Powerful words – Don’t Quit!

What a powerful message!  A pick me up on your toughest days when you want to quit but are reminded what you are doing is for a purpose bigger than your problem.  This message inspires you to stay the course.     

Thank God for the minds who put such inspiring words together.  

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Apply yourself and your efforts shall be multiplied.

Few weeks back, I had a chance encounter with a young man, Isaac. He was a great reminder of how God truly works in mysterious ways. On a late ride home, around 9pm, I stopped to pick up a lone student hitching for a ride. I never stop to pick up hitchhikers for obvious reasons, but was struck by this young man, wondering what he was doing out at this time on a school night. My whole being was saying stop and make sure he gets home safe and more importantly urge him never to hitch for a ride because it can turn out bad. I stopped the car.
Isaac stepped in. Off we went. Luckily he lived only a few minutes from home. As soon as introductions were out the way, I went in with a stern warning about hitching rides and how dangerous it can be. Isaac expressed that he too was scared but that he has taken a chance. Now it was the two of us who’d taken a chance :-). 

Isaac had an assignment and needed to access to conduct some research. He could only access internet at school. He’s studying Physics, Chemistry and Biology (PCB).  

Anyway, I asked Isaac how much internet cost and he replied, “15.000.” He needed fifteen thousand Rwandan francs to get a modem. This was a lot of money for him.  

He is not alone. There are many students in his situation.

Recalling this sad reality broke my heart especially knowing that I can easily spend 15,000 on useless things like junk food I can live without, and here was a determined young man staying at school late because but couldn’t afford internet moreover he had a laptop at home.  

Isaac’s parents are back in Nyagatare. They don’t have the means to buy him internet. My eyes welled up as we drove. I was particularly moved by his determination. 

I felt challenged because I’ve come accustomed to having Internet at my finger tips. 

And so, I reached for my wallet, which on this rare occasion had enough cash. I offered 15.000 francs to Isaac to buy a modem.  I also gave him my number and told him to call anytime he needed internet. He seemed astonished by a stranger’s generosity. We said our goodbyes. I was glad I had stopped to give him a ride.

Last week Isaac and his grandma called to say thank you and to inform me he’d been going home early since our encounter.  

This warmed my heart. All I could do was to thank God for people like this young man. Hard working people who are doing everything possible to get by, to achieve, to succeed.  

I was reminded of the Bible story of talents. Isaac is one who is investing all his efforts in his education thanks to a  government scholarship, which many dream of, and I pray to God they shall be multiply ten-fold.  

For you who have all you need and don’t know what it’s like to be without necessities here’s what you need to do: 1) thank God everyday 2) never take it for granted and 3) always be ready to give to those in need – give it forward!

Thank you Isaac for the moment of Inspiration!!!

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What does Agaciro mean to you?…Final

To me, Agaciro means treating others with dignity and supporting them in realizing their dreams.  Success is sweeter and more rewarding when it is shared, which makes us our brothers’/sisters’ keepers.  Therefore, I can’t be a stumbling block in someone’s path to success.   It is part of living a dignified happy life. 

Last week, mum hosted a Christmas lunch for 60 men and women who’ve been building for us, to a to thank them for their hard work throughout the year, and wish them a happy festive season.  All year, we’d watched this team work diligently, never once seeing a quarrel among them.  One morning after my morning run, I passed by mum’s house and heard a beautiful chorus of “What a friend we have in Jesus” in Kinyarwanda.  I asked where it was coming from and was told it was from some of the builders who arrived early to kick off the day in song and prayer for safety, good work and peace among them – this was certainly a first for us.  I digress.

After they each enjoyed a small mountain of food (what’s a party without one of these, right:-) and a cold beverage it was time end the day.   Jean Marie, the foreman, thanked his team and mum, telling her their gratitude can only be expressed with good work and their happy smiles that day.  Vincent, the engineer, also spoke to this great team made up of mostly youth, encouraging them to invest their monies wisely to grow themselves/their families.  He thanked mum for this great honor saying in his nearly 15 years of building, never once has someone hosted them to lunch, let alone say thank you in this BIG way.  He turned to his staff and thanked them for their patience and commitment, even when they were pushed to the limit.  He also apologized for any time he may have yelled at them or offended them in the course of work, saying it wasn’t his intention and was simply pushing for great results and wanting to see them succeed.  He shared his journey having started the same and has worked his way to leading construction projects through his own company, able to hire and propel others to success. This is when my eyes welled up and was reminded of the great spirit of AGACIRO.

