2016 YALI Fellows Share Their Experience of America

Rwanda’s Young Leaders Share Their Experience of America

Kigali – October 13, 2016

U.S. Embassy Kigali is pleased to share the stories of promising young Rwandans who recently returned from the 2016 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Mandela Washington Fellowship.  Applications are currently open for young Rwandans interested in participating in the Summer 2017 Fellowship.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship embodies the U.S. commitment to invest in the future of Africa and is an exciting opportunity for young leaders to visit top U.S. universities for a six-week academic and leadership institute in one of three areas: business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, or public management.

Fellows will interact with the United States President at a presidential summit in Washington, D.C., meet with U.S. civic, business, and government leaders, and will have the chance to expand their business or project through access to millions of dollars of small grant funding.
Qualified applicants must be between the ages of 25 and 35 and be proficient in English. The online application process must be completed by October 26. Full eligibility requirements and application details may be found at: http://youngafricanleaders.state.gov.

2016 Rwanda’s Young Leaders Share Their Experience of America

Albert Muragijima
Albert Muragijima

Albert Muragijima

Albert has five years of experience in education, business and the nonprofit sector, and earned a Bachelor’s degree of education in Entrepreneurship. As a development professional, he has diverse experience in business development, education and youth empowerment. He is the author of “RWANDA NZIZA (Beautiful Rwanda)” a collection of books that describe the beauty of Rwanda in line of promoting the sector of tourism. His works are approved by the Ministry of Education and are used to enrich primary and secondary school libraries across the country. Currently serving as Workforce Readiness Program Officer for Global Communities under the USAID-Twiyubake Program, he works as a trainer of trainers on the Community Finance Initiative, Savings with Education, work readiness, business development and basic entrepreneurship.

As part of Mandela Washington Fellowship program, Albert was trained and certified in Leadership, Business and Entrepreneurship at Cambridge College, greater Boston area, Massachusetts. Thanking God for my placement at this institute, I am thankful for Cambridge College and its entire faculty around because I feel like my education started from there…Some of the key highlights of the program was the engaging learning experience, education that meets the real world, entrepreneurial leadership and meaningful site visits. In addition to a wide professional network, my takeaways from the institute can be summarized as:

  • Leadership skills and development;
  • Community resource and talent development;
  • Business and financial planning;
  • Product development and marketing skills;
  • Engaging arts, culture, corporate, education, and governance sectors for economic and community growth; and
  • Networking to maximize potential and community support.

In line with giving back to his community after the fellowship, Albert founded Escalator Academy an incubator that provides training and mentorship to the modern workforce who want to become aspiring innovators, world-changers, and passionate people who want to make real, meaningful impacts in their careers.

Olivia Kaguliro Mulerwa
Olivia Kaguliro Mulerwa

Olivia Kaguliro Mulerwa

I spent the 6 weeks in Virginia with 24 other young leaders who are just as passionate about civic leadership. We had the unique experience of being hosted by the Presidential Precinct which is not just one University but rather a collaboration between 6 institutions including the University of Virginia (UVA) and the College of William. I found inspiration in Thomas Jefferson’s vision for an educated electorate to which UVA owes its inception. In the crash course on American History that we received from being at Monticello, Highland and Montpelier (homes of 3 American founding fathers), I saw the story of a nation that has not always been the great thing we see today, but that traces back to humble beginnings and just as many right as wrong turns along the way. I found hope in realizing that America at 70 was experiencing similar if not greater challenges than most African Countries most of which are yet to celebrate a 70th anniversary.

Through sessions on Advocacy, Strategic Leadership, Monitoring and Evaluation, Networking and Fundraising I saw my dream to contribute to the empowerment of Civil Society in Rwanda take shape.

So it was on a high note that I started my Professional Development experience as the first Mandela Washington Fellow at Creative Associates International. There I learnt practical skills to create and sustain a Civil Society Resource Center. I participated in challenging research in important new fields like Countering Violent Extremism and spent time understanding the complexities of seeing a project develop from a proposal to tangible results that impact communities. I was also given many opportunities to horn my advocacy and public speaking skills. I am grateful for the lifelong connections that I know will continue beyond those 6 weeks.

