Beneficiaries of the Mandela Washington Fellowship (formerly Young African Leaders Initiative — YALI) have established a Liberia chapter in to help keep them together and forge ahead.
Since 2010, the Mandela Washington Fellowship has taken a hundred or more selected young Africans between the ages of 25 to 35 to the United States every year to help enhance their respective initiatives in entrepreneurship, public service and social causes. Lately, the Fellowship has grown from over 100 participants annually to to nearly 1000 from across the continent, with enhanced enrichment experiences including weeks high-level networking and training in various disciplines including business entrepreneurship, governance, private sector investment, agriculture, civil leadership, public service, amongst others.
Beneficiaries are expected to return to their respective countries to provide services in line with their careers in order to meet the needed change they want to see in their communities and countries.
The newly established local chapter is chaired Mr. Benjamin M. Freeman, Jr.; J. Alben Greaves, vice chairman; Abel W. Cheayan, secretary general; Yassah N. Lavelah, event planner and Patricia Juah, communications officer.
Speaking to the leadership and fellows, US Ambassador Deborah Malac reiterated the program’s objective which is directed at sharpening skills of young Africans to improve in networking, and to strengthen partnerships between the United States and Africa by investing in the next generation of African leaders.
She showered praises on the fellows for being truthful and patriotic to return to their country to provide basic social services in their communities and country at large.
Making a specific reference, Ambassador Malac said, “The 2014 Mandela Washington Fellows returned home last fall to a set of unique circumstances, and they have utilized their skills and leadership training to face those challenges head on.”
According to her, the Fellows immediately got involved in the fight against Ebola in Liberia, and have been working 24/7 raising public awareness about Ebola and how to be protected.
She expressed the hope that Fellows establishing the association as a formal NGO will offer them a platform to expand their activities into a wider national network, pledging the Embassy's continual support.
In his induction speech, Chairman Freeman said as they have received training from the fellowship to perform leadership roles, he and his team were happy to assume their leadership positions, and promised to serve with distinction to reflect the true image of the Mandela Washington Fellowship.
Having gained a legal status as a non-governmental organization in Liberia, Mr. Freeman said it puts them in the position to carry on activities as manifestations of what they learnt during their fellowship.
“We take this leadership as a challenge to strive for excellence to impact our nation and Africa at large,” he stressed.
He intoned that while all cannot be considered Mandela Washington fellows, young people of Liberia are under obligation to adopt a moral attitude that will impact the country, and as such, everyone needs to collectively work to make the needed impact.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship began as Young African Leaders Initiative in 2010 with a two Liberians, Bai Best and Amos Teah Koffa, attending the first edition.
Giving remarks at the occasion, Mr. Best said that leaders are not only those at the top, but leadership can be found at every level of the ladder; and it is the responsibility of leaders at every level to nurture and grow the leadership potentials of those below them, in order to ensure sustainability of any vision or entity. In this vein, he said a good leader must know when — and be prepared — to step aside to allow others to lead when the time comes.
He also stressed that leadership should not only be exercised when one is in a position, but one should take initiative to do something before taking on the responsibility of leadership.
He added that becoming a leader is not to always be there for people to follow you, but to set a good example that others can follow.
In remarks, Deputy Justice Minister Wheatona Dickson-Barnes lauded the leadership and roles of Mandela Washington Fellows in government, emphasizing that James Alben Greaves, who benefited from this program last year has exemplified true leadership and patriotism to his country in his capacity at the Justice Ministry.