It’s hard to believe it was almost 4 years ago when I gave this interview to my Alma mater. But I think it speaks definitively to my approach to life and pursuing one’s purpose, passion and presence. I feel so fortunate to be able to say that 4 years later I’m living out the desires I laid out in this conversation:
Olagunju’s vision is in Africa, where he wants to help economies by working with banks or consultants who support small businesses.
“Small business is a big part of why the United States is where it is,” says Olagunju who, at 7, moved to Newark from Nigeria with his family in 1989 for more educational opportunities. “That’s something that’s lacking in developing countries around the world. Being able to create financial intermediaries that can give access to these kinds of businesses can really jump-start or sustain these kinds of economies.”
Olagunju’s interest in international connections is a theme for him. He developed the concept at the Institute for Responsible Citizenship, a summer leadership program for African-American men in college. Founder and president William Keyes is a UNC alumnus and board of visitors member. Olagunju created a plan to take a group to Ghana for an international program on scholarship, leadership and service.
His idea was inspired by Kenan-Flagler’s Global Scholars Program, in which Olagunju participated by living in a dorm and taking classes with students from business schools from around the world.
“One of the unique things about UNC is that there’s really this bent toward public service. It’s something that UNC preaches a lot,” Olagunju says.
That resonates with the self-described idealist. He wants to combine economic empowerment and the sort of social responsibility and sustainability he learned about at Kenan-Flagler.
“I’m really trying to take stock of what I’ve done thus far and how I can meet the best of both worlds for myself. One of the things that was really important to me about (the Institute for Responsible Citizenship) was the feeling every day like there was purpose to what I was doing. I want to combine that with being involved with the economic development of Africa,” Olagunju says.
Read the full interview here.
So recently, as I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing I started to ponder How did I get here? What helped me realize these dreams? Is there something transferable to be gleaned from it.
I remember a couple of key conversations that helped me in shaping my thinking about my career. One of those was from a fellow Kenan-Flagler alum…
Cheers for now,
African Leadership Academy Molds [Continents'] Next Great Thinkers:
Various countries in Africa have been in the news cycle a lot lately but not for their positivity. Regime turnover, civil wars, famine and corruption may dominate headlines but there is another side to Africa. A side that is forging ahead, determined to build generations of educated, able and pioneering men and women to help rebuild a continent still recuperating from decades are instability.
Segun Olagunju, a graduate of the Kenan-Flager School of Business, decided to take his corporate and non-profit management experience to help cultivate leaders at the African Leadership Academy, a secondary school for the continents’ outstanding young leaders.
As head of the school’s leadership department, Olagunju, 29, and his team have molded students through networking opportunities and student-run projects, which expose students to “real world” challenges.
Loop 21 sat down with Segun Olagunju to discuss his personal experience that has led him to teach Africa’s youth.
Loop 21: Can you briefly explain your background and previous experience lead you to the African Leadership Academy?
Olagunju: I studied business at [University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.] I later went on to serve as a fellow for a faith-based organization called Campus Crusade for Christ International, which reaffirmed for me my passion for the youth. From there, I chose to enter into banking and was selected into the Leadership Development Program of BB&T bank. It’s through the bank that I made my move to Washington, DC. A couple of years later, disheartened and unsatisfied, I joined the team at theInstitute for Responsible Citizenship (I4RC). It was here that I rediscovered my passion for mentorship and youth development. Soon after that I went back to my hometown to start my own small business with some of my high school friends. Though it wasn’t terribly successful, it still remains in operation today and provided a grounding experience for me. It was about four months in that I finally acknowledged that my heart was in D.C. I was fortunate to later find a job with a great mentor named Jackie Starr for whom I worked while atOperation HOPE before eventually joining African Leadership Academy.
Loop 21: Where are you from and how does that tie in with your work and mission in Africa?
