2015 YALI Fellows Share Their Experience of America

Jean Paulin Mutatsineza
Jean Paulin Mutatsineza

 Jean Paulin Mutatsineza has two  years’ experience in educational  NGO management, and is both a  project manager and board member  of Rwanda Education Assistance  Program, an NGO that is dedicated  to enhancing educational and  vocational opportunities for  vulnerable youth in rural public  schools in Rwanda. Jean Paulin has  initiated and successfully managed  various projects including  construction, electricity supply, use  of Information and Communication Technology in education, and setting up a dairy farm to feed students at the Duha Complex School in Rwanda.

When I was reading the “YALI Selection” email from the U.S. Embassy, I was over the moon! I read the same email over 5 times that morning!

However, the excitement quickly turned into a great challenge for me—thinking hard of how to fully take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to benefit myself as well as students in rural public schools in my country!  I also had in mind that each of the few of us who were selected had to fetch as much skills and resources as possible to have a significant impact on the lives of the remaining millions of Rwandans.

I grew up and went to school in a rural area, nonetheless, I was able to successfully prevail over many life and educational challenges, I believe I am resilient. That level of resilience taught me that everyone is able to expresses their capabilities once given opportunities and quality education.

In addition to a project-based training in “Integrative Leadership” which is bringing different people/sectors/organizations together for a common cause, the six weeks I spent at the University of Minnesota under the Public Management Track have been an eye-opener, an exposure, an energizer, an impetus and a challenge to first develop myself as a leader and drive my team, my organization and my other various stakeholders towards a new level of planning for rural public education.

I got to meet and connect with different U.S. government officials and educators who were all willing to work with me and share their experience to help me achieve my goal to impact the learning in rural schools in Rwanda. Overall, my experience in the U.S. has been a challenge to think more strategically and to believe in my potentials as a young leader!

The climax of the fellowship was the Presidential summit! I was humbled to learn about other African young minds that are doing great projects all over the continent and the way they were all eager to collaborate and partner. Meeting President Obama was fabulous—I was inspired by his short story of his way to the White House! I now believe that no matter what your background is, you can always make it to your highest and best, as long as you work hard and leverage all opportunities.

I want to encourage all Rwandan young leaders to consider applying for this life-changing fellowship. I am sure this will make one the major milestones of their careers and lives.

“Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.”  –Charles Kettering.

Janine Ampulire
Janine Ampulire

 Janine Ampulire has over five years  of  experience in various fields in the  community development sector,  building capacities of vulnerable  population especially women.    Currently, Janine is a Project Manager  at CARE International Rwanda, where  she focuses on promotion of savings  culture, enterprise development,  financial education and increasing  financial inclusion through use of  innovative technology solutions. She also volunteers in her local community through outreach programs organized by her local church which include supporting poor families to start income generating activities and volunteers as a Sunday school teacher. Janine holds a Master’s Degree in Economic Policy Management and Bachelors in Quantitative Economics from Makerere University Kampala.

The 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship was the most inspirational programs in my career and personal life, thanks to President Obama and the United State Department for having initiated the program to support African leaders. It was a great honor to be part of the 500 talented young African leaders selected for the 2015 fellowship. I was placed at Arizona State University in Pheonix, Arizona for six weeks training in Civic Leadership Track. The program included in-classroom training; visits to the non-profit organizations; community work at habitant for the Hungry, Thunderbird foundation; Networking events; cultural site visits and opportunities to meet with leaders including Congressmen from Arizona state capital.

My experience with the Mandela Washington Fellowship program was transformative, I realized that I was not alone in my vision of changing the African continent though different initiatives; I was amazed by the talent in Africa that is being underutilized and I know for sure the greatest resource from the fellowship was a network of young passionate leaders in over 49 African countries. We were encouraged to forge partnerships and collaborations if we wanted to achieve big goals and multiply impact in communities.

Additionally through the fellowship l learnt about social entrepreneurship; previously I always thought businesses only existed to make profits for the business owner; however I learnt through my visit to one of the Mexican non-profit organization Chicanos por la Causa that social enterprises exist to solve community issues. This organization is implementing several initiatives to support the vulnerable Mexican community in Arizona but they also run profitable businesses to ensure sustainability of their work. I also learnt from other fellows that have established businesses to respond to community problems and how they run these enterprises; I look forward to starting my own.

Lastly I gained knowledge that will continue to shape attitude towards leadership; I was inspired by Mandela’s words “Leadership is behavioral, not positional; The capacity to integrate, motivate and mobilize others to bring a common aspiration to life” This gives me confidence to know that I don’t have to attain certain organizational or political positions to lead and make a difference for my country Rwanda!


Merab Twahirwa
Merab Twahirwa

 Merab Twahirwa is a software  product manager at Pivot Access, a  software company based in Kigali,  Rwanda. Besides her full-time job  she’s a member of Girls In ICT  Rwanda, a group that mentors and  speaks to teenage girls to  encourage them to consider ICT as  a career and also help them  understand the importance of  developing ICT skills in any career.  Prior to joining Pivot Access, Merab  worked as an Intern at IBM Research Africa, where she worked in a team to develop new business models for agribusiness value chains using mobile platforms. Merab holds a Master’s of Science degree in Information Technology from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship program was a lifetime experience for me; it was humbling being with other 500 great young African leaders. I was part of the “Business and Entrepreneurship” track hosted at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. My experience and take-aways are grouped in three categories:

  1. Collaboration and business opportunities with other fellows from various African countries. Investors or businesses owners that want to expand to other African countries, it’s easy to gather first hand market/business information and create business partnerships with other fellows.
  2. Networking: The network you build during the fellowship is exceptional from the young African fellows to international business contacts in any area or sector of your interest. Having visited various companies in 4 different states, I gained many contacts in my field of career and business which I am currently benefiting from.
  3. Mentorship: The potential of having global mentors for career growth, business or academic mentorship is endless. The fellowship provides endless opportunities for fellows and more also after the program.


