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.
“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.
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.
“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.”