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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va (WVIR) –A program started by President Obama to bring development to countries in Africa is bringing 25 young leaders from the continent to study at the University of Virginia

The Mandela Washington Fellows are among a group of 500 nationwide, and will spend several weeks learning about leadership at the university.

Each young leader is working on an initiative to further the public good in their respective countries, and they hope the experience they get at UVA will help them to further their endeavors.

Cinderella Anena from the Republic of Uganda works to further opportunities for young women in her country.

“The problems of the community have not been matched to suit their interests, to suit the cultures and values. So being able to be here and get that objective analysis of the problems, have creative thinking and solutions to the problems, is one thing that I’ll go back with from the United States,” she said.

These leaders represent the future for their countries. They say one struggle is not just getting aid, but how to use it.

“How to make civil society run as more than just a charity organization, but as an actual functioning entity of the economy,” said Pearl Pillay from the Republic of South Africa.

Others say they are learning a lot to take back to their developing governments.

“The U.S. has gone through a series of development, and is actually going to be going through some. But for Lesotho, this is new ground. We don’t have legislation that provides for such things,” said Lineo Tsikoane from the Kingdom of Lesotho.

These leaders will be in the U.S. for six weeks before heading home. However, organizers say the support doesn’t stop there.

“This program doesn’t end with this program. There’s not only a fantastic network, but the State Department and USAID continues to support these fellows in different aspects,” said Christine Mahoney, YALI site lead.

With what she’s already learning about leadership, Anena says she feels hopeful about what she can accomplish back home. “This is just the start of the journey, but more years and years will come and we hope to make the world a better place to live in,” she said.

Over their 6 weeks, they’ll tour several historic properties in central Virginia, before meeting President Obama in August.
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