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Mandela Washington Fellows Share Their Mission With The Pittsburgh Community

Duquesne University is hosting 25 African young professionals this summer as part ofPresident Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative.The initiative seeks to provide leadership training to young professionals in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This is Duquesne’s first timeparticipating in the program, which was launched in 2014, and they are the only university in the state to do so this year.

Joseph DeCrosta, director of the Office of International Programs at Duquesne,said the university applied because they’re trying to increase their network in Africa.

“This was one way to do it in order to bring some really seasoned professionals to campus,” DeCrosta said.

Of 42,000 applicants, only 1000 young Africans received the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The program has four tracks: business and entrepreneurship, public management, energy and civic leadership. The Duquesne fellows are learning about civic leadership

The curriculum centers on issues of leadership, community development and civil and human rights. In the afternoon, the fellows go on site visits.

“We’re talking to the people who are doing the work, seeing the people who are benefitting from the work in our city and really getting a sense of place and space as well,” DeCrosta said.

Mookho Moqhali, a Mandela fellow and the senior legal officer for the Ministry of Health in Lesotho, said she was one of fifteen fellows chosen from a pool of 4,000 applicants in her country.

“I was so excited I could not jump,” Moqhali said. “I was actually limp for a moment, and I cried like a baby.”

Moqhali said Lesotho, with a population of 1.9 million, is second in the world in HIV prevalence, tuberculosis and alcohol use. They’re also second in Africa in tobacco use. In addition to her duties at the Ministry of Health, she formed an NGO called Alliance Against Tobacco Use to help combat the problem.

Moqhali said Ameica made an investment in the fellows, and she hopes she can take what she learns back to Lesotho and make positive improvements.

“What is important is the understanding that we are investing in you, go back home and make a change, like Mandela did in South Africa, that the rest of the world will remember you for,” Moqhali said.

She said the program has been instructive and transformational.

“It’s been an amazing experience for me,” Moqhali said. “I got to understand that as much as we are all living in different parts of the world, the problems that we face are common and what matters is the approach you use to deal with the problems.”

DeCrosta said the program is about learning from each other. Duquesne and the city benefit as well.

Moqhali said Americans could learn from an African concept of human kindness called Ubuntu.

“There is nothing as powerful as the need to lead ethically with an element of affection,” Moqhali said. “With the understanding that we all have a seed of affection in all of us and a seed of love to plant in the lives of people that we meet.”

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