Olagunju: I was born in Nigeria, but spent my grade school years on up in Delaware. I’m not sure if Delaware had much to do with anything, other than the inspiration to get away, but being a son of a Nigerian always stayed with me. It’s ultimately for the empowerment and betterment of her people that I am driven to realize through my work.
Loop 21: How are you crafting, shaping leaders at the academy?
Olagunju: We are particularly focused on a method for shaping leaders that focuses on identifying youth with existing leadership potential, placing them in an environment where by they practice leadership, and finally connecting them to peers and key networks that will help them leverage their potential into reality. I, in turn, am particularly focused on creating a curriculum and experiential experience—like none other—that will nurture young leaders of the highest integrity and launch them into their greatest potential. That is the mission of my team and department.
Loop 21: How do young Africans view America and President Barack Obama?
Olagunju: Young Africans have quite a diverse view of President Obama. It really depends on which of my students I’m speaking to at the time. For some from North Africa, they find him disingenuous and at worst hypocritical. For the East Africans they love him and consider him one of their own. In Southern Africa, young people like him, but are quite varied in their views of his politics and policies—especially as it relates to intervention into sovereign affairs. So it’s truly a gamut of perspectives, and just as important often a gamut in terms of factual knowledge of the President.
Loop 21: Can you explain your Michelle Obama encounter?
Olagunju: African Leadership Academy was fortunate to have Mrs. Obama come to view one of the sites where our young leaders practice social entrepreneurship. She visited a community center were we work with a network of other non-profits to serve the beneficiaries of an informal settlement. As director of the community service programs I was fortunate to have the opportunity to welcome her to the site and introduce her to the cute little kids who live and play at the community center.
For the full interview … click here
I met the dynamic ladies behind the vision of Campus Lounge at an executive training for entrepreneurs I taught last year. My workshop was focused on Leadership in industry. I guess I did a pretty good job, lol, cause afterwards they asked me to be a columnist for Campus Lounge’s monthly magazine called Young Movers & Shakers. More of YMS Magazine on Lead SA
Here’s my first piece in my monthly column for YMS:
In the latest issue of Young Movers and Shakers Magazine, we introduce you to two young scientists who were awarded for innovation at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. In this issue we also let you in on how we can all do our part to lead SA and we take a leadership journey to South Africa with Mr O from the African Leadership Academy. Staying on the theme of leadership we get great leadership insight from Dr Vincent Maphai of South African Breweries and Dr Cornel Malan of Xstrata.
My Leadership Journey to South Africa
As of last year I had been living in Washington, DC, capital of the United States, for almost 5 years. I had worked for a bank and two non-profits while there in “Obamaland”, as I jokingly call it; my last job there was as director of a financial literacy program that focused on teaching youth how to use money and credit wisely. I was on the edge of DC’s line, about to be priced out of the city like so many others, and then one day I received an email from a good friend about a teaching fellowship opportunity in South Africa (Tip#1: it pays off to share your dreams and goals with people who care about you. Four eyes are better than two). Immediately it piqued my interest, and after doing my due diligence I applied. I was selected, sold my stuff, donated my car, and was off pursuing my passion and purpose.
I often tell my friends that nothing compare to the hidden gem I have discovered in South Africa. This country, your country is beautiful, not simply because of its marbled malls, or towering tolls, or magnificent mansions, though this infrastructure rivals and surpasses in some cases what I’ve known in the States. Rather, I see the beauty in the pure aesthetic pleasure from the undulating hills to the looming mountains, the shark and penguin waters to the picturesque grasslands, it is undeniable the wonders you see in the land. And silently there’s a pride that wells up inside of you when you realize that even before the advent of colonization and other foreign influences this land was and has always been — stunningly spectacular. So it dawns on me, like a dull bulb that has been on the whole time but never noticed, that Africa is beautiful, that there is a real unquestionable beauty that comes from us, from our people, from our Motherland.
