Return to Blog

Mandela Washington Fellows – From Africa to Colorado Springs


(Colorado Springs, CO) – In August El Pomar Foundation welcomed Mr. Abdirizak Ali from Somalia and Mr. Mustapha Gwary from Nigeria who are participants in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.  During their eight-week internship, both Fellows gained valuable leadership experience through contributing to El Pomar’s programs and participating in professional development activities.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the new flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).  President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.

Abdirizak Ali comes to El Pomar Foundation for his two-month internship with a background in community education and outreach.  Prior to his arrival he participated in the Civic Leadership Institute at Rutgers University.  He leaves the Foundation strongly motivated and well-equipped with skills from nonprofit development courses and leadership training to effectively promote civic development and economic growth, and is eager to share his experience when he returns home to Bosaso, Somalia to start an institute for leadership and governance.

Mustapha Gwary is founder of a nonprofit in Abuja, Nigeria, and participated in the Public Management Institute at Florida International University.  His experience at El Pomar Foundation and meeting nonprofits throughout Colorado exposed him to best practices in grant writing, project management, strategic and financial planning, project sustainability, and enhanced his leadership skills.

Upon returning to their home countries, the Fellows will continue to develop the skills and networks they need to cultivate brighter futures for their communities, their countries, their continent and the global society.

For the first time this summer, the Fellowship brought 500 young African professionals, ages 25-35, to the US for academic study, leadership training, and a Presidential Summit in Washington.  100 of these Fellows were selected to complete eight week follow-on internships.  The Fellows are a very diverse group and represent some of the brightest young leaders in the 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.  Of the nearly 50,000 applications, only 500 were selected to participate this year.

“Multi-cultural exchanges are a powerful tool; they provide a global perspective, and foster cooperation and understanding among the world’s young professional leaders. El Pomar is proud to host these two young men and looks forward contributing to their experience by providing practical application of the education they receive through their academic study,” said El Pomar Foundation President and CEO, William J. Hybl.

El Pomar Foundation is one of the largest and oldest private foundations in the Rocky Mountain West.  El Pomar contributes approximately $24 million annually through grants and Community Stewardship programs to support Colorado nonprofit organizations involved in health, human services, education, arts and humanities and civic and community initiatives.  Spencer and Julie Penrose founded El Pomar in 1937. To learn more about El Pomar Foundation please go to

The Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. government and supported in its implementation by IREX, an international NGO with more than 45 years’ experience delivering exceptional education and training programs.  To learn more about the Washington Fellowship, please visit

For more information contact:

Ryan Patterson

El Pomar Foundation, Senior Program Associate

719-577-7025, or

Lori Bellingham

El Pomar Foundation, Dir. of Communications

719-331-6443, or