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Volunteerism for the Mandela Washington Fellows
September 3, 2015

The experiences of the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows were as varied as the programs at their host universities, but they all had one component in common: community service.

Nangamso Koza, a Mandela Washington Fellow from South Africa, wore gloves while shoving garbage into a plastic bag. Along with other fellows at Howard University in Washington, Koza joined in for Nelson Mandela Day with other local organizations cleaning a Washington neighborhood.

Men and women in work clothes stand near a collection of garbage bags. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
Howard University Mandela Washington Fellows joined other Washington organizations to offer service on Mandela Day, July 18 2015. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

“Today, we served the people of DC through cleaning up the streets,” said Koza. “I am representing my village, the people of the Eastern Cape. I’m representing South Africa. I’m representing Africa. They were serving me, and now it’s my turn to do service for them.”

“The program really stresses servant leadership, being a servant of your community, leading by example and engaging through community service,” said Colleen Brady of IREX, the organization that implements the Mandela Washington Fellowship. All the programs the fellows participate in include at least one service event each week.

At Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, Mandela fellows mentored secondary school students on entrepreneurship as well as interviewing and resume writing.

At Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, the fellows pitched in at Unity Gardens, which aims to help the hungry, offering gardening, food and cooking instruction.

A man and two women pose in a garden (Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)
University of Notre Dame Mandela Washington Fellows (from left) Lebohang Selloane from South Africa, Raindolf Owusu from Ghana, and Veronica Affuah Da-Silva from Ghana (Courtesy photo)

Fellows at the University of Delaware worked with, among other organizations, the Delaware Center for Justice, on gun-violence intervention programs, legal services for both elderly victims of crime and aging prisoners.

Three women sitting and speaking (University of Delaware)
University of Delaware Mandela Washington Fellow, Amina Nur Alkali (center), speaks with representatives from education advocacy groups. (Courtesy photo)

“To be a leader, you have to be serving people,” said Setloke Lekhela, a fellow from Lesotho. “You have to get out of your office and be part of the people.”