Action plans in action

2016 Mandela Fellows share their successes and strategies
  • From left, Dr. Jesse Lutabingwa, associate vice chancellor for international education and development at Appalachian and the co-director of the university’s fellows program; 2016 Mandela Fellow Faith Tanui of Kenya; and Dr. Brian McHarg, the university’s director of academic civic engagement, at the 2017 opening ceremony for the Mandela Fellows. Tanui was here to reconnect with her mentors and meet the new Mandela fellows. She runs PendoAfrica, an organization that helps empower youth. Photo by Kevin Delgado

Here are two examples of the influence Appalachian State University has had on the young and promising African leaders who spend six weeks on campus as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

Faith Tanui of Kenya and Dr. Issoufa Bachir Bounou of Niger participated in 2016.

PendoAfrica: ready when opportunity knocked

Possibly, no one appreciates the value of an action plan more than 2016 Mandela Fellow Faith Tanui of Kenya. Tanui runs PendoAfrica, an organization that helps empower youth.

The action plan she created while at Appalachian included strategies for opening a recovery center for youth facing alcohol and drug addiction. She did not think the time was right for the center, but the professors persuaded her to make it a part of her plan anyway.

“When an opportunity opened up last November for our organization to run a recovery program and a center, we were prepared and jumped in right away,” Tanui said.

A house had become available with enough rooms to serve 16 clients. PendoAfrica’s recovery center graduated its first class this past June.

“Alcohol and drug abuse is such a big problem in our community,” Tanui said. “There is a need, so we hope to expand and construct a residential facility in the near future that will give us space to help out more young people.” The envisioned expansion would also include a vocational training center with a program geared for people who had gone through rehab, along with a clinic.

PendoAfrica – Pendo means love in Swahili – operates three other programs: one for youths struggling with substance abuse, a program to keep girls in school and a third that pairs students with young professionals who mentor them.

Tanui said her work has benefitted tremendously from the tips she received from Jennifer Warren, executive director of Western Youth Network, an Appalachia area non-profit whose mission is similar to PendoAfrica’s.

Social entrepreneurism and agro-environmentalism

Dr. Issoufa Bachir Bounou, a 2016 fellow from Niger, is an agro-environmentalist. For him, Appalachian State University was a great source of ideas and inspiration.

Bounou is promoting the use of agricultural technologies and entrepreneurship to address two crises in his country: food insecurity and youth unemployment. The plan he developed during his fellowship at Appalachian outlines ambitious goals:

  • Develop agricultural technologies that would improve cropping-season production in the context of climate change in Niger;
  • Promote home gardens with a greater variety of better-quality vegetables as a way of reducing malnutrition among women and children;
  • Create a center for agribusiness that would serve as a kind of incubator for entrepreneurship;
  • Partner with the Nigerien educational system to adopt all of the above.

Fundraising to put these ideas into action is a challenge in Niger, but Bounou employs lessons learned here on social entrepreneurship.

An Appalachian workshop taught Bounou to adopt “an innovative and sustainable approach to fund my operations,” he said. “For that reason, I have created an agribusiness consulting company. The main idea is that the revenue generated from our consultancy services underwrites our leadership and community activities.”