For aid workers, Mandela's example still shines

    A memorial for Nelson Mandela at the African Union Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last December 8. Photo by: Albert González Farran, UNAMID / CC BY-NC-ND

    This week, U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders paid their respect to Nelson Mandela, who passed away Dec. 5.

    Devex has featured tributes to the South African leader from Bill Clinton, Bono and Ban Ki-moon, among others. All of them praised Mandela for setting an example of reconciliation through mutual respect, peaceful resistance and pragmatic problem solving.

    But Mandela also struck a chord with Devex readers, who shared personal stories of how the former South African president influenced their lives and careers as development professionals.

    “I am always reminded that the freedom that I enjoy now is priceless,” wrote Dinky Mmadingane Bogatsu in a Devex LinkedIn discussion group. “It took 27 years off the life of a man called Mandela for me; as a South African to be part and parcel of the global community and an international development expert today.”

    Frank So remembered meeting Mandela in 1999, when the former-President and his wife received honorary degrees from Seattle University, where So served as student body President.

    He wrote: “14 years ago, I met President Mandela … I’m still humbled to this day.”

    Jane Maina draws on Mandela’s example as a call “to give back to impoverished women and children in Africa.”

    “I could never do this enough, but one life at a time; traversing beyond physical, cultural and religious boundaries to seek out just that one life! Sometimes it is so difficult I wish I had enlisted in the army before to learn how to survive scorpions and snakes in South Sudan, dodging bullets in Somalia and negotiating with [the Islamic jihadist militant organization Boko Haram] in northern Nigeria. The gains are priceless though!” Maina wrote on LinkedIn.

    With Africa’s development narrative changing from one of aid recipient to trade and development partner, Mandela’s message of quality through cooperation and reconciliation rings as clearly as ever.

    For many Devex readers, that message helped pave the way to a fulfilling and challenging career in international development.

    Thanks for sharing your stories.

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    About the author

    • Michael Igoe

      Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.