Yet, we at ALA believe strongly that bad leadership is the single most influential obstacle that has kept many of our communities and countries from reaching their potential in the last two generations. We believe all leaders should be agents of positive change. What will unlock this gem for the entire world to see? I believe it will be Africa’s people. Especially young people like you, who commit themselves each day to courageous acts of leadership both when it is convenient and not. I will spend some time in the coming months sharing with you how here at African Leadership Academy we approach the development of leaders.
However, first, we should tackle the issue of how to define leadership. You may think you already know what leadership is all about, but hopefully if you read enough you might learn one new thing about how you can be a leader. If I were to ask you, “What is leadership” you might respond as many of my students do by saying: it is power, or control, or influence. But at the core, leadership is as simple as being able to influencing someone to believe or act a certain way.
Now you might be saying to yourself, this Mr. O guy can’t really be too bright, because anyone can do that. Well you would be right, not so much about me not being too bright, lol, but, rather, about the notion that according to this definition anyone could lead. Tip #2 – Anyone can exert leadership anywhere at anytime at any age. You can exert leadership with your siblings, with your family, your friends, even online. Moreover, leadership is not by itself good or bad, but it is how we use our leadership that will determine whether our leadership is determined to be positive or negative. The really hard part though is being able to distinguish what good vs. bad leadership is – for instance, how could you make an evaluation of whether Julius Malema is an example of a good leader or not?
I will share some tools that might help you tackle that question in my next conversation with you.
Cheers from Jozi,
So I did an audit a couple of weeks ago to see how many hours I spent at work. It turned out that I worked 6 days and put in a little over 64 hours! I always tell y’all that I’m working harder here than I’ve ever worked before. But I’m also more proud of the fruits of my labors than ever before.
One example is a young lady by the name of Miriam from Kenya. Miriam was in my second-year Leadership & Entrepreneurship class last year. She was a quiet but very thoughtful learner. Together with her partner in crime Caroline they worked that year on a culminating project, which for them was running a social venture aimed at transforming the educational opportunities open to South African children. Every week they served at a local informal settlement area called Refilwe and worked to augment the learning curriculum with a special after-school program they had created. Miriam as part of my class had to craft mission & vision, design and implement a strategy and SMART goals, as well as manage a team of 4-6 first-year students every week.
Well Miriam ended up taking a gap year after she graduated from African Leadership Academy, and here’s what she’s doing with the skills she developed and practiced with us… she’s selling toilets in the slums of Mukuru, Kenya. So very proud of you Miriam!
Miriam Atuya has pioneered much of our Fresh Life Toilet sales process. As we approach selection of the first Fresh Life Operators, Miriam reflects on the the relationships she has built with local entrepreneurs – and the inspiration that they have given her.
As we have introduced the Fresh Life Toilet into the slums, the Sanergy sales team has met all of the challenges of culture, competition, and personal preference that typically accompany a new product launch. To respond to these potential obstacles, we had to understand the community that we were entering. To learn the area’s norms, we met with many community-based organizations and their prominent local leaders. To learn how the existing successful businesses acquired their market share, we spent countless hours with companies like M-PESA and Coca-Cola and with their local franchisees and vendors.
Ok, so there’s the Gen Y and Gen X and the Me Generation, but my new term is the Microwave Generation. Yea I said it. Weather it’s the microwaves we grew up with that made almost anything instantly edible or the micro-waves that transmitted images of perfect people, perfect places, and perfect lives; either way we have fallen into it’s death ray (cue eerie sci-fi music).
I mean, think about it, think about your peer group, those folks between 21-35. How many of them would you say see life through the microwave perspective. What is the microwave perspective: well let me break it into two observations
1) we want it now. not now, now, or just now, but now (my SA friends will get that, smile). We want a pizza not just in 30 minutes but 30 seconds: hot pockets, pizza bites, etc. We got so used to the idea that something can become great by just sticking it and allowing some special scientific formula to automatically super-impose, at the speed of light, completion to it. How many of us have thought 2 years at this company is enough to start running the dahg’on place? or that because I bought this house like Suzie told me too, i should be able to sell it in 5 years and retire off the appreciation?