We need more leaders like Jean Marie, Vincent and mum who ensure a friendly work environment in which everyone thrives and shows positive solidarity.  This is a great way to achieve great success.

Speaking of success, our household endeavors to have an end of year review to reflect on what went well, what was achieved and identify at least one area to do better in the next. This year was extra special because our domestic help (Claver) informed us, he added a rental apartment to his house and now has tenants.  My husband and I clapped with pride. You see, Claver has been with us since 2010 and we have watched with pride as he purchased land, build a home (long before us), marry his beautiful bride and now becoming a tenant.  What a heartwarming high note to close the year.  I can only imagine the possibilities, when we all work to ensure an environment in which we can all thrive and grow.

My hope and prayer is that we use each day as an opportunity to be vessels of what is good in our society by creating a positive environment for all of us to thrive.  We CANNOT be people who conceive the work environment in zerosum terms.  Negative competition is simply ugly and benefits no one, not even you who go out of your way to be selfish by thinking only of yourself, or sabotage growth and success for others.  It can’t possibly feel good to be the reason why someone fails, why lose sleep or deny yourself the joy which comes with success. You shouldn’t be consumed with taking someone’s job, surely, there’s plenty for everyone.  Instead, focus on doing your best.  If you are lucky to be in a position of leadership, LEAD.  Be the leader who brings the best out of the team so they produce their best work because when they shine, guess what, you shine even brighter – TRUTH.  If you are a part of the team, be a team player, only way to rise up.  Positive solidarity WINS and brings with it the best rewards.  Let’s embrace and live this in 2017 and beyond.

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What does #Agaciro Really Mean To You? Part 2…(Long Read🙈)

I previously wrote about doing what it takes to achieve results.  Continuing in the same spirit, to me Agaciro means in pursuing great results, we must create a environment conducive for success.  We therefore can’t afford to settle for less that what we, our people and future generations deserve.  We must use each day to fullfil the mission of dignity and value in all aspects of my work.  
The work of changing mind sets to transform Rwanda into a cashless is daunting and has been the most challenging but equally exciting experience of my professional life – I’m better for it.  One particular situation stands out as it tested me to the core and it is being reminded of that message “Agaciro ni ukukiha” i.e. you give your yourself value, which woke me up to doing something about it.  You see, I’d let a bad situation fester since early 2015 where I basically gave into fear of my work failing and let someone bully me.  I’ve never felt so uncomfortable or small as I did in the presence of this man, the thought of seeing him at meetings made me cringe.   

Fortunately or unfortunately another situation arose, again in a public setting.  This time I conjured up the guts to seek for a 1-on-1 discussion to get rid of this monkey on my back.  I prayed for courage as I walked into that meeting ready to raise the Agaciro flag, and the opportunity came to do just that.  As we neared the end of one of the longest 45 minutes of my life, he said “the mistake your company made was to hire a Rwandan to look after this market and your passion brings negative energy!”  I froze for a moment and then smiled.  I proceeded to thank him for this compliment, the best thing he’d said to me in a while.  I went on to tell him passion is what fuels everything I put my heart into and nothing brings more joy than knowing I’m playing a small part in shaping Rwanda’s future and I won’t settle for less than the best.  I told him without passion, I wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be employed and growing in my career, wouldn’t be a voice that never tires in advocating for a financially inclusive and cashless Rwanda and I’m not going to apologize for my passion.  I told him Rwanda was my country and I’m here to stay and relentlessly work to create an environment for our success even if it kills me, therefore he has to live with it as a guest in this country who can leave at any given moment. Finally, I told him people died for me to be here and I’d be remiss to let their sacrifice be in vain – can’t afford accept status quo nor can we give into intimidation when I know I’m doing what is right for our people/country.  Agaciro came and conquered, I was free at last.   

Ever dealt with someone who simply wouldn’t let you prosper and uses any opportunity to discredit you, question your integrity basically paralyze your mind? This was my nightmare for over a year, a real pain in more than by back side. It was ugly and everyone who knew us could tell considering there was a time we worked well together. What’s worse was that everyone who worked with him had been paralyzed in the mind having been undermined and belittled by him st one point or another. If you didn’t massage his ego, things were bad for you and there in was my dilemma. I paid a BIG price personally and professionally as my business too was impacted! 

