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I Wish I Was From Colorado


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Arsene Tungali

As part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program, I have been fortunate to work at El Pomar, a “Foundation for Colorado,” as it is proudly called here.

My background is in the nonprofit world. I have worked with local, national, international organizations, and the United Nations. In that world, I raise money from individual donors, other organizations, and corporations in order to fulfill our mission to improve the lives of the people in my community.

Through one of my initiatives, the Mabingwa Forum [], I intend to offer a platform to emerging leaders to connect, inspire, and challenge each other through constructive conversations. This initiative, three years ago, was only targeting emerging leaders from my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Today, we are extending to those from the whole of Africa, especially those from the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Now, I’ve expanded beyond Africa through my internship at El Pomar Foundation.  As a private foundation, El Pomar works to make sure the legacy of its founders, Julie and Spencer Penrose continues with their will fulfilled as they envisioned. They wanted to invest their money in improving lives in Colorado, not Texas nor Washington nor any other state in this country. They decided to use their money, I strongly believe, to make sure they left this world much better than how they found it.

In my time at El Pomar, I’ve noticed how the staff at all levels always talks about how they can best serve the people of Colorado. They take the task of   implementing various projects in all the regions of Colorado seriously. They do it through grants, through capacity building, etc.

Almost everyone who is working at or affiliated with El Pomar is either a Colorado native or has history with this state. Everyone I meet feels connected to this state, and they work with passion and dedication for Coloradans.

I experienced one striking example of this passion and service a few weeks ago when I attended the Milton E. Proby Induction Ceremony. This program recognizes an ethnic minority leader whose life has embodies the ideals of leadership and civic involvement. This individual is inducted into the Milton E. Proby Cultural Heritage Room at Penrose House in the presence of family members, community members, and some state level officials. For the 10th anniversary of this program, a Native American, Chairman Ernest House Sr. of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe was honored. He was represented by his son Ernest House Jr. and his other family members.

This was a cultural ceremony full of joy and emotion as Ernest House Jr. thanked the selection committee for the recognition of his community and his late father, Ernest House Sr. El Pomar Foundation makes these people proud of their country, and more importantly of the state of Colorado, where the Penroses wanted their money and resources to be invested.

Sometimes I feel one cannot serve the people they don’t feel connected to; I work to improve communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo because I feel myself connected to that place. It is where my roots are planted. Of course, in my personal case, the next step can be, if I wish, to expand and reach out to other areas where there is need. And I am currently doing it through the Mabingwa Forum and at El Pomar.

I also consider my time interning with El Pomar as not only a personal learning experience but more importantly, my contribution to the work this foundation is doing to support Colorado. Through my participation in various programs the foundation runs, I feel connected to this state and appreciate the opportunity to contribute in making it a better place.


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