I joined the Mandela Washington Fellowship as an international justice and human rights lawyer from Kigali, but I left as a confident and inspired change maker.

Gerome Ndayambaje
Gerome Ndayambaje

 Gerome Ndayambaje

Gerome Ndayambaje is currently an Educator at Ecole Secondaire SaintJean Murunda, Rutsiro District, Western Province. He is also the Executive Director of Non Profit Organization called Rwanda Family Initiative. He grew up in Rural area of Nyamasheke where he studied his secondary studies and went to the National University of Rwanda where he majored in Public Administration.

This year 2016, I got a chance to get selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow. When I received  congratulations’ e-mail, I said: I have always wanted to be excelling man, and the time has come. Before flying for US, my friends hold farewell party as congratulations and to wish me a good journey. Basing on my interests and educational background, is was placed at University of Minnesota,  Humphrey School of Public Affairs, in Public Management Track. We had an intensive academic courses where top University Professors and some US officials came to teach us topics in the field of integrated leadership, entrepreneurship, medical, energy. In addition to these, we enjoyed experiential learning where after classes, we went to visit charity,public and private organizations and touristic places. At Minnesota University, I interacted not only with Americans but also with my fellow Young African Leaders from 22 countries. We shared our best practices and learned from each other.

At the conclusion of our fellowship, I flied from Minneapolis to Washington D.C for the Presidential Summit that held by Barack Obama, US President. The same day of the flight, it was my birthday. I got a surprise from program coordinators through Pilot, where during announcements in airplane they said “Jerome,  Mandela Washington Fellow, happy birthday to you ( said twice).  It was my historical day where I was also able to see face to face US President. After Presidential summit, I took an opportunity to visit my friends in Colorado and saw snow+ evergreen trees; I visited California and saw Pacific Ocean; I visited also the famous New York City,  and I experienced sub-way transportation, saw Atlantic Ocean and “ Naked Cow-boy”. In general, the experience from this fellowship was not only in the social field but also to experience new weather and international traveling.

Lionel Mudandi Simbizi
Lionel Mudandi Simbizi

 Lionel Mudandi Simbizi

Lionel Mudandi Simbizi has six years of experience in the fields of Capital Markets and Marketing. Currently, he is the General Manager of Konectors Limited, an advisory & consulting firm that provides facilitation services to foreign companies investing or opening up their businesses in Rwanda. In that role, he is responsible for advising, formulating customized entry strategies and assisting foreign investors to find partners in the Rwandan business community.

Lionel’s fellowship at Rutgers University was a life changing and transformative experience that can be summarized in below points: I was in an institute with 24 brilliant and enthusiastic young leaders from 19 African countries and our institute specialized in energy and supply chain management. Through the discussions we had and knowing that energy is impeding Africa’s development, we decided to all join hands and form a company to tackle the energy issue in Africa. With the help of our institute and host university, we managed to get in touch with a leading US energy company and the latter has already agreed to invest in our countries.

I had the chance of being at a university that was hosting two institutes (mine in Business and Entrepreneurship and another one in Civic Leadership). The Civic leadership institute added value to our institute learning as the common sessions we had together helped us figure out how business and civic groups can work together to improve the livelihoods of  communities. Finally, the fellowship was an eye opener to the progress Rwanda has achieved. I met bright and ambitious young leaders from all parts of Africa who are doing great projects in their home countries and was happily surprised by how eager they are to know and learn from Rwanda. The economic progress our country achieved as well as the empowerment of women, youth and the promotion of girls education are areas in which our country has made tremendous advances and set a perfect example across Africa and worldwide.

The 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship application is now live and I would recommend my fellow young Rwandans in all areas to apply as the fellowship will be a good moment to develop their leadership skills and also connect with other great minds from Africa and the United States. I would also encourage you to visit the Yali website and take the different online and free courses available there. I will finish by thanking the American Embassy in Rwanda and the State Department for the opportunity offered to learn but also meet and connect with other young African leaders. President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative and the Mandela Washington Fellowship contribute to our wish of having a united and prosperous Africa.

