The Power Within Us Can Overcome Anything. #IWD2019

On this women’s day, I simply want to encourage you fellow women, with this powerful poem, Return to Love by Marianne Williamson Harper Collins.

These words were a great source of encouragement for Nelson Mandela, and may encourage you or another lady in your life, working through any obstacle.   We have ways to go to achieve equality and equity, and it requires A LOT of patience and sacrifice, especially those of us who strive to stand up for ourselves and others, without good leadership to support and encourage you.

May you find solace in these beautiful words.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

 

Return to Love  by Marianne Williamson, Harper Collins, 1992.

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True and Lasting Development Starts By Harnessing The Power of Community.

On New Year’s day, I had the privilege of joining a dear friend and his wife to visit and deliver care packages to 25 families in the children’s ward at CHUK in Rwanda. It was exactly what the heart and mind doctor ordered to start the year right.

A kind nurse, welcomed us and graciously accepted to be our guide, on what can’t be an easy task, picking who gets the care package and who doesn’t. It broke my heart that we couldn’t serve everyone on that day.

One patient spoke to our hearts most, a 9 year old boy, who was being taken care of by his 16 year old brother. They had been there since November and since family hadn’t paid for mutuelle (national insurance), their bill had ballooned to over RwF2.6 million. Their mother had been taking care of him but she too fell sick and was now admitted at Kabgayi hospital. Although, he’d been transferred to Kabgayi to continue treatment, they couldn’t leave until some arrangement was made to settle the bill.

Fact is the income of their parents is too meager to ever have a shot at paying the bill. The 16 year old had attempted to negotiate for Rwf1000 per month, but this was obviously rejected. He then raised it to 10,000 and they were now allowed to go. But, I know good and well it will take a miracle for them to get this money. Many of us, starting with me, spend RwF10,000 on a meal or something I only want, not need, and here’s family that has a long shot at getting this money, I digress. Nonetheless, they were now waiting for an ambulance to take them to Kabgayi Hospital to be reunited with mum and be closer to home. It broke my heart that they missed Christmas and the beloved “Bonane” with family. We paid the bill down significantly and hoped others would do the same. If you find it in your heart to help, reach out to me and I’ll get the details to help us clear this bill and many others.

Several things challenged me that day, thinking how many were in the same situation and how the can community help.

  1. Thought about how much money I’ve spent traveling places for holidays, when I could cheer up brothers, sisters and our children in hospitals.
  2. Thought about money I waste on things I don’t need sometimes, when brothers and sisters in the community don’t have health insurance. One outing could pay health insurance for a few families so they don’t accumulate enormous bills when emergencies arise! I thought about all the good we can do by putting some of the money we spend on wants verses needs, toward cheering up and helping our sick.
  3. I imagine how strong our society could be if each village of “the well to do” came together to help pay for health insurance and visit the sick once a month or quarter? Something like Umuganda for the sick.
  4. I imagine how beautiful Rwanda/Africa would be if “wealthier” villages adopted villages in need of help so we can grow together?!
  5. I imagine how our children would grow up with the spirit of loving and giving if private schools “adopted” sister schools with needs/resources they have in abundance?!

More thoughts and what ifs continue in my heart and mind but one thing stands out: Can we give some of the money we spend buying what we don’t need, go out and eat/drink way more than we need toward helping those in hospital, better yet preventing what gets them there in the first place?

I can only imagine how more beautiful and prosperous our communities/continent can be if we support one another, instead of waiting for government or NGO funded mostly by the generosity of people outside Africa or “tax” monies of the world’s richest.

One thing is sure, I am glad to have a new way of celebrating the festive season🙏🏾. Yes we can and should be our brothers/sisters keepers. Will you please join us in doing the same for our sick and inspiring others to do the same?

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child.

Sharing from my first ever op-Ed :-). https://www.newtimes.co.rw/opinions/it-takes-village-raise-child.

In 2007, I met a force of a woman who rejected my job application and instead chose to help change the course of my life.

This was after a few difficult years of trying to find my purpose, after years of doing work I didn’t enjoy, in a country I did not want to be in. I felt stuck in a vicious cycle of working to live and living to work.

You see, I applied to be her executive assistant because she was dynamic and known as a person to work for. So here I was ready to take on the challenge.

After weeks of engaging with her, she rejected my application and outlined her reasons why, especially because I was settling for something less than what I am capable of.

Instead she chose to help me get on the journey to today, promising to connect me to her friends at the World Bank, where she thought I belonged, when I returned to Rwanda for my first vacation since I left in 1998.