That’s how come things, that make no logical or common sense, like the following exist: the electronic ab contracting belts; the shoe that exercises your body as you walk, the pill that cuts away body fat.
(There’s plenty others, make up your own list and share it in the comments section, lol).
Yet as I thought about it some more, the common phrase that came to mind was “use this _____ to do “X” so that you don’t have to”. And the idea “you don’t have to” is such a farscial one. Is there really any sensible way to lose weight and keep it off other than a healthy lifestyle and exercise that you consciously choose.
2) the other micro-waves that come from our televisions. This micro-waves have had another effect on us, it is made us simply accustomed to the end products. We see, and more importantly often only remember, the pristine and seemingly perfect products, relationships, lives, careers, and stories portrayed on the tele. So, like me, ya’ll all probably thought every marriage should look like Claire and Heathcliff’s (don’t lie)? or if I just stick my tongue out I could be as clutch as MJ?
These two elements are what have shaped our microwave mentality. So we see Oprah and think, oh, she simply talks nice to people and she’s so rich and famous, when in reality there was no microwave for Oprah — she had to do it, with a lot of effort, work, and some good fortune. There is no microwave or “scientifically formulated” product for healthy relationships that lead to healthy marriage — you have to do it. Youcan’t depend on a Nike or Gatorade to make you like Michael — you gotta do it.
The sooner we, the microwave generation, learn how to cook from scratch then we will realize the best and most satisfying meal is always — home cooking.
I once heard it said that every boy should own a dog, because it teaches them the discipline of how to care for a dependent. Well I wonder, if every lonely heart should get a dog, too, so we can learn what it means to love and be loved.
Ever since I met this cute beagle named Max, I’m so excited I can’t stop thinking about it: the idea of my very own dog.
But what should I get. I’ve always wanted a Jack Russel terrier, but I hear their so full of energy and a brother don’t run like he used to (still fast enough to beat Alvi, though, hehe):
Or it was suggested to me that I consider a Corgy, but they look to chubby and prissy for my liking, after all the Queen of England has a pair:
Or maybe I get a bigger dog whose presence will dominate, and project my need to compensate for my weaknesses in life (ooops, did i say that, no offense to fellas with big dogs, hehe):
Ah, I don’t know maybe it’s best I just go to the shelter in Joburg and see which dog comes to me first,
What kind of dog, do you think I should get? Keep in mind I live in an apartment in a gated complex with little to no grass.
….so I was thinking what really got me on this kick about dogs. And the more I think about it the more I realize, you know what, brotha is almost thirty-something. And for the first time my career/occupation seems destined from more than 2 years. I feel like I’ve found a work worth sticking around for, and with that I have, really for the first time, I have a sense of settling down.
Yes, i said it “settling down”.
It’s odd because I was just telling my good friend Moose how eerie it seems to look around and see all our friends being grown-ups. Buying cars, pushing strollers, working on home DIY projects. But it’s true, and I’m starting to feel that way too. Some say that at thirty you just feel ok with you are in this life, so maybe it’s the onset of that. But whatever it is, I find myself wanting to have a reason to come home early for work, a reason to skip the late night dinner and cocktails and just retire to the crib with a familiar and cozy companion. That’s what a dog will provide.
Yet, if I even go further, it’s also me telling myself that I can’t buy into the “microvave generation” fallacy (more on this in a future post). If I want day want to be a great father and a husband — which I do — then it’s not just gonna happen because I say so. Plus, honestly, the way I’ve become accustomed to living as a semi-workaholic, semi-starved, bachelor won’t cut it with kids and a wife. So getting a dog is also my way of practicing those habits now, for a future soon to come — I hope.
So again, I ask what would be the right dog for me? Considering that I’m not yet fully acclimated to the habit of returning home from work at decent hours. Or that I often can forget that I’m at a friends house for hours on end. What kind of dog, could handle that learning curve, and still love and behave.
By the way, as I right this I wonder how much one can tell about a person’s needs in a relationship by their choice of dog/pet??