Therefore I ask, what kind of environment are you working? Is it great? If yes, what are you doing to keep it that way growing from strength to strength? If not, why exactly isn’t it good? What/who (this may be biggest obstacle) is standing in the way? What are you doing about it?  If things aren’t going the way they should, it is our duty to correct it.  If someone is standing in the way, you do your best work with them, if they don’t cooperate, you challenge them and if they won’t listen, you go to someone they’ll listen to.  In many cases, they’ll hate and fight you for it, be prepared for the fight – it shall not be easy. Pray for courage and strength to BE the change, YOU have what it takes🙏🏾.

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Dear Youth: What does #AGACIRO mean to you? A Series – Part 1

Agaciro – dignity and value – by far has been one of the most inspiring and life changing principles emphasized by President Kagame.  He not only speaks of Agaciro but relentlessly pursues & stands up for it, EVERYDAY.  Are we doing the same? 

I’ve been reflecting on how Agaciro manifests itself in my life and thought to share in hopes we can have a discussion and inspire one another as we pursue that which brings dignity and value to our lives. 

In these series I’ll focus on one thing in no particular order. 

1. Agaciro means working for and giving my best not only for myself, but also for those I love and fellow Rwandans/Africans here today/future generations.  Goals set achieved or missed – failed for one reason or another, I give it my best! When it is all said and done, there is no regret and I rest knowing I did all I could and achieved or learned.  

For the goals you have set, personally and professionally, are you giving it your all? If not, why not? Is it something you can do or need courage walk away from? Are you content with your best effort or can you do more? 

Until next time….

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Dear Africa, Only WE can deliver for our people and continent! 

Africa shall be truly free and developed when we take full charge of our affairs.  We can’t sit back and wait for “help!” No!    Indeed,  this is our time! 

Last few weeks as I do what I do best, be an Ambassador for Rwanda and Africa’s development, I encountered the statement: “it is good to see progressive Africans and I want to “help” especially the poor people.”  Each time I corrected them, asking them for partnerships NOT pity.  Why? 

  1. Pity doesn’t transform lives – opportunities to partner for growth do. 
  2. Pity runs it’s course (people get tired and aloof – pity parties must end at some point, right?) , opportunities multiply and can lead to sustained development.
  3. Pity leads to undermining of the African, which has gone on far too long. I’ll be damned if I let anyone undermine us because of images on tv, armchair journalism, “expat only” opinions.  Good partnerships showcase the brilliance of our people & breed mutual respect.  
  4. Pity is often met with simple – greedy minds and is the reason we have been brought to our knees for decades, we chose handouts instead of progress.  Simple greedy minds have chosen to put their stomachs ahead of their own people and have basically turned our socio-economic development into a money making scheme for themselves and “help” organizations, whose staff enjoy huge salaries and perks at the expense of getting more people out of poverty! I say enough is enough already! 
  5. Pity has paralyzed many minds into waiting for “help.” We’d rather waste money on “experienced consults”instead of simply owning our issues and coming together to solve them.  We have the answers and can read up on practical examples of best practice.  After all, many of those papers end up collecting dust.  We really need to invest and especially BELIEVE in local talent to deliver – YES WE CAN.

Partnerships are a win-win, the “wait for help – i.e. Aid” mindset must end with our generation for Africa to rise up and take care of her people.  It starts with you and I. 
 

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Dear Youth: Be Heard – your future depends on it🙏🏾

You have been given a voice, use it to empower yourself and those after you.  

Last week I participated in a panel about customer service in Rwanda and highlighted importance of speaking out about bad service to ensure change.  One participant asked me to shed light on “speaking up” given that it seems many accept bad service and won’t call it out even when prompted, and it isn’t in our make up to speak up.  Left me bothered and thinking, what are doing to our children? Settling for bad service can’t be acceptable, it can and must change. 

Youth, you are majority in this country. This is probably your biggest opportunity, to take advantage of “the power of numbers” to bring about change which benefits your future and generations after.  If you experience bad service, use it as a teachable moment and correct it.  If you are blessed with a position of power/influence use it to speak up for positive changes.  You deserve THE BEST, it’s why many wake up to toil everyday for just that.  However, you are going to have to speak up until someone hears you and acts on ensuring you get good service.  

Use your voice, BE HEARD🙏🏾

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