This was hope rekindled, for me, to achieve a dream to spending the rest of my days making a difference, away from behind a computer.

While in Rwanda, I was filled with all kinds of emotions, because I found a country far changed from the one I left, one I had vowed never return to.

With a front row seat, I witnessed the impact of the work my mum and aunt were doing in their social enterprise, Gahaya Links, transforming the lives of thousands of women and households in Rwanda, all the while building unity and reconciliation among Genocide widows and women whose husbands were in jail for killing their former’s husbands and children.

This experience further fueled my desire to do something that would also impact lives in Rwanda, with sights set on the greater platform, our Africa.

I couldn’t wait to return to the US, to share this experience with my new-found mentor and get started with those World Bank connections to get me back home quickly.

To my surprise, she withdrew her promise to give me connections, because as far as she was concerned, it was the easy way out. She urged me to go back to school and that Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School would be a perfect fit as I belonged in the Public Policy arena.

Of course, I thought this was crazy talk because, firstly, Ivy League for me, no – impossible? Secondly, where would I get the money from?

She told me, getting in was the hardest part, all will fall in place once I achieved that. By then, I had been out of school for some time and needed to do the GRE, which meant needing a crash course to get this done.

A dear cousin agreed to sponsor me for a 6-week GRE class and the ball was now rolling for the beginning of the rest of my life. I spent time between work reading about public policy, refreshing my math and memorising vocabulary.

For the first time in my life, I had people believe in what I was capable of and putting their time and money to help me achieve my dreams.

This community of a few good women and men made me believe that anything I dreamed of was possible.  They restored my faith in humanity after what seemed like a lifetime of haplessness.

I ended up at the best public policy analysis school in the world, Harvard Kennedy School, and the community continued to carry me through, making sure I had everything I needed to focus on school only, for two whole years.

During this experience, I encountered a great group of people who were classmates, teachers, and visitors to the school, all in pursuit of what they can do for their communities, countries and the world.

It was here that I met a great professor who played a critical role in helping me shape my thinking of how I could turn my love for technology, and desire to make a difference, into a career.

He graciously guided me through two years of school. It was my thesis, for which he was my advisor, which led me to my first job, a job that introduced me to development work.

It was there that the #CashlessRwanda fire became ignited and led me to my next job, which also introduced me to the #CashlessAfrica work. These were all beyond what I could have dreamed.

It was a community of a few that shaped and helped me build the capacity to make a difference today. Indeed, it takes a village to raise a child. That is why when opportunities to pay it forward come, I jump at them.

When Awel Uwihanganye approached me to join the LéO Africa Institute, an initiative that trains  the next generation of values-based leaders in Africa, there was no hesitation.

Looking at our continent, starting with the “top” nations, it is easy to see a dearth of leadership; one which has failed to deliver for our people because of selfishness, greed, nepotism, entitlement, all wrapped up in corruption.

I particularly love and appreciate LéO Africa’s Young and Emerging Leaders Project (YELP), one of the few fellowships on the continent nurturing new leadership.

These inspiring young people (YELPees as they call themselves) who come from all walks of life, are already working on exciting initiatives and businesses or are in the process of discovering what their purpose is.

One thing is for sure; they ALL want to see a better Africa and are ready to work to make sure we live to see the Africa we want.

This makes the work of initiatives like the LéO Africa Institute ever more important and exciting because we have an opportunity to play a small part in shaping the future of Africa’s youth today, who I am sure will lead their families, communities, nations, and our continent to greatness.

https://www.newtimes.co.rw/opinions/it-takes-village-raise-child.

Nigeria, a lesson in experience being the best teacher.

There are many opinions about Nigeria and her people, which unfortunately affect our perception of Africa’s largest economy and boy are we misinformed! I’ve learned through experience to not believe all you hear instead take time to learn more for yourself.

This #CashlessAfrica journey affords me the a great opportunity to visit 33 countries advocating for digital payments for financial inclusion, and Nigeria is where I’ve gone most for obvious reasons. I’ve had the privilege of visiting six times this year going to the vibrant Lagos, organized and laid back Abuja, chaotic Port Harcourt and the world famous (at least it must be) Aba. In spite the sometimes difficult immigration process, which varies depending on which airport you enter through, ALL the immigration officers have been welcoming. It is my hope the Government of Nigeria makes the visa process painless and all officers well informed of changes to ensure visitors have a good welcome. I say this because on numerous occasions I entered through Lagos with approval letter once, only to get to Abuja and be almost denied entry because I didn’t have an approval letter. Happy to offer a free consultation as a frequent visitor:-).