Ahhh…Aspen. Where the air is crisp, the mountains high, the snow packed, and the houses average a cool twenty-five mil. I know you’re asking what I was doing there, but you never know I might be ballin’ in secret. (Jus’ saying you never know).
Anywho after 38 hours of traveling, count ‘em thirty-eight, from Johannesburg to London to Chicago to Denver and finally Aspen, I and 5 of my students from the Academy finally landed at 1 a.m. in Aspen. So it wasn’t until the next morning that we got the full picture of just how majestic our surroundings were (see my pic).
After taking in the breath-taking beauty of land, we then prepared ourselves to get down to the business for our presence: the Bezos Scholars Program. Each of us had been selected as Scholars of the Bezos Family Foundation and the Aspen Institute.
Reflections on Aspen
When I look back on my time at Aspen, one word keeps coming to mind – exposure. I can’t help but think back to the fact that I was flying with five incredible young people from vastly different backgrounds, all heading to the US for the first time. Their exposure to that unique opportunity placed them in rare company amongst their peers back home. I still smile, when I think back to the day Annie, a super-friendly Aspen local and, hopefully, future ALA teaching fellow, took us on the Gondola ride atop Mount Aspen. It was there that Esther said “oh my gosh it’s so cold” that was here response to touching snow for the first time. Meanwhile, I stood there silently marveling at the majestic mountains, moved by the great vastness of it all. That was exposure beyond even the thought leaders we sat down with at the Festival, which included Fmr Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Justice Stephen Breyer, David Brooks, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, Tiffany Shlain, Mark Bezos, and more.
Attending the Aspen Ideas Festival, I was also struck by the great pains and lengths individuals and organizations like the Bezos Scholars Program and the Aspen Institute have gone to expose “others” to ideas. Why were ideas so important for us to be exposed to? This investment for the sake of ideas should not be overlooked, in fact, for me, it all the more emblazoned in my mind just how powerful the power of ideas. That no matter the action, change, or innovation desired it is first spurred by an idea. And here we were young and well, let’s just say less young, alike being spurred on toward action by the myriad of ideas set before us.
Again, this was crystallized in an unexpected conversation I had with one of the Scholars, who matter-of-factly asked me if the book store gift was in cash. Why, did it matter, I wondered. Then it became clear– one hundred dollars in cash could go along way in his community and he would rather take it back to improve their lives. That hurt my heart to the core, yet it signalled two significant thoughts in my mind:
First, I had to convince him that the power of the ideas he (and his peers) could derive from these books could far outweigh, in the long-term, the impact of just $100 today (at least that is our hope). That it was an investment in the mind, which few others would have the opportunity to be blessed with. Though, this was hard to convince even myself of, as I stood there looking at the eagerness and sincere concern he had written on his face.
Secondly, I recognized that clear conviction that I and this Scholar owed it to ourselves and to those, for whom the generosities of this experience would mean life and death, to devote ourselves to leveraging this new knowledge for maximum good. That is the charge, for me, for each of us. I must soberly take on the responsibility to make good and multiply the effect with the power of ideas. Let it Ripple!
Again thanks to the Bezos Family Foundation for their considerable generosity but also for their expectation that we do meaningful work with that to which we’ve been exposed. Thanks to all the scholars young and not so young, smile, for your kind words, encouragement, and high-level of engagement it made the work enjoyable. And thanks to the people of Aspen, the friendliest and most welcoming place I’ve been in the US not in North Carolina, smile.
