Razikua Kaviua, a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow from Namibia, reflects on her Washington DC experience.
It was on a hot summer day when our train from South Bend, IN pulled over at the Union Station in Washington DC. We were all excited and looking forward to a chance to get to meet President Obama (POTUS), as he is affectionately known to Americans. We would be spending a week in DC, meeting the POTUS and getting to know other YALI fellows. The ambiance was fully charged with emotion as fellows were rekindling friendships that had started while still in Africa before travelling to the United States of America.
Day one of the Presidential Summit was not as eventful compared to the second day of the Summit. On this day, we all woke up early to line up for security clearance before we could enter the meeting room where we would meet with President Obama. Songs such as “It is time for Africa” by Shakira, to one recently composed by one of the YALI Fellows “Africa can”, welcomed us into the meeting room. The POTUS's entrance into the room left me in awe! I was meeting President Obama IN PERSON!! President Obama's speech was everything I expected and more. He playfully and powerfully delivered his speech, eliminating the long standing African narrative of poverty, war and death; and instead highlighting our courage, high grade achievements and remarkable leadership as my fellow Notre Dame Fellow Mathew Magare would say. A great honor was bestowed on me as I was fortunate to shake the President’s hand!!!
Following the conclusion of the five day presidential summit in DC, 100 Fellows out of the 500 stayed behind as the rest departed for their respective home countries. I was among these 100 that had been selected to participate in professional development opportunities in different organizations across the United States for a period of six weeks. My Professional Development Experience (PDE) was at the Western Union DC office. There, I got to meet the President of the Global Public Policy team. Ms. Span was very professional and warm, making me more keen and eager to experience my first ever international corporate environment. I was assigned to work on a few projects, namely, the African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM), Klereayiti, Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum and the World Economic Forum (WEF). I completed these tasks with ease and to my supervisors’ approval. In respect of the WEF, I worked alongside Ms. Span on “Lifting barriers to African Talent Mobility”. Working on the WEF gave me so much insight that I would not have had access to had I not been placed with the Western Union Global Public Policy team.
An exceptional experience while working on these projects was the chance to get to liaise with various key persons within the Washington DC metropolitan area and beyond. For example, I worked closely with the Small Enterprise Assistant Fund (SEAF) while preparing for the ADM’s Awards ceremony. The ADM event was a great success with over ten participants from across Africa awarded grants of up to US$30,000.00. Additionally, I attended the Corporate Council on Africa’s Roundtable discussions with Rwanda looking into prospects of mutual cross continental investment and the African Union’s Continental Free Trade Area.
My cultural experience included an opportunity to tour DC at night which was an exceptional sight! I also visited a few relatives in and around DC and got to share my heritage, as the Ovaherero people celebrated the Red Flag Day on the weekend of August 29, 2015. As a solo adventurer (as I had labelled myself during my stay in DC) I travelled to both New York City (NYC) and Los Angeles. In NYC I stayed in Manhattan right in the heart beat of NYC’s, Times Square. Memorable moments followed as I toured the magical Big Apple! In addition, Los Angeles was just as rewarding as my 6 hour flight to get there. I walked the famous Walk of Fame in Hollywood. My experience was made more memorable by the fact that I had read so much about the US during my childhood years. Getting to walk NYC’s 5th Avenue was in Daniel Steel’s words “it was a JOURNEY worth walking”.
As all good things come to an end, I bid the USA farewell, and took my long 15 hour flight back to Namibia, my home.
Thank you President Obama, US Department of State, US – Namibian Embassy and IREX for making this opportunity possible for me and the rest of my fellow 499 Fellows
It was It was on a hot summer day when our train from South Bend, IN pulled over at the Union Station in Washington DC. We were all excited and looking forward to a chance to get to meet President Obama (“the Potus”), as he is affectionately known to Americans. We would be spending a week in DC, meeting the Potus and getting to know other YALI fellows. The ambiance was fully charged with emotion as fellows were rekindling friendships that had started while still in Africa before travelling to the United States of America.