Youku Kasselie: The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

For the last six weeks, we had the privilege of hosting Youku Kasselie a Fellow from Liberia, through the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative. 

Youku Kasselie is a teacher who is passionate about life, and thereby works to engage communities in waste reduction by transforming materials such as plastic bottles and other materials into crafts.

Youku is an entrepreneur, teacher, and social activist. She recently started Creative Arts Enterprises - an organization that transforms garbage into jewelry, accessories and other fashion items. She has collaborated with the Coca-Cola bottling plant and other businesses to make use of their waste products at no cost, provide employment for youth and protect the environment. Beyond her business she is a general science teacher at Prime System and hosts a radio show to promote youth issues. Her long term goal is to become more involved in community development as an entrepreneur, a civic leader, or serve in public management.

Youku had many goals in mind when she came to The Resource Exchange. Prior to the program, Youku did all of her sewing by hand and was hoping to learn how to sew using a sewing machine. During her stay she was able to experiment using various machines and receive one on one instruction provided by Re staff. Her first day using a machine she figured out how to sew a bag entirely of fabric samples. Youku's talent and eye for color and design is evident and sewing projects were just the beginning.

Youku completed several creative projects with the main focus being to use materials that would reduce waste in her community. Materials such as newspapers, fabric samples, scrap lumber, and corks just to name a few. Youku brought together craft and functionality in many of the pieces- flower baskets, catch-alls, bags, and pillowcases.


Youku and the Re staff had the opportunity to take a tour of the recycling facility at Revolution Recovery. RR is a business dedicated to recycling construction and industrial materials. We were able to see their sorting process and their baler machine in action.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), places Fellows in six-week Professional Development Experiences (PDEs) at U.S. companies, non-profits, and government agencies. The Fellows have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, and communities, and come from all 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This summer, 1000 Fellows will hone their skills through six-week Academic and Leadership Institutes at leading U.S. universities, a Summit in Washington, DC.

The Fellowship’s professional development component provides U.S. companies and organizations with a unique opportunity to host an experienced African leader. Hosts will offer Fellows the opportunity to expand their skill sets and improve their understanding of U.S. approaches and best practices in their chosen field. These dynamic African professionals will offer Americans their expertise in the workplace, the opportunity for future collaborations, and the development of lasting relationships.

The 2014-2016 Mandela Washington Fellows had several years of experience in their chosen fields and brought a significant value to the U.S. organizations across the country that hosted them. Similarly, the 2017 Fellows will be established leaders in their communities, either through their careers or by virtue of community involvement, poised to make an immediate impact when they return to Africa. They are motivated to both develop and to share what they glean from the Fellowship with their peers and subsequent generations of leaders.

It was an absolute pleasure working with and getting to know Youku and we are all excited to see the great things she is sure to accomplish in the future!

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