Members of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders jump in front of the Travel to Iowa sculpture during their visit to Manning July 19. About 20 business leaders and entrepreneurs visited the town as part of their tour to learn more about rural Iowa.
Members of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders jump in front of the Travel to Iowa sculpture during their visit to Manning July 19. About 20 business leaders and entrepreneurs visited the town as part of their tour to learn more about rural Iowa.

July 30, 2018

One after the other, Mandela fellows strutted up to the massive “Iowa” sign, each with a different pose in mind.

Each fellow took time having their photo taken in front of Manning’s IOWA sculpture. Some crawled in between the lines of the “W,” while others stood in front of the “A” and a few centered themselves beneath the “O,” all making sure they had their own unique Iowa photo.

A group of about 20 young businesspeople and entrepreneurs from all over Africa visited Manning July 19 to learn about the town’s economic development and public and private partnerships.

The day spent in Manning was part of a six-week stint in Iowa through the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Universities around the country host different groups of African leaders. This is the third year Drake University has hosted a group — and that Manning’s partnership with the university has led to a visit from the fellows to the city.

During their day in Manning, the fellows learned about what life is like in small-town Iowa, said Ron Reischl, the chairman of Main Street Manning’s Business Improvement Committee.

“They spend every day of their six weeks in Iowa (cities), except for one day in rural Iowa,” Reischl said. “We’re trying to show them what life is in rural Iowa.”

Their day in Manning included a tour of the historic Manning Hausbarn Heritage Park, guided by the Hausbarn’s director, Freda Dammann.

After the tour, fellows were taken to downtown Manning for a “traditional” Iowa lunch consisting of hamburgers, sweet corn, apple crisps and more at Deb’s Corner Cafe.

During the lunch, the fellows beat a drum and chanted songs as thank-you to not only Deb’s Corner Cafe but the entire city of Manning for hosting them for the day.

Doreen Noni, 29, from Tanzania, said she enjoyed learning about how the town of Manning figured out how to get people involved to help develop and better their town.

“It’s been incredible,” Noni said. “I love it. I’ve just met so many incredible people. I’ve learned how important it is to get people involved. I need to go and reach out to people to make the community better.”

Noni owns her own FM radio station in Tanzania called Lake FM. Her station’s focus is to shed light on the cycle of poverty in the city of Mwanza by working with low-income residents. She has a talk show called “Tena na Tena” which means “Again and Again,” she said.

“If first you do not succeed, you try again, again and again until you succeed,” Noni said.

She said the show has allowed her to meet many incredible young people who also want to get involved and make their country a better place.

During her visit to Iowa, Noni said, she has met many amazing business leaders and professionals. Her experience in Manning taught her to never be afraid to reach out and ask others for support.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help — that’s been my biggest takeaway of the day, is don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Noni said. “I love meeting new people. I like to watch and learn and listen, and I’m sure I’m going to make some new friends. It’s been a life-changing experience, and I’m happy that I came.”

After finishing lunch, the group headed to the IOWA sculpture for a photo shoot.

Then, they headed out to the Ranniger and Muhlbauer family farms to learn about agriculture in Iowa. The farms demonstrated grain handling and the beef industry, respectively.

Reischl said that Iowa is known as an agricultural state, and that it is important for people from African countries to see beyond tech and insurance companies in the state.

“Agriculture is a major survivor of our economy,” Reischl said. “It’s important for them to see how a small town in rural Iowa can succeed and what the elements of success are.”

When their afternoon on the farms was complete, the fellows headed back downtown to explore the shops on Main Street and ended their day at BrickHaus Brews, where they met with Manning locals and enjoyed pizza and drinks.

The day is about more than just introducing people from other countries to small-town Iowa — it’s about people from Manning getting to know people outside their circle and becoming acquainted with other cultures, Reischl said.

We always look for opportunities to be able to tell the Manning story,” he said. “We’ve developed friendships with some of the past visitors. Manning is not a culturally diverse area. I think it’s important for the community to acquaint themselves with other cultures, and long-term, I would like to believe that one of these Mandela fellows will come back and start a business in Manning.”