Current Fellows Flyer

Past editions of the Fellows Flyer are available here.

November/December 2022

Dear Friends of PiAf, 

I hope this edition of the Princeton in Africa Fellows Flyer finds you and your families well. From all of us at Princeton in Africa, we wish you a safe and peaceful ending to 2022 and a happy new year! We look forward to 2023, where we will continue to share our Fellows’ stories, and keep you updated on our work here at PiAf.

In this edition, we are sharing the stories of Neil Wary (USAP Community School, Zimbabwe), Heran Abiy (Kucetekela Foundation, Zambia), Ian Stiehl (Tanzania Education Corporation, Tanzania) and Maddie Wong (International Livestock Research Institute).

Neil is a teacher at USAP Community School in Zimbabwe, where he teaches Research Methods, a final year Capstone class, and a Music Theory class to A-level students at the school. He has also been practicing playing traditional instruments and learning Shona, a Bantu language of the Shona people of Zimbabwe.

Heran facilitates leadership, youth development and capacity-building programs for young students and spends her free time exploring Lusaka. She reflects on her journey with Princeton in Africa, and how it began long before she knew about our program. Heran’s great-aunt and great-uncle founded Project Mercy, an organization PiAf paired Fellows with from 2011-2014. Read more about her story with Project Mercy here. 

Ian teaches three levels of students at Tanzania Education Corporation. He has been working with students to develop their STEM, computer literacy, and digital skills. Ian has also supported TEC teachers as they expand their digital knowledge. He enjoys visiting local restaurants in Makuyuni and learning to cook traditional dishes. 

Maddie works with the Communications and Knowledge Management team at the International Livestock Research Institute to spread the word about ILRI’s work, share blog and social media posts, and expand on The Boma Podcast, a project started by previous PiAf Fellows at ILRI. She loves meeting up with other members of the 2022-23 PiAf cohort. Please read on to hear more about our Fellows’ work and lives in their host countries. 

In November, we wished our Program Coordinator, Walter Lohmann, farewell as he has moved on from PiAf after 3 years of working with us. Walter is an alumnus of our program, having completed his fellowship with Maru-a-Pula, Botswana in 2019. Thank you to Walter for all of his incredible work at PiAf. We wish him well in all of his future endeavors!

In December, Princeton in Africa hosted an informative event, Philanthropy in Africa, where we welcomed two experts in the field of philanthropy: Gladys Onyango from the Segal Family Foundation and Catherine Mwendwa from GivingTuesday, AfricaHub. The rich conversation, moderated by PiAf’s Executive Director, Damilola Akinyele, touched on philanthropic trends on the African continent, what giving means to Gladys and Catherine, and advice for those seeking to partner with organizations that can help them achieve their goals. We extend a special thank you to Gladys and Catherine for joining us in this important conversation about demystifying giving in Africa. Read more about this event and past Speaker Series events on our website.

Thank you for your continued engagement with our program and dedication to our mission. Our Fellows get to experience life-changing professional and personal growth during their 12-month placements thanks to those who have supported our program and continue to stay committed each fellowship year. Happy Holidays to the Princeton in Africa community!

Ward Regards,
The PiAf Team

  • Notes from the Field

      By Neil Wary, '22-'23 Fellow with USAP Community School in Zimbabwe

    Neil, atop The Big Rock, overlooking the valley where USAP is located.

    Hello from Zimbabwe! I’m Neil, a PiAf Fellow working as a teacher at USAP Community School, an A Level school for low-income, high-achieving Zimbabweans. I teach Research Methods to fifth form students (11th grade), a final year Capstone and college counseling course to sixth form students (12th grade), as well as an elective on Music Theory. Over the past several months, not only have I had the privilege to teach incredibly talented students, but I’ve also learned so much about Zimbabwe and being an educator.