Eva Lorraine Umwari
Eva Lorraine Umwari

 Eva Lorraine Umwari

Eva Lorraine Umwari – has over five years’ experience in various fields in business. Currently, she is a Business Analyst of a Heineken Op Co; Bralirwa Ltd; a brewery and soft drink plant based in Kigali and Rubavu. She is also on the board of Mubwiza Ltd and Eden Harvest Association.  Other than her professional work, Eva volunteers in her community in a youth group; True North which organizes activities such as talks, hangouts, community service trips. Eva holds a Master’s degree in Commerce specializing in Financial Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.

Bahati Satir Omar
Bahati Satir Omar

 Bahati Satir Omar

Bahati Satir Omar is a young visually impaired disability rights activist and social entrepreneur with over 9 year experience advocating for the rights and empowerment of persons with disabilities in Rwanda and the region.

Currently, Bahati works as the Capacity Building and Disability Mainstreaming Officer in HIV&AIDS and Health Programmes. He is a Mandela Washington Fellow 2016 Class and the only disabled fellow from Rwanda so far to participate in the fellowship. In 2013, Bahati founded the first local NGO  specifically empowering youth with disabilities in Rwanda called Uwezo Youth Empowerment.

“When I was applying for the Fellowship, I had too much expectations. However, all my thoughts were around disability services.

My 6 weeks fellowship was in Civic Leadership at Portland State University (PSU) in Oregon State. Before going to Portland, I was very much worried how I will be able to adapt to traffic , technologies as well as independent living since it was my first time travelling to the U.S. I learnt that Portland City is once of the most disability friendly cities in the U.S

For my surprise, in only 3 days of my stay, I was already familiar with the place. I was given all necessary assistive gadgets and adapted technologies.

In addition to attending sessions offered by experienced professors from PSU and Oregon Community, we also had the opportunity to visit world recognized institutions like Mercy Corps working in international development, The NIKE Campus, The Bill & Melinda Gates Family Foundation based in Seattle Washington, The Rotarian Action Group for Peace and the Mobility International USA (MIUSA)

The 3 days Presidential summit in Washington DC was a chance for all fellows  to meet and establish networking but also listen to the President’s address to Young African leaders. I strong encourage my fellow Rwandan youth to apply for this this life changing fellowship in order to gain a high level practical experience that suits the sustainable Rwanda and Africa We want.

Yves Tuyishime
Yves Tuyishime

 Yves Tuyishime

Yves Tuyishime is an economist with over 5 years of experience in Renewable Energy, Climate change and Investment Promotion fields. He is currently working for the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Department of Investment Promotion as Energy Specialist. Prior to his current Job, Yves worked for Rwanda Environment Management Authority as Carbon Market Promotion Officer and Resources Mobilization Officer.  Yves has a Diploma in Energy Efficiency and a Master of Science in Economics. He has been very active in many youth led networks focusing on Clean Energy and Climate change. Yves was part of the newly included specialized institute on Energy of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. He was affiliated with the University of California, Davis, one of the best public universities in US.

Being a MWF fellow was a blessing for me and one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. First of all I was very excited to be among the 15, who stood out from over 900 applications from Rwanda!!YALI program was a very good opportunity to increase my knowledge in Energy, extending my professional network as well as increasing my leadership skills. I was very lucky to be part of the first and only energy-themed specialized Institute. I have learned quite a lot from interacting with my fellow Africans, US experts and I learned from different site visits we conducted at reputable institutions in energy.

As YALI fellows, we had opportunities to interact with different high level personalities and this was an opportunity to sell the good image of my country. All the people I have met were impressed by success stories from Rwanda mostly the good governance, unity and reconciliation, promotion of gender equality and the ease of doing business in Rwanda. I highly recommend the program to other young Rwandans.

Prudence Ndabasanze
Prudence Ndabasanze

 Prudence Ndabasanze

Prudence Ndabasanze – Young environmental activist and Mandela Washington Fellow 2016. He has over three years of experience in biodiversity conservation and natural resources management. He is the Founder of Nature Rwanda, youth run and led think tank, that aims to connect young people with nature through empowerment and engagement of concerned, responsible and informed citizens. Priory, He worked with local NGOs as project manager and he volunteered with WWF International in Madagascar, and he continues to volunteer with environmental organizations. Prudence holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Conservation and is currently pursuing his master’s in Geo-Information in Environment and Sustainable Development at University of Rwanda. Prudence has passion for environment, youth empowerment and volunteering. He spent his free time reading books and blogging.

