BOISE — Twenty-five African leaders are calling Boise home for the next few weeks, as part of the U.S. State Department's prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship.
It's the first time any of these fellows have been in Idaho. A total of 700 African individuals were selected from over 38,000 applicants, to come to the United States as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, and 25 of them landed right here in the City of Trees.
"When I learned about the program, and having seen what it has done to other people in Kenya, I thought I wanted to be part of it so that I could make a better leader in my country," said Chario Libwob, Mandela Washington Fellow from Kenya.
Each applicant was chosen based on their commitment to innovation, and also their ability to facilitate change in their own communities.
"I'm very focused on girl education, because for me, education is the key that opens all doors, and in my country, women and girls are facing a lot of challenge," said Benedecte Bama, Mandela Washington Fellow from Burkina Faso.
Through coursework here in the United States, they'll gain more knowledge on what it takes to make those changes in their countries in Africa.
"We are here at Boise to learn more about civic management and public management," said Mwenda Nicholas, Mandela Washington Fellow from Kenya.
But they’re learning a lot more than just civic and public management.
"We have one of the highest mortality rates for mothers... America is doing far much better than Africa in terms of healthcare and in the last few days I've learned a lot," said Nicholas.
Chario Libwob was inspired to apply for the program by other Kenya Fellows, "I know a couple of alumni who have gone through the same program, and one of them is actually rescuing girls from female genital mutilation," said Libwob.
And while they're here, they're teaching Boiseans about where they come from, "They do not know we have a very beautiful continent with great people. I would urge the people to visit Africa, not only on charity," said Libwob.
They’ve already been here for a week, but for the next five weeks, they're calling Boise home.
"I had to look up where Boise is, what do they do, and I learned a lot from the internet, including the potatoes that you people do a lot," said Nicholas.