Just this week I received the best words of encouragement from the ONE communication team, my husband, my forever friends in Seattle and Indiana, AND Dr. Sipho Moyo, ONE’s African Director. They all said the same thing, “be yourself!” I am guilty of placing lots of pressure on myself to speak with clarity and respect at all times. Whether it is to my kids, the teens I work with at DREAMS, or the older adults I spend time visiting. As a mom I want my words to foster positive self-esteem, as a teen council facilitator I want to inspire, and as a friend to an older adult I want them to feel respected. Now, I am traveling to Kenya and will be representing ONE, as well as sharing the stories of the women I come into contact with. I want to carry forth this task with authenticity, grace and the most effective words.
With the incredible preparation I have received from the ONE staff I should have no doubts. I am extremely familiar with the programs we advocate for, how ONE works by using your voice—not your money, the focus of our trip to educate, engage, and activate moms around the world to us their voice on behalf of the world’s poorest, and show the “living proof” that smart aid is working! So when I had the opportunity to personally interview Dr. Sipho Moyo this week I knew exactly what I wanted to ask. Dr. Moyo is a native of Zimbabwe, has lived in nine countries and describes herself as an African citizen who enjoys the privilege of working in a multi-cultural environment. As a ONE advocate I have at times heard, “we advocate for those who do not have a voice”. In my “word fetish” mind this phrase seems to go against our goal of changing the perception of Africa. In my mind I think “Africans have a voice too”. Dr. Moyo did a beautiful job of sharing her thoughts on this subject and giving me just what I needed before visiting her continent. She said, “The implications that Africans do not have a voice can be deceiving. They just may not have as much access to use their voice. There are so many efforts that Africa is making to help themselves and the support from the west can be complimented by the efforts of Africans.” Her suggestion to be “mindful” of our words was perfect! She made reference to the fact that 70% of the population is under 34 years old and this group is looking for a hand up not a hand out. I resonated with her words that there is a bigger picture of Africa that needs to be painted. Dr. Moyo clearly adds that AID is working and the good news is that our US dollar now goes farther, but there remains work to be done. Right now there is a momentum that we need to continue to build on.
Her personal words to me were to engage the people of Kenya, hear about what they are doing for themselves, and “be yourself!” I am still saying, “pinch me please”! I am a mom blogger, working at U2 concerts, interviewing Dr. Sipho Moyo, and traveling to Africa. I can only say that my heart is full of gratitude. I am preparing myself now to help paint this picture all the while being just who I am, myself!