— Participants from 22 countries, this week wrapped up a fellowship on community development in Washington DC promising to take their newly-acquired skills and knowledge back home to help transform their communities.
The program, sponsored by the U.S State Department's Professional Fellows Division implemented by the International Research and Exchanges Board in conjunction with Community Solutions, brought more than 50 leaders to America to learn how their American counterparts handle similar challenges.
The participants hailing from countries such as Peru, Nepal, Albania and Malawi - including 4 from Zimbabwe - went to various U.S states during the four-month duration of their program.
They were engaged in projects targeting transparency and accountability, tolerance and conflict resolution, environmental issues and women and gender issues.
Michael Stanton, division chief of the U.S State Department and the fellowship program, said the program aimed to give each participant a unique experience.
“These participants arrive in the United States in August and after a brief orientation they dispersed to all points of the United States from Alaska to Hawaii to New York to New Mexico,” said Stanton.
Stanton said he was able to assess the impact of the program on participants before they completed the program.
He said many of them were eager to return to their home countries to implement information learned in the U.S.
Nyarazo Mashayamombe, director and founder of Tag a Life International Trust, works to protect young girls in Zimbabwe.
Mashayamobe said she was overwhelmed by the experience and that her work in the state of Oregon will help her continue to assist young girls in Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe she engages in advocacy and lobbying of authorities and local leaders on behalf of girls, mentors and builds capacity in young girls and holds workshops on reproductive health rights for both girls and boys.
“The Community Solutions program has strengthened our call ... Our call is to work with communities and our call is make our presence better to change the lives of young girls,” said Mashayamombe.
Mashayamombe plans to expand her work in Zimbabwe to include engaging in a justice delivery system campaign to challenge the current enforcement mechanism against perpetrators of rape in the country.
Plumtree Development Trust is an organization that promotes sustainable community development.
Director Thomas Sithole said his time spent in his host state of Chicago during the U.S election in November showed him the true processes of democracy.
Sithole said his work with civic organizations showed him the magnitude of political challenges faced by civic organizations working in Zimbabwe.
Other participants from Zimbabwe included Anges Kwenda, founder and current executive director of Precious Life Foundation, working with vulnerable young women and teenage mothers in achieving self-sufficient.
Xolile Ncube, is a research officer with Christian Care, a non-profit organization involved in agricultural research to educate rural communities on climate change adaption and disaster risk reduction.
Mashayamombe, Sithole, Kwenda and Ncube and other fellows of the Community Solutions program developed and implemented projects alongside their U.S hosts, and follow up will come after they return home.
Report By Tatenda Gumbo