The first group of Mandela Washington Fellows at Virginia Tech, in a program inaugurated in 2014 as part of President Barack Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative, ended a six-week stint in Blacksburg with career goals sharpened, a meeting with Obama in Washington, D.C., under their belts, and new skills acquired.

The Fellows say they deepened friendships while studying, generating fresh ideas, and gathering inspiration to take home to their countries.

When Lusungu Kalanga returns to Malawi, for instance, she plans to focus on her own organization, called Growing Ambitions, "to create safe spaces where girls and young women can interact and get mentoring and career guidance," she said.

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With the two dozen other Fellows, she took part in a storytelling workshop presented by the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute, which hosted the group in partnership with the Institute for Policy and Governance, part of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

After learning more about storytelling for business purposes during the workshop, Kalanga told a riveting tale of an event that threatened to upset a nonprofit's plan. After months of preparation, the group worked to distribute a radio program throughout Malawi in order to promote education for girls. They were shocked to discover that an unusual – but predictable – obstacle blocked their path. In the YouTube video above, Kalanga tells how the nonprofit she worked for managed to avert disaster.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. government and is supported in its implementation by IREX. Virginia Tech is a subgrantee of IREX and is supporting the U.S.-based academic program of the fellowship.

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