Cambridge College’s 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows Visit Gloucester

Imagine the possibilities inherent in hosting 25 of the 1,000 Mandela Washington Fellows selected in 2016 from various nations in Africa as a part of President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) for six weeks. Now imagine being one of 36 institutions nationwide selected to host the Fellows. That is precisely what Cambridge College is doing and has accomplished this summer. The Fellows are all part of a Business and Entrepreneurship Institute hosted by the College, which highlights the relevance of servant leadership embodied in weekly themes expressed in academic content, site visits to local businesses, community service, host family visits, and cultural engagement designed expressly for the Fellows to explore the local surroundings and uniqueness of the region’s people and communities, specifically in the Greater Boston area, Massachusetts, and New England – including Gloucester and Cape Ann. On Saturday, July 9th, Mandela Washington Fellows from Cambridge College travelled to Gloucester and visited several key areas unique to the city, including Good Harbour Beach, the Cape Ann Museum, Local Colors Artist-Co-Op, the Maritime Museum, Aquarium, Harriet Webster Pier, Marine Railway, Mill Building, and Dory and Museum Shop. Mandela Washington Fellows ended their day in Gloucester aboard the Schooner Ardelle, built by the community using the 400 year-old traditions reflective of the Gloucester and Cape Ann spirit. As the Ardelle left port sailing along Gloucester Harbour, Fellows eagerly enjoyed hoisting sails, singing songs, laughing, and celebrating under bundled blankets shielding them from the chilly winds of an atypical summer evening in Gloucester. One major component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship is that the Fellows have the opportunity to experience American culture in the respective states where they are based. This experience includes everything from the food, sports, music, and culture to all else that comes from the expressive history and the diversity of the United States and its people. The trip to Gloucester lived up to this and more – touted as one of the highlights of Cambridge College’s Institute, the trip was the first time many of the Fellows ever experienced sailing and all enjoyed the fullness that the maritime community provided. This included the many businesses and local entrepreneurs reflected both in the work and spirit of the local community of Gloucester.

As a blanket of thick clouds rolled in on the early morning, this did not deter or dampen the Fellows’ spirit about their Gloucester adventure. Fellows simply huddled in the bus and took the approximate hour long trip to Gloucester from their residence in Cambridge. Most, however, were unaware of what awaited them in Gloucester and all looked forward to the day ahead. They were amazed by the hospitality of the people of Gloucester who welcomed the Fellows with open arms.

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(Taleni Shimhopileni from Namibia and Maresha Beniam Hirabo from Ethiopia enjoying a day at the Marine Railway.)

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(Fellows visit the Maritime Museum)

It Began with a Beach

The day-trip began at Good Harbour Beach, running on a wide expanse of sand that magically preserved the Fellows’ footprints as they melted into the sand. Despite the cold weather, blankets and windbreakers were available to all, and the Fellows enjoyed frolicking on the beach, having lunch in the sand, and playing beach soccer, which escalated both their adrenaline and much needed body warmth to endure the morning winds.

Some Art Anyone?

As far as knowing the history of a place, visiting the Cape Ann Museum was a great place to start. The Cape Ann Museum tour, guided by a local docent, provided a wonderful overview of the artists and valuable historical contexts unique to the region. Thanks to our excellent tour guide, who did a splendid job narrating the history of Gloucester, Fellows learned more about the once-flourishing fishing town that many called home.

In the midst of all the paintings and sculptures, there was one in particular that stood out for some of the Fellows, which highlighted the courage, dedication, and passion chronicled by the town’s historical figure, Howard Blackburn, a Gloucester fisherman who lost his fingers as a result of being lost at sea in 1883 and continued to provide strong leadership to the community. The Fellows were inspired by Blackburn’s story of how he became a successful businessman and returned to sailing the seas once again, setting a world record at the time.

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(Guided Tour at Cape Ann Museum)

Local Colors Shine Bright

The community spirit of Gloucester can also be seen in the local boutique cooperative shop known to everyone as Local Colors. Mandela Washington Fellows were welcomed with a warm reception by the artist co-owners of Local Colors, who exhibit and sell their arts and crafts. The Fellows found the array of art, paintings, photographs, ceramics, fabrics, jewelry, and different forms of art fascinating. The diversity of arts under one roof and how the artists take turns running the store was also of great interest. Speaking to the artists, it was easy for the Fellows to visualize how the shop and artists continue to thrive for many years by simply loving what they do. Many Fellows commented on how they might pursue similar initiatives in their home countries and mentioned the level of love and community spirit exuded within the artists’ work. Fellows also enjoyed the way the artists shared their individual craft and highlighted the work of other artists. The shared, supportive interaction moved many Fellows to comment on the level of comradery and collaboration among the artists reflective of the servant leadership and investment in community talent themes embedded in Cambridge College’s Business and Entrepreneurship Institute.

An Aquatic Experience

Next on their amazing day in Cape Ann was a trip to Maritime Gloucester. At the Aquarium, Fellows had an awesome opportunity to learn about the different kinds of creatures found in the waters of Gloucester. Some Fellows were brave enough to touch and hold lobsters and crabs. All were amazed by the rare Blue Lobster (one in two million) and proudly proclaimed their leadership as the first person from their country to hold a Blue Lobster. It was easier for some than it was for others to handle the lobsters and a few Fellows had to summon all their strength and fight their trepidation to do so. It was definitely an awesome and fun experience for all involved!

All Aboard!

The day in Gloucester would be incomplete without the opportunity for Fellows to ride the seas of Cape Ann. This they did on the Ardelle, the epitome of the city and region’s maritime heritage. Prior to boarding the Fellows learned about the craft of ship building from Harold Burnham, master ship builder Harold Burnham. On a short voyage at sea, Fellows drifted along experiencing the open waters, singing songs, and sharing stories about the wonders of their day in Gloucester.

The sad part about any day is that it only has 24 hours. And Fellows seized every second out of the minutes and hours at Gloucester. Grateful for all that Cape Ann provided, Fellows eagerly commented on their lovely trip to Gloucester and were deeply saddened that the day had finally come to an end. As the Mandela Washington Fellows returned to Cambridge and the sky transformed morning into dusk, all knew that that they would one day share stories about their Cape Ann adventure in Gloucester and what this experience meant to them. The warmth and spirit of the Gloucester community will be with all for many years to come. Long live the Maritime village of Gloucester now shared with the future civic, community, and business leaders of over 19 nations in Africa represented by the 25 Mandela Washington Fellows from Cambridge College.

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