    Here are three lessons I’ve gathered so far from being at the school:

    Taking risks help you learn culture. In my final year of college, I took an ethnomusicology course on the music around the Mekong River delta. My professor told me that there are three things you need to embrace to learn about a new culture: (1) learn their music, (2) eat their food, (3) and learn their language. In my four months here, I’ve attempted to play traditional instruments including the mbira and marimba, clap to insanely challenging poly-rhythmic African pieces, and danced to songs that are awfully familiar to Leonard Bernstein’s America from West Side Story. Although I’m a classically trained musician, I’ve struggled a lot to play and clap along to traditional music but have learned so much. The same goes for language – when I attempt to speak in Shona, I am greeted with smiles and often confused stares, though am always welcomed to speak. Eating every meal in the Dining Hall at school allows me to try new foods, share stories, and laugh with students. Sharing a meal of sadza and beans at supper reminds me that to learn about culture, I must be willing to try new things.

    Neil with Esther Alaran (2022-23 PiAf Fellow from Joburg) at Mukuvisi Woodlands in Zimbabwe.

    Knowledge is a power but can also be a burden. I just finished teaching a unit on hypothesis-testing statistics in Research Methods and feel that my students have just unlocked a powerful new skill: discerning if two numbers are significantly different from each other. With new knowledge, however, comes a lot of responsibility. I’ve been trying to implement systematized research methods into my everyday life so students can see how they can make change with statistics – whether it be through surveying students to decide if porridge should be served for breakfast or while helping students see if their own research projects should target a certain population. What I’ve noticed is that acquiring knowledge results in people expecting you to do something with it – whether you like it or not. Talent and intelligence may be present, but opportunity is not always promised. Education is the tool to ensure that you are ready for when opportunity is present.

    I am horrendously bad at mopping. This one does not have a hidden meaning – I just have struggled to mop because I did not bring my Swiffer with me.

    I’m excited to continue learning about Zim, education, and myself throughout the rest of my fellowship and hope you can follow along with me!

     

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  • Notes from the Field

      By Heran Abiy, '22-'23 Fellow with the Kucetekela Foundation in Zambia

    Heran and KF student/scholars (First day in Lusaka and meeting some students at the tuition centre)

    Muli bwanji ! Hello hello everyone, my name is Heran Abiy and I am a Princeton in Africa Fellow working as a Program Coordinator at the Kucetekela Foundation here in Lusaka, Zambia! I have now been living in Lusaka and working at Kucetekela Foundation for a few months now.

    Heran and KF colleagues interviewing students at Zambian Government schools

    Kucetekela Foundation (KF) is a non-profit organization that provides academically promising but financially disadvantaged Zambian youth with comprehensive scholarships that fund vulnerable youth education at a private secondary school. KF scholarships cover more than tuition. KF’s philosophy is that a holistic approach is needed to maximize the chances of success. In addition to an excellent education, KF provides our students with one-on-one mentoring, community service, internships, counseling, and support to attend university. A day in my life, as Programs Coordinator at KF, has consisted of visiting our high school students at our two partner schools and our gap year students/alumni at their many job locations throughout Lusaka. I facilitate various leadership and youth development and capacity-building programs and workshops with our high school students and assist our gap year students with their applications to different tertiary programs around Zambia and the world. In addition to this, I write articles and work on student recruitment and marketing.

    Maddy, Heran and Maddie meet up in Nairobi, Kenya right before fellowships begin.

    My time in Lusaka has been filled with quality time with our brilliant and thoughtful high school students and their welcoming families, enjoying stunning pink-orange-yellow sunsets over Lusaka, and connecting with my colleagues over long drives around the city. There is so much beauty in Lusaka and throughout Zambia that I have come to appreciate. Outside of work, I spend time attending Zambian artists’ concerts, learning salsa, attending art shows, learning Nyanja from my colleagues, café hopping around Lusaka, and checking out local farmers’ markets.

    Giraffe in Lusaka in Lilayi area

    A little bit about me, I am originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia but grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. Before coming to Lusaka, I completed my Master’s degree from Clark University’s Department of International Development, Community, and Environment (IDCE) in Worcester, MA. My journey with Princeton in Africa spans many years before I even knew PiAf existed.  To read more about my serendipitous relationship with Princeton in Africa and a past PiAf host organization, Project Mercy, please visit Princeton in Africa’s Impact Stories.