During Mandela Washington Fellowship 2016, I was placed at the University of Maine, Orono in Public Management track. For the six weeks, we had academic sessions, flied trips, peers-to-peers collaboration, networking and cultural exchange. The focus was on climate change adaptation and mitigation, green initiatives and sustainable development. I was selected among 100 promising young leaders across Africa for additional six-weeks for Professional Development Experience at Starbucks in Global Responsibility, Public Policy and Community Department in Seattle, Washington. The focus for this internship was on ethical sourcing and sustainability, creating opportunity for youth, and encouraging service and citizenship among others.

This has been a life transforming experience and once life opportunity to learn from experts at the University of Maine and Starbucks coffee company. Furthermore, It has been an occasion for me to share with them Rwanda’s outstanding achievement in environmental sector and sustainable development. Together with other 24 fellows from different African countries, we committed to work together and build the Africa we want to see in the future as we all have what it takes. In fact, it has been an opportunity to have a clear image of Africa and how we, youth, can shape it where we want. On the other side, my internship has been an opportunity to learn much about corporate social responsibility, to interact with experts in coffee and tea ethical sourcing, to assess the impact of climate change on coffee and major crops in Rwanda, and been inspired by Starbucks’ UpStanders_ ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities. I was honored to meet Starbucks’ Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz, among others, and learn from his’ 10 rules for success and His book Onward.

Through this fellowship, I have discovered that youth are key stakeholders in sustainable development; all initiatives have to start with them and then owned by them. We, youth, have the will, courage and power to leave the world “Environment” perhaps better than we funded it. Then, what else are you waiting for? This is your chance to apply for Mandela Washington Fellowship 2017 and transform your community!

Teta Isibo
Teta Isibo

 Teta Isibo

Teta Isibo is a Rwandan fashion entrepreneur and the founder of Inzuki Designs, a Rwandan brand specializing in Jewelry, Accessories and Interior décor products that fuse Rwandan traditional craftsmanship and Global contemporary design. Inzuki  designs is working to reach international markets through exporting to different stores and boutiques. The company has taken part in International Trade shows including Design Indaba (Cape town) and NYNow (NewYork). The company is also developing an online store that will showcase and sell Contemporary Rwandan design to a global market. Teta is passionate about design and entrepreneurship and mentors young Rwandan women thorough different mediums that promote girl’s further education and entrepreneurship.

I spent the 6 weeks in Virginia with 24 other young leaders who are just as passionate about civic leadership. We had the unique experience of being hosted by the Presidential Precinct which is not just one University but rather a collaboration between 6 institutions including the University of Virginia (UVA) and the College of William. I found inspiration in Thomas Jefferson’s vision for an educated electorate to which UVA owes its inception. In the crash course on American History that we received from being at Monticello, Highland and Montpelier (homes of 3 American founding fathers), I saw the story of a nation that has not always been the great thing we see today, but that traces back to humble beginnings and just as many right as wrong turns along the way. I found hope in realizing that America at 70 was experiencing similar if not greater challenges than most African Countries most of which are yet to celebrate a 70th anniversary.

Through sessions on Advocacy, Strategic Leadership, Monitoring and Evaluation, Networking and Fundraising I saw my dream to contribute to the empowerment of Civil Society in Rwanda take shape. So it was on a high note that I started my Professional Development experience as the first Mandela Washington Fellow at Creative Associates International. There I learnt practical skills to create and sustain a Civil Society Resource Center. I participated in challenging research in important new fields like Countering Violent Extremism and spent time understanding the complexities of seeing a project develop from a proposal to tangible results that impact communities. I was also given many opportunities to horn my advocacy and public speaking skills. I am grateful for the lifelong connections that I know will continue beyond those 6 weeks.

I joined the Mandela Washington Fellowship as an international justice and human rights lawyer from Kigali, but I left as a confident and inspired change maker.

Apply to become a Mandela Washington Fellow 2016
https://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/washington-fellowship/apply/