Current Fellows Flyer

Past editions of the Fellows Flyer are available here.

March/April 2023

Dear Friends, 

We hope this edition of the Princeton in Africa Fellow’s Flyer finds you well. Happy spring! Our 2022-23 Fellows are more than halfway through their fellowships, and we are currently in the placement process for the next cohort. We look forward to welcoming our incoming 2023-24 Fellows later in the year. 

Early in March, we had the privilege of gathering our 2022-23 Fellows in Stone Town, Zanzibar for a mid-year Fellows’ Leadership Retreat. We hosted many of our sessions at the East African Kiswahili Commission, explored cultural and historical landmarks in Stone Town, helped prepare a homemade Zanzibari meal, and so much more. Read more about our time in Zanzibar here, and follow us on social media to see more highlights. We’re proud of the tight-knit community our Fellows have created and happy to help them develop their professional and leadership skills, and reflect on their post-fellowship goals. Read more about the sessions we conducted here.

We’re also proud to share that Aishwarya Rai & Kyilah Terry, our 2022-23 Fellows placed at the International Rescue Committee in Nairobi, Kenya, had the chance to meet David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. The IRC is Princeton in Africa’s oldest host organization partner; we have placed 110 Fellows with IRC offices based in 14 African countries/regions. Aishwarya & Kyilah have done exceptional work in their posts. Read more about a recent article they co-wrote that was published by Migration Information Source. 

In this edition, Maya McHugh describes her love of working for the Rwanda School Project at Rwamagana Leaders’ School in Rwanda. It has been inspiring for her to work with students, staff, and her co-Fellow Lauryn Spinetta on a variety of exciting projects! 

Matthew Fuller also describes his fulfilling work at the Foundation for Community Development and Empowerment in Uganda. He has grown professionally by taking initiative and contributing to the growth of the organization, and he’s proud of the relationships he has built with his co-workers. 

Michael Rivera details his life in and out of the classroom at the African School of Economics in Benin. He is an English teacher, helping to develop his student’s communication skills in an international workplace. He also enjoys practicing and performing music! Michael recently gave a lecture and performed a piano solo at the 2022 Lomé Piano Festival. 

Finally, Elebetel describes her work at Equal Education in South Africa, where she collaborates with the communications department and fundraising team. She has enjoyed exploring South Africa and meeting up with her fellowship cohort in Zanzibar. 

Princeton University reunions begin in late May, and Princeton in Africa will be hosting a Post P-rade event on May 27th at 4 PM in the Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building Room 399 Ruehl Family Room. More information to come, but be sure to RSVP here. Reunions are a great way to meet PiAf alumni, share your experiences, interact with PiAf board members and staff, and learn more about the future of our program. 

Read on to hear from our Fellows directly, and be sure to stay connected with PiAf so you don’t miss upcoming announcements or newsletters. 

Warm Regards, 
The PiAf Team

  • Notes from the Field

      By Maya McHugh, '22-'23 Fellow with the Rwanda School Project in Rwanda

    Seniors submitting their Common Applications

    Environmental Club trip to Abakundakawa Rushashi and Twongerekoko coffee cooperatives in Gakenke District

    Hello from Eastern Rwanda! I have so enjoyed my time here at Rwamagana Leaders’ School (RLS). I have loved working with teachers, staff, students, and my co-fellow Lauryn. Lauryn and I helped the seniors apply to U.S. and other international colleges. We successfully assisted six early application students and another 10 students during the regular decision cycle, editing essays and providing general guidance. Several students have already gotten acceptances! Learning about the application process for Rwandan students, we hope our experiences can be a resource to the school, future students, and future PiAf fellows.

    Additionally, I have been organizing Environmental Club trips and school visits for the students to learn about different sustainability initiatives happening throughout Rwanda. We took our first trip in November, bringing 27 students to visit two organic coffee cooperatives in Gakenke District. It was really awesome to see the students experience another part of their country and engage with Rwandans who are building their own futures and talking about sustainability.

    At the end of November, I organized an initial partnership meeting with the Rwandan Youth Biodiversity Network (RYBN), a chapter of the global network providing the youth voice in the global conversation of biodiversity preservation. They gave a presentation to the students, discussing the importance of biodiversity, our responsibility to protect it: “humans are part of biodiversity”, and its critical role in battling climate change. RYBN works to educate through arts, working on a book series and releasing several songs, combining English, Kinyarwanda, and other languages. RLS became a RYBN NGO member this month, joining global efforts to protect our shared planet! 