    I am only just at the beginning of my fellowship here in Lusaka, and I have learned so much. My time as PiAf fellow has already significantly impacted my life. Whether it is appreciating the sun setting over the Lusaka skyline, searching for the best vitumbuwao, or trying Kapenta for the first time, to reflecting on thoughtful conversations with students, I am eager to continue moving through the city and keep finding beauty in every corner of Lusaka.

     

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  • Notes from the Field

      By Ian Stiehl, '22-'23 Fellow with Tanzania Education Corporation in Tanzania

    Smiling after a day of biking through Mto Wa Mbu.

    A view of Tumaini Senior from my third-floor apartment at school.

    Hello from Makuyuni, Tanzania! My name is Ian Stiehl, and I am the current Fellow with Tanzania Education Corporation (TEC) at Tumaini Senior Secondary School. Its founders built Tumaini Senior in the middle of the savanna roughly halfway between Serengeti National Park and Mt. Kilimanjaro. During the dry season, elephants, zebras, giraffes, and more pay frequent visits to the area surrounding the school. In this remote but beautiful environment, I work nominally as the school’s computer science teacher but have worn many different hats so far.

    In September, I began teaching my three levels of students. In year one, students learn to use Microsoft Office and Scratch. The next year, they transition to coding languages such as Python and programming robots. The final year covers web development in HTML and JavaScript. Although not a natural teacher, I improve every day. I’ve learned how to use student assistants to overcome language challenges, motivate students with class hooks, and challenge students to think outside the box.

    Another of my roles oversees student projects. This term, the two main student projects were building a robot dog operating on Raspberry Pi OS and launching bottle rockets. The bottle rocket project was a collaboration with a Design Thinking class, which is part of the Project-based Learning (PBL) curriculum. PBL courses are a key part of Tumaini Senior culture because the school strives to enhance the student experience through hands-on learning that teaches real-world skills.

    The Great Wildebeest Migration as seen in August in northern Serengeti.

    As part of TEC’s partnership with another non-profit, Team4Tech, I’ve also developed girls in STEM and teacher computer literacy programs. One of the most rewarding parts of my work has been seeing students and teachers motivated to expand their digital knowledge. In November, I hosted an international guest speaker via Zoom to speak to a classroom of girls about her journey as a woman in STEM. The students prepared thoughtful questions to ask our guest. The teacher development program has consisted of open lab hours for teachers to practice skills such as typing and monthly workshops. So far, I’ve covered Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. With time and experience, I hope these programs continue to grow and encourage both girls and teachers to take advantage of the resources available at Tumaini.

    The robotic dog my students built to present at graduation.

    Beyond school, I have loved the opportunity to explore the culture and environment of northern Tanzania. My fellow teachers have graciously taken me to local restaurants, taught me to cook, and helped me take crowded public buses across the region. I’ve been able to visit breathtaking national parks, wander through bustling city markets, watch hours of football matches in town, and take long runs along dirt roads in the savanna.

    I can’t believe almost five months have slipped away since I arrived. Already this experience has taught me so much about adaptability, patience, interacting with new perspectives, and how to find happiness. I am grateful to my fellow teachers for welcoming me with open arms and my PiAf cohort for creating such a special community across the continent.

     

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  • Notes from the Field

      By Maddie Wong, '22-'23 Fellow with International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya

    Me commemorating World Rabies Day at Kapiti.

    Me seeing a little bit of Nepal in-between interviewing folks.

    Hi from Nairobi, Kenya! I’m Maddie, a Fellow with the Communications and Knowledge Management team at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). My work at ILRI looks different every day as I interact with various departments and research initiatives, from One Health scientists to gender in climate experts. One of the busiest times was during COP27, when I worked with the rest of the communications team to produce daily summaries of ILRI events.