Contrary to popular belief, I do not live a life of lackadaisical freedom, unencumbered by every aspect of student life, from community hours to classes. Although I probably sleep about two hours more than the average ALA student every night, I also take six subjects and work as an assistant in the Leadership and Entrepreneurship Office. For example, I’ve researched Corporate Social Responsibility in Africa, catalogued some of the office’s library, and gathered information on community service sites. But enough about me. The best part of working in the L&E office is the L&E faculty, who I will now attempt to describe. Here’s the lineup (click to enlarge, as always): This is the beginning of my student Liam’s blog about his interpreation of myself and my Leadership and Entrepreneurship colleagues. Hillarious stuff, but also quite substantive. You will realize that once you take that leap to pursue your purpose doesn’t mean everything will be easy and breezy. His characterization of one of my teaching moments was the encouragement that kept me through a very difficult first year of teaching: ”A few days ago, he told Lailat to “find the words” when she was struggling to explain something in English, and he waited while she did. The class ended up clapping for her after she made her point elegantly, and it was one of the best teaching moments I have ever seen.” You know the guy is good, because the day he posted it, a number of faculty and staff room were asking if I had seen it. Liam is headed to Berkely to study architecture, but I often wonder, Liam, if your greatest gift to the Africa wont be using your writing as the architect of a new idea and image of Africa. Read the rest of Liam’s post here
So thanks to a good friend, Tayo, I was introduced to Mawi Asegdom this summer. Mawi, in many ways, is a maverick of the Leadership Education space. From a very early age he has taken on the mantle of leadership and has succeeden in a space that few African nor less than forty-somethings have. How do I know he’s good? Well, Oprah…duh! The Oprah factor, is better than a microwave: but seriously when Oprah says she found you to be inspirational to her then that’s just dope. Mawi has also written over a dozen books and his prominent work Of Beetles and Angels is tells his story from a refugee camp in Ehtiopia to graduate of Harvard.
Mawi, has traveled and spoken all over. He has also applied his knowledge and passion to creating and educational system for developing leadership in youth. He calls it Mental Karate. In his, course students can matriculate through different color belts just like in actual Karate. Not only is Mawi a black belt his is a Jigna…you’ll have to read more on his site www.mawiasegdom.com
check out the interview below…
Interview with The African Leadership Academy
by MAWI on AUGUST 12, 2011
The African Leadership Academy (ALA) is widely considered one of the most inspiring schools in the world. Opened in 2008 in South Africa, ALA brings together Africa’s most talented teenaged students and challenges them to solve Africa’s most intractable problems. Here is an interview I was lucky enough to conduct with Segun Olagunju, ALA’s Head of Leadership.
How has ALA inspired so many people around the globe?
To me, there are several elements to the inspirational momentum behind the Academy. Most important, I believe is the boldness in our vision; that for once someone explicitly states that there is an expectation of creating a prosperous and peaceful Africa. There’s no two ways about that. And I believe people love the hope that is engendered in that declaration.
Secondly, I believe the support we receive is also derived from the fact that there is a clear focus on creating a “home-grown” approach. The Academy was founded by Africans, is operated by Africans, and seeks to empower a new generation of Africans to be their own agents of positive change. For me, those are the two elements that stand out as the common inspiration among the people I meet.
Can you tell us about an ALA student who makes you particularly proud?
I am proud of so many of our young people. I am particularly proud of Abdramane Diabate. He is a young man from humble upbringing in Mali. He was raised in an educational system where French and/or Arabic were the only languages of instruction and communication. He and his other Francaphone peers struggled mightily at first, yet within just 9 months, he now speaks English proficiently (enough to even perform jokes, which he translates from French to English, in front of strangers). But more rewarding to me is the absolute courage and compassion he demonstrates every day while overcoming such odds. He received our highest recognition of leadership this past term for a First Year, and this summer was selected to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival as a Bezos Scholar at the prestigious Aspen Institute by the Bezos Family Foundation.
How do you and ALA define leadership?
At ALA we challenge our young leaders to consider three definitions of leadership: effective, ethical, and toxic. Effective meaning those who are able to accomplish tasks and objectives, ethical being those who do the right thing, and toxic those whose leadership leaves a negative legacy/outcome. Ultimately, we seek to shape young people who will act consistently to become ethical and effective leaders. We believe it is time for a generation of leaders on our continent who esteem solutions creation and participatory leadership.