    Environmental Club visit from the Rwanda Youth Biodiversity Network

    In February, another two guests visited the school, a financial analyst working for the Rwandan Green Fund and a project manager for Green City Kigali, an affordable and sustainable neighborhood development, one of the projects supported by the Rwandan Green Fund. They presented their organizations’ efforts to combat climate change.

    RLS students participating in February Umuganda (community service) picking up trash in the community

    I facilitated a second trip this March taking another 26 students to a local recycling company, specializing in E-Waste in Bugesera District. Students learned about Rwanda’s efforts to manage waste, support a circular economy, and protect the environment and got to tour an advanced recycling facility that is making an impact on those goals.

    Lauryn and I have organized book clubs for biweekly read-time. Having now led four different book groups, I am so inspired to see the students improve as they read, the gleam in their eyes when they learned a new word or phrase, and their excitement as some of them discovered a love of reading. 

    Finally, I teach 8th-grade Environmental Studies. This term, we have been focussing solely on climate change. As a class we participated in Umuganda (community service) the last Saturday of February, collecting trash in the community. Using this trash, the students made their final projects, a home, business, or city incorporating solutions to climate change. My students continue to impress me with their curiosity, insight, and imagination.

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  • Notes from the Field

      By Matthew Fuller, '22-'23 Fellow with the Foundation for Communication Development and Empowerment in Uganda

    Participating in FCDE’s annual retreat in Mbarara, joining a dance class activity

    Visiting the equator

    Hi everyone! My name is Matthew Fuller and I work as a Community Development Fellow with the Foundation for Community Development and Empowerment (FCDE), which is based in Kasese, Uganda. For my fellowship, I have primarily worked remotely from both Kampala and Washington, D.C. I’ve enjoyed working with FCDE due to its close work alongside grassroots organizations and its commitment to responsible development practices.

    Over the past eight months, I’ve continued to grow professionally by taking initiative and contributing to the growth of the organization. Throughout my fellowship, I have taken a larger role in the fundraising activities for FCDE, and I have been able to create and lead workshops on growth and on monitoring and evaluation. I have also been able to identify networking events and partnerships to facilitate FCDE’s capacity-building mission. In addition, I am very proud of the relationships I have built with the leaders of FCDE’s local partner organizations who conduct much of the implementation work in Western Uganda in the areas of education, health, livelihood, supporting persons with disabilities, and women’s empowerment. I am excited to branch into working with organizations that focus on social justice initiatives soon too.

    Meeting a partner from Finemind, a mental health nonprofit in Uganda, at Wild Coffee in Kampala

    Personally, I have found lasting connections with my time in Uganda. I was able to meaningfully integrate into my community in Kira on the northeast side of Kampala and create lifelong friendships with many people on my street, at my local restaurants, and with my drivers. Regularly, I discuss music, soccer, politics, and documentaries with my new Ugandan network. I greatly enjoyed getting to know so many families and feel so looked after in a community I trusted after such a short time of living there.

    Coming into this experience as the only Fellow in Uganda, I knew I needed to be especially outgoing and assertive at a time when I knew I would also struggle with uncertainty and unfamiliarity. I feel so happy that my efforts to assert myself with my professional and personal endeavors have led to such big rewards. By entering each encounter with an open mind and connecting with people from vastly different occupations, views, and socioeconomic backgrounds, I found such color and complexity in my Ugandan experience that will carry me forward in the future with confidence and a fresh mindset.


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  • Notes from the Field

      By Michael Rivera, '22-'22 Fellow with the African School of Economics in Benin

    Learning the gourd gota, a percussive instrument used in traditional Beninese music and dance

    With my co-Fellow Dylan (ASE communications Fellow) at the mid-year retreat in Zanzibar

    Greetings from Abomey-Calavi! My name is Michael Rivera, one of two Fellows currently based at the African School of Economics (ASE) in Benin. 