My first visit to Lagos last November was overwhelming, and I must admit it was mostly so because of all the stories I have heard. I was pleasantly surprised by the welcoming immigration, especially since I’d gone through the trouble of getting a visa approval letter before arrival, only to be told I didn’t need it. Everyone was friendly and my Rwandan passport made for good conversation.

Nigerians keep it real and it is what I appreciate most. In many a spirited conversation it is done with no hard feelings, we have a good laugh and in the end we go out and enjoy a good time. I don’t know many places where this is the case.

Nigeria gets a bad rap and many think it is a dangerous place to be. I certainly was guilty of thinking like this and was always looking over my shoulder. Now I’m not claiming it is all good, but my experience has been great! In fact on several occasions saw runners near and after midnight. Tested this my self on a happy Friday night and it was great to experience a calm Lagos. The night life is super exciting, something you should endeavor to experience when you visit.

This picture was taken at Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge way after midnight 😆.

Last but certainly NOT least, there’s Aba in Abia State, a place every African business owner in Fashion and Accessories, and really ANYTHING, should know about. You can get a FANTASTIC custom suit made in a matter of hours. Aba deserves it’s own write-up but needless to say I believe that when Africa Continent Free Trade Agreement is all said and done, most will be flying to Aba instead of outside Africa to buy consumer goods.

Be sure to put #VisitNigeria on your list of places to go soon, like me, you may be pleasantly surprised in many ways. Hope to meet you there or hear of your experience one of these days.

#CashlessAfrica “obsession remains until, well…

Last weekend someone passed a comment in a group discussion saying, “Lucy is obsessed with this cashless thing and I just don’t know why!” Someone else added,, “she sure is and I can’t understand why she won’t let it go, now 7 years and counting – Lucy, Rwanda heard you, you can stop now!” Amusing, right? I recall someone advising me to find another calling/brand as this “cashless thing” has run its course.

As usual, I smile through it because I can’t understand how people who pay easily most places they go, with their card, don’t get that I simply want the same for ALL our people, everywhere. Rwanda was only warm up for this marathon, which I intend to run to the finish line.

Here’s what I think when some of you make snarky comments, roll your eyes, put fingers in your ears and go blah blah blah, or whatever, when I utter cashless.

First, thank you for fueling the obsession :-).

Second, You have two options, GET USED to this OR Ignore.

Last but not least, one thing is sure, I shall never give until it is easy, safe and convenient for Africans everywhere to pay and be paid, just as it is for you and I.

Many of our people put in long days away from family, to earn a living and many go great lengths to keep it safe. For most of Africa, it is difficult to keep their monies safe. When they choose to keep it safe in the bank, where they can also compound with some interest, they have EVERY RIGHT to access it when and where they want it. They shouldn’t have to travel anywhere to look for a branch, agent, ATM to access their monies. And since they are getting money to pay someone – somewhere, why not get that person or place to accept digital payments to make it easy all around, you know, go cashless?

I’ll say this again. When cash is king in circulation, no one wins, except those who don’t like transparency and accountability a.k.a corruption. As Africa become cashless, there’s greater accuracy in measuring our economy instead of the guesstimates we have today, which make people think we are poor. We shall also have more money in our treasury reserves to fund development projects, be it for individuals, corporates or governments, at affordable rates, which will show Africans DO have a savings culture!

Wouldn’t you like your mortgage at under 10%, I know I would!

Wouldn’t you want to see less international loans/aid thanks to availability of funds locally saving us and generations to come from paying these for a long time? God knows I look forward to this day, and it can’t happen for a cash economy!

Therefore I say, get on this cashless train and use your voice/influence to make it happen OR get out the way. When digital payments are a way of life for many Africans, I’ll see myself out to a classroom somewhere, trust :-).

Thank you :-).

“Be Committed to Investing In YOURSELF and Playing Your Part!”

Another excerpt from one of my favorite moments with President Kagame. Rings true everyday and a principle we must maintain each day. especially you our youth!

“They called us a small failed state. But we refused to fail. We refused to be small. We are not small. Choosing not to be small has a price. You will have to spend sleepless nights; work hard and nobody will thank you for that. I am asking you to make one clear choice… being big is where we belong…”

“The moment you believe that you are better off being taught who you should be, you have lost your worth and your dignity. We want to see you strive to learn, to contribute (and) to play your part in this country because it belongs to you. You must be committed to investing in yourself and to playing your part.”

President Paul Kagame June 27th, 2017.

When you invest in yourself, you’ll do whatever it takes that is right, to be all you need to be. Success comes to those who are living for a purpose, and persistently working toward it. When you achieve success, playing your part is a natural progression, you need no reminders.

