunities.

Thandi Milton - LAUREN HERSHEY
  • Lauren Hershey
  • Thandi Milton

Thandi Milton, Botswana, has worked as a medical doctor for six years, has an advanced degree in tropical medicine and is working on another in epidemiology and implementation science. She works in more than 25 clinics throughout the Gaborone area implementing screening guidelines for Cryptococcal Meningitis.

"I hope to integrate my learnings into my daily work as a clinical researcher and someone working in public health. I will also share what I have learnt with colleagues. Perhaps I will also think of new projects to implement into our health sector once I get back home."

Benedicte Bama, Burkina Faso, specializes in communications. Her focus is on girls' education and womens' wellbeing, and for the last five years, she has been involved in youth empowerment and extreme poverty. She hopes to continue working to reduce early pregnancies, child and forced marriages, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Patou Ibrahim, Cameroon, spent the last four years working for the Central Services of the Ministry of External Relations in her home country. She hopes to continue her efforts in youth peace-building and international cooperation. In the future, she would like to implement strategies for improving competitive public services.

Kelly Buhendwa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, works in environmental and sustainable development, currently at a government ministry. She founded an association that promotes women leaders, and plans to keep pressing for gender equity, and women's representation and participation.

Liya Temeselew Mamo, Ethiopia, works for the Ethiopian government promoting private sector development. A senior analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, she specializes in building durable private and government institutions.

Nanicky Hlangwani with Boise Mayor Dave Bieter - LAUREN HERSHEY
  • Lauren Hershey
  • Nanicky Hlangwani with Boise Mayor Dave Bieter

Aziza Lendino, Ethiopia, has worked for three years as a refugee health center physician, and is now a medical director at the Shimelba Refugee Camp. Particular areas of interest include ending female genital mutilation, child marriage and other abusive practices.

Eric Worlawoe Gaba, Ghana, teaches biomechanics and material science applications at the Br. Tarcisius Prosthetics and Orthotics Training College, and in the future, he would like to work with mentorship programs to train disabled people with entrepreneurial skills.

"One challenge back home is the developmental framework upon which our institutions are built and secondly, how a majority of public institutions have failed to be efficient and relevant to the Ghanaian citizen. It will be my joy to learn the best practices employed here in the US for building effective, efficient and relevant public institutions. Also, I expect to build relevant networks upon which I can leverage for knowledge exchange and coaching."

Mwikairi Mwenda, Kenya, specializes in health systems and health financing in underserved cities, and has worked for the Ministry of Health managing programs targeting diseases like HIV and Malaria. His goal is to raise the technical capabilities of healthcare managers to plan, budget and finance their programs.

Chario Libwob, Kenya, works in social development for the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, and specializes in development communications. She is invested in social protections for poor and marginalized people in her home country.

Mamotsiba Makara, Lesotho, has worked with an NGO coordinating community development programs in health, gender and education for almost a decade, and recently became a project officer for the Ministry of Education and Training. She has co-founded the Knowledge is Power Foundation, which promotes girls through leadership training.

James Kwabo, Liberia, has managed nonprofit youth organizations for more than a decade, and in 2016, he founded Liberia's first youth radio station, Alternative Youth Radio. After his fellowship, he would like to expand his radio project to print and other media.

Raharilala Argal, Madagascar, launched a volunteer project promoting high school students with minimal means, but through a collaboration with his team and local schools, has managed to reach many students. He hopes to grow his organization into the northern region of the country, where he would like to also launch a political career.

Otuto Amarauche Chukwu, Nigeria, is a pharmacist with experience in policy, health systems and research. He consults with the U.S. Pharmacopeia Promoting the Quality of Medicines Program in his home country, and has published research papers in international peer-reviewed journals.

"I have always had the perception that American cities are noisy, rowdy, filled with unconcerned people and stale air. But Boise is just the opposite. It is cool and calm here, with a lot of nice people who are always willing to help (Boise Kind). And the air is so clean... It's an amazing place to be and I look forward to visiting again in the future."

  • Lauren Hershey
  • Eric Gabe

Hamza Waziri, Nigeria, is CEO of HWM Global Export and Import Nigeria Limited, and a leader at two organizations promoting people with disabilities in Nigeria, the Able and Capable Enterprise and the Initiative for the Liberalization of Physically Challenged People in Nigeria.

Alice Mukahirwa, Rwanda, specializes in performance indicators for health-based NGO Partners in Health, and volunteers with World Vision with the World Food Program, distributing food and money to refugees.

Ndeye Fatou Seck, Senegal, is a pediatric surgeon who works at the Albert Royer Pediatric Hospital, where she performs her practice and leads a team of interns and nurses, and continues active medical research. After her fellowship, she would like to launch medical campaigns that help bring specialized care access to underserved areas.

Nanicky Hlangwani, South Africa, resolves legal employment cases for the South African Local Government Bargaining Council, supporting the implementation and compliance of municipal conditional employment service agreement policies.

"What surprised me about Boise is the cleanliness of Boise State, and the friendliness and kindness of the citizens of Boise. I appreciate how welcoming everyone is, and most importantly, how helpful the people are. Boise is a beautiful place, and I cannot wait to share my amazing experience with my family when I get back home."

Ryan Fester, South Africa, works for the Development Action Group, leading in partnership and lobbying, analyzing and formulating policies and consulting on housing and urban development projects. He also works with voluntary youth development work.

Mawien M Arik, South Sudan, is a doctor and the founder of the Akougook Initiative, which conducts health-related projects in refugee camps and settlements in northern Uganda, and raises awareness about HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis among the people who live there.

Obed Mambwe, Zambia, has interpreted sign language for a decade,and trained other interpreters for the better part of a decade. He is also a master trainer in comprehensive sexuality education and information for people with hearing impairments.

Dorica Banda, Zambia, focuses on health service delivery within development planning, working as a district planner for the Pemba District Health Office. Upon completion of her fellowship, she would like to raise awareness of adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

Joao Esmael, Angola, is a community developer focusing on education, sports and health programs. He also teaches Portuguese and English through his church, and would like to continue supporting youths without the means to pay for an education in his home country.

Wilfried Donatien Abdoul, Central African Republic, has worked in logistics at NGOs for almost a decade, and is currently a logistics assistant with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission. He has also founded Shalom, which assists war orphans from previous armed conflicts in the CAR.

Chris Okidi, Uganda, specializes in environmental health, with almost a decade of work in public health and community development. He currently works for the Ministry of Water and Environment, making sure communities have access to clean water and sanitary living conditions.