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African Leaders Visit Successful SI Nonprofit

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Wagner College on Staten Island was the only local school selected to be part of a State Department program designed to connect African leaders with universities in the United States for hands on learning, and on Tuesday, the fellows visited one of the borough's most successful not-for-profits. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

It's just after lunch at the Lifestyles Cafe, and there's plenty to do.

"I clean the coffee station up. I work behind the counter," said Chris Bungay, a program participant at Lifestyles for the Disabled.

Lifestyles for the Disabled is a not-for-profit that runs the cafeteria and helps those with developmental disabilities learn how to live and work in the community.

The NPO is one of Staten Island's most successful, and it is playing host to a group of 25 African leaders participating in the Young African Leadership Initiative.

YALI, as it's known, is an Obama administration initiative designed to help support Africa's economic, social and political development. For six weeks, the fellows, who all have experience in not-for-profits in their native countries, will be living and learning at Wagner College.

"What we've really been doing is trying to teach them about the nonprofit sector here in the United States, the rules and regulations along those lines, but also show them some of our best practices," said David Gordon, a professor at Wagner College.

Romy Titus runs a NPO in South Africa that cares for children born to incarcerated mothers. She said she'll try to implement much of what she's learned at her own organization back home.

"My brain has been bubbling with all sorts of ideas," Titus said. "I definitely know how I want to strengthen it."

YALI fellows NY1 spoke with said what was most striking was how warmly they were received by the Lifestyle participants.

"Everyone was happy, and they were waiting for us," said Moffat Lewis of Botswana. "So I thought, 'These guys are exposed, and we need to get many people with disabilities to be exposed and to know that this is normal.'"

Louis works with people with developmental disabilities in his native Botswana and said they aren't given many opportunities to socialize. After his visit to Lifestyles, he said that's something he hopes to change.

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