A Mother’s Journey [Part 41]: The place to start?

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

There is something magical in the air and many people in the know are starting to feel it.

With its strong local collaborations and emerging businesses, Worcester is beginning to be recognized outside the city limits as much as inside them as a new leader in the startup world — and rightfully so.

Per recent data released by TechNet and the Progressive Policy Institute and reported by Axios.com, Worcester is lumped in with larger cities — from Philadelphia; to Nashville, Tennessee; to Portland, Oregon — as being among the nation’s emerging startup hubs.

While statistics are starting to add up to recognition that Worcester is a hub of innovative entrepreneurs, we have known this for quite some time.

Known as a center of manufacturing as far back as 150 years ago, Worcester has always served as an incubator for industries, so it is no surprise to me that we are collectively regaining our title.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The stress test, or scroll down to explore more of her story

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 35: My Family Disintegrates After Pa Dies

My grandmother, Kumba Ngehgba, had arrived in Motema to seek refuge not long before my dad died. It was a very difficult time.

Augustine Kanjia

My father, Pa Kanjia, had married a lot of women because he was a rich man. He had five wives. My mom was the youngest and most beautiful. My dad was aware of it, Grannie would tell me, and so were the other children.

His first wife could not speak Kono, but Mende. The family was large, with each wife having an extended family. People came from far and wide seeking help from my dad. He was happy with that because he stood for people even before his riches.

I remember my grandmother telling me that he had a heart problem, which did not bother him. But she said he was bitten by a dog. Medicine in those days was underdeveloped, so there was no proper diagnosis of the complicated illness. It was in 1963, a couple months before I was born. My dad died in the hospital, shocking the whole community. He had left quite a lot of riches.

Augustine’s last chapter: Back to How It All Started Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

A Mother’s Journey [Part 40]: The stress test

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

I recently shared on Facebook an article by Inc. magazine titled “The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship” and it led to a serious discussion about the demons within the entrepreneurial spirit.

Throughout this series for Worcester Sun, I have written often in broad terms about the struggles of entrepreneurship while being sure to highlight the many positives. I have boasted about the ability to take back my time. Above all things, I consistently try to impress upon my readers that entrepreneurship has been a savior for me.

It is a lifeline that can change everything — but after reading this article, I realized that entrepreneurship is not the hero in everyone’s story.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The parent trap, or scroll down to explore more of her story

Immigrants thrive as Worcester bucks nationwide labor crisis

Author BJ Hill takes us on a fantastic, fictional voyage into the possibilities of a not-too-distant tomorrow in the latest installment of What if … Worcester, the Sun’s serial glimpse into the future.

Worcester’s Long View Pays Off

Thanks to progressive immigration policies, Worcester is dodging a national labor shortage that is crippling similar cities.
WORCESTER, Feb. 19, 2034 — Friday, Feb. 24, will be Ron Gopinski’s 70th birthday. It will also be his last day of work at the Abbott-UMass Memorial Medical Center. After 32 years as an accounts representative in the purchasing department, Gopinski is enjoying the transition to retired life. For Abbott-UMass, his retirement marks a transition of a historical sort, as Gopinski is the hospital’s last full-time employee from the Baby Boomer generation.

Baby Boomers are defined as those born in the post-World War II years between 1946 and 1964. The generation comprised the largest percentage of the population, and the workforce, between approximately 1970 to 2025. But beginning in 2011, when the first of the Boomers turned 65 and began to retire, human resource departments around the country noticed a worrying trend: There were fewer qualified applicants applying for their jobs.

It wasn’t a matter of wages or education, they found, but rather the simple fact that there were less people from the succeeding generations, the Gen Xers and the Millennials, in the labor pool.

The effect has throttled companies of all sizes as they compete to find candidates to take their openings. But Worcester employers — notably the AbbVie-LakePharma companies and Coghlin GreenPower — enjoy a competitive advantage created by the city’s progressive views toward immigration earlier this century.

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 34: Back to How It All Started

My grandmother was married to a hunter named Kai James.

Augustine Kanjia

He was very popular and had married three women altogether. My grandmother, Kumba Ngehgba, was a local musician and quite popular, too. There were no recordings of her songs, but my grandmother would have gained a much wider audience in a different time.

She got lots of money, and her mates in marriage grew quite jealous of her. She had already had her four children. My mother, Hannah James, was the second among the four — after Sahr James, and before Tamba Ngainda James and Aiah James. My grandmother was a resilient woman, and quite tenacious and determined. But the jealousy in the house was evident.

Nothing seemed to work in those days, my grandmother would tell me years later. They were far from the police and there were no cars close by, either. Bangayima, one of my grandmother’s fellow wives, was at her throat. She would not go for Kumba’s singing, often creating a scene behind her back. The hatred was apparent. Bangayima would physically confront my grandmother to fight, which was quite a challenge for my grandmother because she preferred dialogue and peace with all whom she met.

Augustine’s last chapter: When things fall apart Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

A Mother’s Journey [Part 39]: The parent trap

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one, a full-fledged director of a nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January 2016 but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

We have seven family vacation blocks every year, and the February school break is one.

Normally, this is our week to drive to Washington, D.C., to enjoy the Smithsonian museums and add a little more creative education for the girls. This year, we had to take a detour.