Jean Bosco Nzeyimana
Jean Bosco Nzeyimana

Jean Bosco Nzeyimana is  the founder and CEO of  Habona Ltd – a company  that produces affordable and  environmentally friendly  products in form of biogas,  briquettes and organic  fertilizers. The company now  employs 30 people while 40  temporary jobs are created  every month. Jean Bosco  also volunteers at his local  community Cooperative for  Environmental and  Biodiversity Conservation as the Head of Capacity Building Department. He was crowned as the 2014 top young entrepreneur of Rwanda, and the 2013 Grand Prize Winner of the African Innovation Prize and Indi-Africa Business Contest.

As part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, I was trained in Leadership, Business and Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University in Chicago. I was also involved in an intensive professional development program to foster my skills in environment and renewable energy at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

My participation in the fellowship helped me to revisit my vision. With help from the amazing professors and business people that I met, I have been able to formulate concrete plans to develop myself as a leader that the world deserves.

During this lifetime experience, I got an opportunity to further my time in US as a fellow while doing Professional Development Experience (PDE) at the Wisconsin Biological Systems Engineering. From there, I learnt different aspects of renewable energy technologies available and I then redirected my essential question to developing affordable and environmentally friendly alternatives to enhance the lives of underprivileged people in my rural community.

In addition to the fellowship opportunities, I have competed for grants specifically offered by the United States African Development Foundation to the YALI fellows. I won and managed to sign a deal worth $25k to boost my business.  Thanks to President Obama for initiating the program.


Ange Imanishimwe
Ange Imanishimwe

From a young age, Ange  Imanishimwe has been  committed to creating  positive change in his  community by integrating  biodiversity conservation,  community health,  agriculture,  entrepreneurship,  ecotourism, and sustainable  development in Rwanda.  Named Top Young Innovator of Rwanda, 2012, he founded and serves as President of BIOCOOP (Cooperative for Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation). In this role, he negotiated nearly 200,000 USD in grants and investments from the South Korean government, UNDP, and others to support his community. Ange has also served as a Tourist Guide in Nyungwe National Park at the Rwanda Development Board for four years (www.rdb.rw).

My goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and malnutrition in Rwanda by creating 1,000 green jobs every year. During the Mandela Washington Fellowship, I was placed under the Civic Leadership Track at the University of California, Berkeley in Goldman School of Public Policy. During the prestigious town hall meeting with President Barack Obama, I was honored to interact with him and asked one of my most burning questions on climate change (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gleDaZNDVy0).

My experience as a Mandela Washington Fellow went on when I was selected to be among 100 African Young Leaders to do the Professional Development Experience in the USA and my placement was in The Nature Conservancy in Boston, Massachusetts. The Fellowship was an opportunity to connect with professionals and experts in Biodiversity Conservation and Environmental Management. I was invited by Yale University in Connecticut and Antioch University New England in New Hampshire to give the presentations on my achievements in Rwanda. The professional skills I received will allow me to establish BIOCOOP in 10 African countries within 10 years.

Redempter Batete
Redempter Batete

Meet Redempter Batete   – Mandela Washington  Fellow 2015 and proud to  be a Rwandan Woman!  She has over 12 years’  experience in Youth,  Gender, and Social  Development work in the  Public, United Nations  and, NGO Sectors. She  is currently serving in the  Public Sector as the  Director of Gender  Promotion at the Ministry  of Gender and Family Promotion and prior to that, she served as the Director of Youth Empowerment at the Ministry of Youth and ICT.  She focus on coordinating the development and implementation of Gender Equality Laws, Policies and international Gender Equality Commitments, Developing Capacities of the Gender sectors as well as building partnerships for Gender Equality among other duties at her current job.  Redempter has passion for Equality, empowerment of Women/Girls and has also volunteered in rescue and refugee support for women and children. She is a certified “Umutoza W’Intore” and currently volunteers in her local community where she trains Women and Youth on civic values and patriotism “ubutore”.

The 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship June – August 2015 is among my most rewarding seasons of my career, thanks to my Government for having natured me into the career Woman that I am today. Thanks to President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department for having championed the Fellowship and supported it until today.

I was greatly honored to be admitted to the Public Management Track at the Virginia Commonwealth University where I met other 23 other Young Africans from 20 different Countries.  I was humbled by the kind of projects they were involved in back home, their skills and passion to advance Africa is amazing. The Fellowship was very interactive, we attended lectures, engaged in public talks, community / volunteer work, met with senior leaders including the Governor of the State of Virginia, The Chief Justice, Senators, and Congress persons among others. This was a great opportunity for me to learn about various aspects of Development and Public management and also share Rwanda’s journey to Gender Equality, prosperity and dignity in general.

What have I take away and commit to nature and highly protect?

  • Maintaining Networks and collaboration;
  • The understanding that Gender Equality is  a human rights issue and not a favor to a specific category of humanity;
  • The potential in Communities in the journey of empowering women and promoting their Social Economic and Political Participation for sustainable Global advancement;
  • Exceptional / servant Leadership skills;
  • Embracing and realizing the potential within me to advance and influence the future of Africa;
  • The role that education plays to influence the future of Africa.

I cannot go without sharing about my career and cultural experience – I was honored to be attached to a Peer Collaborator Ms. Kristen Luck, who inspired me by her work, we exchanged a lot in regards to advancing both our careers. I was attached to a friendship family too – the Sullivans who answered all my questions about the American culture and a lot more.