    As this year’s lead lecturer in Applied English, my main job is to teach students how to use English as an intercultural tool— from applying to overseas programs to communicating in the international workplace to developing test-taking and self-directed learning strategies. Within the past five years, our department has helped students enter top universities and international organizations, many of whom dream of returning to their countries to work in policy-making, research, international development, and social entrepreneurship. 

    Language is a dynamic tapestry into which we embed our cultures and histories. As a current Cambridge DELTA teaching candidate, I have not only deepened my approaches to language analysis, pedagogy, and curriculum development, but I have also revisited some of my own personal and ethical wrestling over the role of TESOL as a global industry. While I don’t have the space here to explore these challenging questions in depth, this year has made me realize the enormous privilege and status I enjoy as a native English speaker, especially in a region where many languages and cultures are in danger of extinction. I continually reflect on what this means for me as a teacher of a globally dominant language through continuing my own study of languages spoken locally, as well as incorporating approaches and curricula which are equitable, holistic, and culturally responsive.

    Pre-concert solo rehearsal for the 2022 Lomé Piano Festival

    Michael leads a group warm-up activity for 1st-year ASE Master’s students during English camp

    Outside of my fellowship, I have pursued my first creative passion— music performance— across Togo and Benin. Last December, I participated in the annual Lomé Piano Festival, where I gave a guest lecture on practice strategies and sightreading, as well as performed solo works by Prokofiev, Chopin, and J.H. Kwabena Nketia. In May, I will return to Lomé for a month-long artist residency at Opus Academy, where I will lead workshops, teach piano lessons, and organize and perform in a collaborative recital. 

    From time to time, I also visit Adjrou’Houé, a Beninese NGO that promotes the local traditional arts of storytelling, music, theater, and dance. As a musician trained in the Western classical tradition, I am grateful to observe and participate (and often clumsily fail) in these rich artistic practices. The cohesion of tonalities, timbres, and polyrhythms is mesmerizing, exhilarating, and sometimes frustrating for me to wrap my head around. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that there is much we can learn by studying Africa’s diverse musical cultures. 

    As both the semester and my fellowship draw to a close, I find myself caught between preparing for my upcoming teaching fellowship in Taiwan and trying to take in as much as I can at my current one. If anything, living and working abroad has taught me that while it is important to structure our lives toward reaching our goals, it is equally important to live fully in each passing moment with humility and gratitude. 

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  • Notes from the Field

      By Elebetel Assefa, '22-'23 Fellow with Equal Education in South Africa

    With starfish in Matemwe in Eastern Zanzibar

    OGS Team: Noncedo Madubedube (GS), Sindisa Monakali (Chairperson), Tebogo Tsesane (DGS), Aarifah Hunter (Governance Officer), Elebetel Assefa (PiAf Fellow

    Hi friends, greetings from Cape Town, South Africa! My name is Elebetel Assefa and I am a Fellow at Equal Education (EE), a youth-led mass democratic movement struggling for equality and quality education throughout South Africa. As I write to you, I am a little over halfway through my fellowship year and just recently returned from our Fellows’ retreat in Stone Town, Zanzibar in Tanzania.

    My time at EE and in the Mother City has met all my expectations and some others I didn’t know I had. The environment I work in is incredibly rewarding and I continue to learn in every aspect of my work, and my relationships. To add to my luck, my fellowship cohort is filled with some phenomenal people I consider to be my dear friends and co-Fellows.

    At work, I am a member of the Office of the General Secretary (OGS), the communications department and sometimes the fundraising team. In my role, I am given guidance and direction while being allowed to be creative and work quite independently. The flexibility of my role means I can explore different roles and various aspects of Equal Education, which is an organization unlike any other in the world.

    My sister and I at dinner

    EE is a social movement that is democratically organized and run by a National Council that is elected from a Congress. This process starts by organizing in schools and creating youth groups that convene in Congress to discuss EE’s future. Being a part of this process and learning about a unique way of organizing is an education unlike any other I have received so far. If any of this sounds interesting to you, please reach out because I would love to connect!

    I would also like to share that my sister visited me this past week and we spent some time exploring Cape Town together. This is the longest I have been away from my family, and I felt very grateful to see her face in a new part of the world. We did not miss one sunset and ate way too much Ethiopian food.

    I am wishing you a happy fall and/or spring season and all the best.

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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.


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