Try 1 month for 99¢

Columbus welcomed 32 young African leaders to the community for a day of experiential learning on Tuesday.

The visitors included 15 women and 10 men, representing 20 countries and diverse professional fields including healthcare, law, journalism, social services, human rights and public administration.

The young leaders are staying in Madison as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, a U.S. Department of State-sponsored fellowship which brings 1,000 leaders from across Africa to complete a six-week academic and experiential learning institute at U.S. institutions. They arrived June 16 and will depart on July 30.

In Columbus, the fellows started their day with a panel discussion at the Columbus City Hall and tours of the Arnold House and the Columbus Community Hospital. The day wrapped up with visits to the Englewood Grass Farm, the Baerwolf farm and Sassy Cow Creamery.

The panel discussion featured City Clerk Anne Donahue, Emergency Management Director Amy Sandow, Police Chief Dan Meister and Library Director Cindy Fesemyer, who discussed a wide variety of topics related to management of a small community.

The topic of rural management is not unfamiliar to many of the Mandela Fellows.

For example, Zambian fellow Webby Phiri is a medical doctor who oversees a district medical office in a rural southern province, supervising one hospital and 17 health centers. Similarly, Khaya Tshiki of South Africa represents indigenous communities in his position as a lawyer.

Tshiki chose rural representation “because it has potential to not only shape policy direction that will allow ordinary citizens to participate in the mainstream economy, but it is a tool that ensures justice and equal opportunity for all.”

When not out on experiential learning trips such as the one to Columbus, the learning continues in the classroom and through community service opportunities. This year the fellows are serving with Lussier Community Education Center, River Food Pantry, Porchlight and Community GroundWorks.