Why is entrepreneurship such an important part of ALA’s curriculum?
Among our team here, we often refer to what we do as Entrepreneurial Leadership. The entrepreneurial mindset is such a powerful tool in overcoming the challenges that face the continent. It is more than just writing business plans and a profit-motive. Rather, at its best it is about perseverance, creativity, learned optimism, and meeting needs. We employ a Human-Centered-Design approach to our education of these developing leaders, because we believe that for far too long as Africans it has been easy to simply complain about the problems that face our communities. Instead, for the future, what we need are emerging leaders who tackle challenges with an opportunity mindset and are relentless in finding solutions that meet the needs of their target audience and benefit society. Entrepreneurs have a wonderful ability to overcome and innovate around existing obstacles and impediments in order to achieve their goals. We want that to be characteristic of the next generation of leaders across Africa.
The year is 2020. How will the world be better as a result of ALA and its students? (Please be as specific as possible.)
For me, personally, I believe the world will be a better place because Africa, her countries, and her people will be a growing force for innovation, collaboration, and action in the world. I can envision the White Fingers Peace Initiative (started by one of our graduates) bringing widespread peace among the diverse factions of the Kenyan youth. I can see Rabat Entrepreneurial Challenge (created and run by a team of our graduates) funding a number of successful small to medium size business ideas that create new jobs for the young people of Morocco. Less tangibly, I see a growing sentiment of hope and a sense of empowerment permeating throughout the youth of the continent: that they have the power to catalyze solutions that bring about real change in their communities and countries.
What can people do to support and contribute to ALA?
We are still such a young organization; we need the support of old and new friends alike. A couple of simple ways to help is to join one of our growing Chapter clubs in cities around the world. Through these chapters you can act as a host family and/or mentor for our alumni who are studying or working in your area. Secondly, you can give financially. Every amount counts towards creating a world-class investment in the future leaders of the continent.
Wow! What a year it has been. I already feel like a much different person than I was just a year an half ago when I was living in hoods of NE DC. Admittedly, some of that difference is both good and bad. As I often tell my friend Asa or PaPa I’ve never worked so much in my life. It has been the most exhausting year of my life. Not simply because of the physical hours committed, which have been 60-70hrs, 6-days a week; but also because of the emotionally taxing nature of the work we do. Then also is the reality of moving some 8,000 kms away from any and everything I’ve known for the last 20-odd years makes for interesting stressors.
When I look back on 2011 I think about the family and friends I left behind in the States. The wonderful network of family and friends that stretches from Orlando, Florida to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and of course to DC-MD-VA areas. I have missed you all at some point or another along this journey of mine. Yet in many ways it is the thought of you all that has continued to motivate me to pursue the daring dreams that have dominated my spirit for the last 7-8 years. I do truly hope that all of you will take some time to come and visit me at some point wherever I may be in Africa in the coming years.
But then as providence always seems to bestow on me, I was blessed to find a new network of friends and family. Can’t tell you how much the people I work with have engrafted themselves into my life. Often people always ask how come we at ALA always seem to hang out together, and the trite answer is that we work the same hours, but honestly I love spending time with these folks. They are some of the most intelligent, committed, considerate, and caring individuals I have ever had the pleasure to meet and I, without a shadow of a doubt, consider them to be the young leaders who will change the continent in the short term.
And of course the special young people that I have had the great privelige to meet, teach, and journey with. It was a wonderful experience to be inaugurated into the tradition of teaching with such excellent and committed students. I was so proud to see my first group of students graduate last year and I wait with much anticipation for the ones whom I have spent two years with. I’m especially anxious to see my 6 amazing mentees at graduation, don’t know if I will be able to keep it together. This and many more special moments I look forward to in 2012.
My hope is to be the On-Purpose Person that I desire to be in not only my vocational life, but in my spiritual, family, health, financial, and intellectual life.
I wish the same for you in 2012. Know thyself!
Happy Holidays and Cheers from Jozi,