Tuesday, July 11, 2017 Mandela Fellows say Nebraska fosters a culture of giving
On a warm Friday afternoon, eight fellows visiting Nebraska through the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders volunteered to sort goods at the Homeless Prevention Center as part of the Civic Leadership Institute. The Office of International Engagement, in collaboration with the College of Education and Human Sciences, the College of Journalism and the Center for Civic Engagement, provides leadership for the Institute.
The attendees have diverse occupations and hail from many Sub-Sahara African countries, but the activity that binds them is community involvement. As they tour the facility and begin rummaging through clothing, purses, toys and shoes, the participants laugh, share stories and talk about how impressed they are with the donations Nebraskans provide.
Tochukwa Anthony Uwakeme of Nigeria says the Civic Leadership Institute has opened his eyes to life in the U.S. He sees both the university campus where students reside, as well as the exterior community beyond the campus where people live and where life is not always easy. Despite seeing the hardship, he is inspired.
“You see that people sacrifice a lot to meet other people’s needs. One person can change a community, so you do your best,” says Uwakeme.
Nebraska senior Virginia Calderon, a service-learning peer leader for the Mandela Washington Fellowship program, shares Uwakeme’s altruism.
“I love serving and giving back without receiving anything in return," said Calderon. "That’s why I love what I do working with the Center for Civic Engagement.”
Calderon first volunteered as a freshman through the Volunteer-Income Tax Assistance Program, another program sponsored by the Center for Civic Engagement. She adds that through her volunteer work she enjoys seeing past tax clients using additional services in the community.
Similarly, the concept of generosity is not lost on Chorima Daniel Auwas of South Sudan who says that in his country giving would take persuasion. He is amazed at the idea that Nebraskans give out of the kindness of their heart. Auwas says he would like to inspire similar giving and partnerships in his community where he is working to build a literacy program for children.
Alongside Auwas, Fati Abigail Abdulai of Ghana continues sorting clothing as she shares lessons learned from time in the Lincoln community.
“Community service in Lincoln has taught me not to see myself better than others. I hope to take back home an attitude of servitude for the better of others,” says Abdulai.
Some may see the hardship and shy away from its harsh realities, but for Mandela Fellows the Civic Leadership Institute provides fortitude. Participants see the change that one person can make in a community and they are ready to inspire others back home.