Here’s to you doing and BEING ALL you can be to achieve success.

…No one can teach us about the importance of human rights….#TBW

“Our democracy, our quest for transformation provides us with the desire, the energy to give ourselves that dignity. When we give our citizens access to health, education, food security, tools of communications…there is no basis for any accusations. No one can teach us about the importance of human rights…we know it more than anyone.”

President Kagame

If only each home owner paved their half of the street.

Africa would be far ahead in giving our children a great place to grow up.

Last weekend I was driving through a neighborhood in Accra, with BIG new houses, with expensive cars to match. However, the roads were so bad that my friend kept saying, don’t use this one, use the other many times, saying government has disappointed on the roads and drainage! I found myself telling him something I’d heard weeks back. “If only each home owner paved their half of the street.”

Weeks back, I had the pleasure of having breakfast with one of the passionate people I’ve encountered, who always challenges me at each encounter. He has the most interesting stories, which I’m not sure he knows, but always leave me thinking , don’t sit around waiting for others Lucy, you DO IT. And do it, he has on many occasions stepping up to leadership because someone has to. I use every opportunity I get to spend time with him and always leave inspired to stop complaining and continue the fight to BE the solution.

You see, years back his young son asked him about the “boreholes” on the street he encountered on his way from school. Perplexed, he realized his young son meant pot holes, which on rainy days appeared as though a borehole sent up some water, imagine that! He decided to DO something about it. That evening, he typed up and delivered a notice to all houses on the neighborhood asking them to each fill up the potholes outside around their cars with gravel stones. The following day, he was first to deliver and at the end of day, all houses had done just that. It took him by surprise, and inspired him to go a step further. He then went to the council chairman to request that he provide tar (which only government could provide) to smooth out the road. Council man didn’t mind him (like they say in these parts ☺️). What he did next was the exactly those who say, I didn’t choose to be in leadership, I needed to.

He went home and wrote to his neighbors asking them to spare an hour that week to go see the council man and boy did they turn out BIG. When they arrived at the council man’s office, his secretary tried to fend them off saying council man was busy and could not see them. As you can imagine my mentor couldn’t let that happen. He went in to call the council man and told him look outside the window to his constituents, and that they’d not leave without seeing him. Needless to say, they had tar delivered and properly leveled. The boreholes became a tarmac road in a matter of days, thanks to a CAN DO leadership mindset to mobilize and show the POWER of the people! The councilman went on to win re-election, later becoming a senator and my mentor is to thank for that.

Years later, he found himself in a similar situation, now in a new neighborhood and once again stepped up. Realizing how horrible the condition of his street was, moreover the houses had beautiful paved parking big enough to fit 10 or so cars, with the expensive cars to match, he knew exactly what to do. With the help of his son, delivered a notice to the neighborhood, asking them to pave half the road along their fence. The following day, pavers were on the road doing just that. In no time, the entire street was fully paved and soon other streets around did the same, now Lekki has the most paved streets in Lagos! Talk about inspiring leadership.

Reminded me of our Umuganda, which brings communities together once a month to tackle issues such as homes for the most vulnerable among us, neighborhood watch equipped with pick-trucks/uniforms/flashlights; street cleaners equipped bicycles to help them get around; roads; schools; malnutrition and so much more, which have been a cornerstone of Rwanda’s transformation.

Now imagine how great our Africa can be if we banded together to pave our part of the street so to speak! Our communities would have healthy children NOT suffering with malnutrition; living in under proper roofs NOT grass thatch; enjoy quality education in good schools; have great healthcare; live in safe neighborhoods and most importantly self reliant, NEVER waiting for “rescue” hand-outs in foreign aid!

There’s nothing stopping us from living our best lives! WE THE PEOPLE, not government or any authority can fix our issues or give anything until we step up to do the needful to better our lives. We have, WITHIN US, what it takes.

Will you be the one to mobilize your community to pave their part of the road? I challenge you to BE THE CHANGE, LEAD!

Money will never be enough!

Life is a beautiful journey, filled with many a bad time but even more great moments/memories. When those great moments are met with purpose, there are no words to explain how powerful and exciting life can be.

Many of us wake up each day to go work for something. My hope is that it will be to work for a purpose NOT money. Working for many, i.e chasing money, is an endless race that never end because money will NEVER be enough.

Working for and toward something bigger than yourself i.e. purpose, those hard days and especially great moments along the way, will bring meaning to your life and A LOT of satisfaction.

Live purposefully, take in every moment good or bad, all will bring great lessons or great memories. LIVE IT UP☺️

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