Not only is this is our first February vacation as a full-on homeschooling family, but Evian and Brooklyn had recently been battling the flu. So we put down the books, gave the girls a break and tried to enjoy the week on a local scale.

With an abbreviated schedule of classes at The Learning Hub last week, there was extra time to spend with the family, and it was a break we all needed.

Accustomed to a full schedule, I, of course, packed the week with daily entertainment and activities. With no less than 10 outings since President’s Day, we were able to forget about D.C. and focus on enjoying our time together. But guess who has the flu now?

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The time trials, or scroll down to explore more of her story

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 33: When Things Fall Apart

Amid the struggle for a good life in Worcester, one of my children was brave to take a different direction.

Alice Hannah Kanjia is my first daughter. She was born out of wedlock when I was a young adult, and I did not know of her or meet her until several years later.

From Part 11: New Hope, More Troubles and a Gift

A longtime girlfriend had called me. My brother had given her my number during my uncle’s funeral in Gbaama, Sierra Leone. She insistently said, “I have a gift, I said, a gift. How can I send it?” Since I was in need I told her to send it by DHL. “You are still not serious as you are aging,” she responded. She became agitated and rude, which was usual of her. “OK,” she said, “I will send the gift to my sister in Freetown, and you will go pick it up from her.” …

We saw the house and moved directly to see the gift. About 20 meters from the house we saw a thin girl running toward me. She came directly to me and moved to hug Peter. It was then that I realized she was the gift I anticipated.

She looked lanky, tall, very fragile and malnourished. I saw the aunt, Elizabeth, and she handed the girl to me. She asked me for an identity before leaving. I had none, but she let us go anyway. (There was no DNA testing to prove she was my daughter. That was Africa; we accept and go on.)

Augustine Kanjia

She came in and out of our lives over the years, but as we did not feel safe anymore in The Gambia, Theresa and I were able to shepherd her through the resettlement process and help her reach America, which she did a couple of months before we arrived in October 2010.

Alice became recalcitrant after having her first son. She refused to return to school to finish Grade 12 and earn her high school diploma or equivalency. She was discouraged by how poorly she’d done before.

She is a loveable person, but she changed and we grew apart, as she saw me as a stumbling block to her dubious behaviors.

Augustine’s last chapter: To Be a Man is Not Easy Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

Martian returns home: Native-born astronaut spent 185 days on Red Planet

WORCESTER, July 20, 2069 — Worcester’s first native-born astronaut was welcomed back to her hometown yesterday with a parade and the Key to the City. Dr. Riham Ahmadi, a veterinarian, was crew member on the recent Ares 11 mission, which returned from Mars after a 22-month voyage.

The parade, featuring Unum-sponsored hovercrafts and antique internal-combustion-engined cars from the late 2010s, left the campus of WPI on Salisbury Street, and proceeded south on Main Street to City Hall.

“This is truly a great day for the city of Worcester,” said Massachusetts Gov. Amy Collins during a speech on the steps facing City Hall/Commerce Bank Plaza. “As our nation’s space program moves forward, Dr. Riham Ahmadi adds her name to the list of astronauts who light our way with their courage and scientific integrity.”

As the governor, Congressman Paul Tyson-Burgess, family members, and spectators looked on, third-term Mayor Shanique DeTorres presented Dr. Ahmadi the Petty Memorial Key to the City.

Check out more What if … Worcester and other Sun Serials here

A Mother’s Journey [Part 38]: The time trials

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one, a full-fledged director of a nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January 2016 but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

When a child is facing a learning challenge – a term I don’t like to use to describe Brooklyn’s ADHD – there are days that seem impossible. On these days, time becomes the enemy and energy becomes an underachiever.

Meetings are canceled to give more attention to Brook and her studies, and dinner is ordered from a local eatery because even making a family meal seems a bridge too far. While these days are rare, they do happen and they turn my week into a game of “catch-up.”

And that’s OK.

For me, there are no secrets to success. I believe one of the main things needed to be successful – whether it is in academics, business or in life – is an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Before attempting to conquer the world, you must understand your abilities.

Capitalizing on your strengths is how you become successful, and that is what I try to teach Brooklyn and Evian.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The growing pains, or scroll down to explore more of her story

A Mother’s Journey [Part 37]: The growing pains

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one, a full-fledged director of a nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January 2016 but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Worcester Public Library, Wayland Free Public Library and Lincoln Public Library are among the first libraries to have added The Learning Hub’s maker programs to their children’s activity calendars.

And while the growing success of The Learning Hub is one to be proud of, it comes with a revolving list of challenges. Converting an idea into a viable business sounds like the toughest part of being an entrepreneur, but as time passes, I continue to learn that keeping things afloat is harder than anyone could have told me.

Whether I am battling to add grant money to the budget to maintain enough materials for a year-long program, or passing out flyers looking for volunteers, I am, more often than not, a one-woman show trying to keep hold of all the loose ends.

I am the marketing department. I am human resources. I am the web developer. I am the teacher. I am the program coordinator. But most of all, I am the only one at the end of the day who scratches off all the things from the to-do list.

I am a big believer in being self-sufficient and relying on your own talents, but I am becoming forcefully aware that I am only one person — and that has limitations.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The model students, or scroll down to explore more of her story