    While I’m in the office most of the time writing blogs or posting on social media, I occasionally go to the field. I’ve traveled to ILRI’s Kapiti Research Station and Wildlife Conservancy in Machakos County to cover World Rabies Day, Farmer’s Field Day, and a visit from the Prince of Norway! I’ve also taken a day trip to Kisumu to interview households of chicken farmers for The Boma Podcast Season 3, continuing the work of the last two cohorts of PiAf Fellows at ILRI.

    I grew up in New York City and, before ILRI, knew close to nothing about livestock. But the more I interact with smallholder farmers and scientists, the more I learn how livestock research can improve the livelihoods and climate resilience of many people, particularly youth and women, in the developing world. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to see how livestock research in East Africa is impacting communities in South Asia with a surprise trip to Nepal! Traveling to different parts of the country, I got to interview a range of folks, from women buffalo farmers to a city mayor, who interacts with ILRI’s new project on buffalo value chains.

    Outside work, I’ve been enjoying AfroDance classes, bible study, and learning guitar from my flatmate. I’m slowly building a community here in Nairobi, and my co-fellow, Madison, and the other PiAf Fellows have made the transition much smoother. Thanks to them, I’ve collected special memories in November and December, including celebrating Friendsgiving and watching Wakanda Forever in a packed theater. It’s only been four months since starting my fellowship, but I’ve already grown so much. I’m grateful for my PiAf fellowship experience and my Fellow cohort for shaping the person I’m becoming!

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Our History

In 1999, a group of Princeton alumni, faculty, and staff launched Princeton in Africa as an independent affiliate of Princeton University inspired by the University’s informal motto, “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and in the Service of All Nations.” In 2010, the program opened up to include graduates of any US accredited university in order to meet the growing demand from host organizations and allow more young professionals access to the unique opportunities afforded by PiAf. During the past 20 years, we have placed over 600 Fellows with more than 100 organizations in 36 countries, while developing more strategic partnerships across Africa and creating more opportunities for our alumni community to engage with the continent and with one another.

Testimonials

The International Rescue Committee has been so fortunate to have had a longstanding relationship with Princeton in Africa since our very first Fellows landed in Rwanda in 1999.  Whether it was Emily or Renee in 1999 or the 110 Fellows across 14 IRC countries over the years, we have been blessed by the relationship, the quality of the Fellows and the impact on what IRC does on the ground every single day.

Brian Johnson
Chief Human Resources Officer
International Rescue Committee

My fellowship has been the most impactful personal and professional development opportunity of my life. I wanted a post-college experience that would push my limits, expand my comfort zone, and help me discern the next steps in my career journey. And this has been the case.

Ryan Elliott
2014-15 Fellow
Baylor Pediatric AIDS Initiative in Lesotho

I can honestly say that this year has changed my life and my view of what’s possible for the future. Princeton in Africa isn’t just a one-year fellowship, it’s an introduction to a particular way of life and a new way of thinking about the world. I feel like so many doors are open now that I never would have considered before.

Katie Fackler
2010-11 Fellow
UN World Food Programme

My Princeton in Africa fellowship was everything I could have hoped for and much more. The myriad of experiences makes my head swim, and it has strengthened my desire to help underserved populations worldwide.

David Bartels
2006-2007 Fellow
Baylor Pediatric AIDS Initiative

Princeton in Africa was an invaluable experience for me. I learned an infinite amount through my work and through living in Uganda. I also realized that I want to continue working on African issues as long as I can.

Alexis Okeowo
2006-2007 Fellow
The New Vision

The International Rescue Committee’s experience with Princeton in Africa has been exceptional. Each Fellow brings excellent writing and analytical skills as well as unique interests and passions that enrich the program and the field office environment. We were so pleased we expanded the program to more field offices.

Susan Riehl
Human Resources, IRC

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation has been working in Africa for over 11 years through its Secure the Future program.  One common theme in all aspects of program implementation is having passionate, energetic individuals on the ground who can think outside the box and then transfer the skills for sustainability.  The Princeton In Africa Fellows have been a huge asset in this regard and our programs and patients have been better for it.

John Damonti
President, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation