Category Archives: Newsworthy

Purpose Driven Job

woman windowAuthenticity has become a buzzword in the business community. Authenticity is the new black.

But I’m discovering that in America, genuine authenticity is hard to find.

Part of my struggle since leaving Africa and returning to America has been discovering my mission here. What is my purpose?

How do I unite the lessons I’ve learned with the passions of my heart while residing in America?

But most of the job opportunities I’ve received over the past several weeks have left me dismayed.

▪ Dismayed because the goals and missions of many companies don’t align with my purpose and passion.
▪ Dismayed because the few companies with which I might align well don’t achieve alignment with their own stated goals and mission.
▪ Dismayed because the companies which tout authenticity don’t actually practice what they preach.

Yet amidst all the rubble, there seems to be a gem.

From the first time Performa Higher Education contacted me and began the recruiting process, they cast their vision…a meaningful mission: helping small, private colleges and universities become healthy

One way they do this is by ensuring student success. If students thrive, the university thrives. I was introduced to the four stages of student success: attraction, belonging, engagement, community.

In a similar manner to how a college might recruit a new student, Performa began wooing me. Before I knew what was happening, I found myself emerging through those same four stages.

1. Attraction

Please consider meeting us to discuss the opportunity at a quaint cafe not far from Milwaukee.

Caffiene and a convo? I can do that.

Over a hot cup of coffee, they inquired about my passions, interests, and goals. They helped me conceptualize how I could utilize those passions with Performa.

I was intrigued. Eager to see how this could be a mutually beneficial relationship. Attracted enough to visit thier Green Bay office the following week.

2. Belonging

Come spend a day at our office. Join us for a workshop with innovative consultant and pioneer of residential colleges, Frank Shushok.

During introductions, I was presented as Performa’s new recruit. But rather than a bystander content to watch from the sidelines, I found myself quite vocal in the consulting sessions, brainstorming ways to translate research findings into architectural solutions.

I could see myself fitting in with Performa and providing meaningful contributions to their work.

3. Engagement

Travel with us to a job site. Observe what we do. Interact with students. Offer insight and suggest a few practical design solutions.

At a reputable college in Iowa, I was introduced not as a recruit, but as a consultant. Even more, I felt like a team member. Touring the campus and chatting leisurely with students, I listened to their stories that I might speak on their behalf to resolve some of the campus issues. My mind continued to ponder concepts which would promote the goals of this college for several days following my visit.

Fully engaged, I was ready to come on board.

4. Community

Come and work for us. Use your talents at Performa and help influence the world by impacting higher education.

Before long, I had become a case example of student success.

So in just a few days I’ll be joining Performa Higher Ed as a campus planner and designer working to enhance environments and hopefully, affect lives. Ready, set, go! 

Ideally, this opportunity might merge my two worlds (Africa/America).

And I wonder, could we at Performa provide an even greater impact by sharing our knowledge and success with higher ed institutions in the developing world?

Maybe someday we’ll help institutions in Africa. Institutions with an incredible potential to produce students who desire to be transformed and in turn, will transform the world around them. Institutions like Congo Initiative’s UCBC. Maybe someday…


Is HOPE on your Christmas list?

I went over to Africa thinking that my small efforts just might change the world. Quickly I discovered that the journey was more about self-change than world-change.

Experiences along the way left frayed ends within my heart, unable to make amends with my head. And although my mind fails to reconcile the things I saw and experienced over there, I now know too much to do too little.

As I rolled paper beads with women in Congo, trained with women in Kenya, and taught sewing skills to women in Burundi, I recognized this:

Its trade, not aid, that will help bring change in Africa.

And this week, I’m spreading that message in Milwaukee.

I returned with suitcases full of handmade products from the women I worked with in East Africa. Handbags, jewelry, accessories. These items will be sold December 16-18 December 15-17 at the US Bank Center.

Come check out the products. Find some last-minute holiday gifts. By purchasing these items, you’ll be providing HOPE to women in need.

Good news: If you don’t live in Milwaukee you can still buy products online!

Bridge Over [Africa’s] Troubled Waters

Two weeks ago my journey through Africa concluded as I returned to America. Two weeks I’ve been back in the Midwest adjusting to a society of convenience, overstimulation, impersonal exchanges, and hectic living. Two weeks since I last put pen to paper in an effort to document my thoughts and feelings during this new phase of transition.

Today I muster up courage to write even though I’m still processing. Today I break the silence to tell you about some good news and bad news.

The bad news?

  1. Today 1 billion people without access to water. Clean, safe water.
  2. This week 38,000 children under age 5 will die from unsafe drinking water and unsanitary living conditions.
  3. This year African women will walk over 40 billion hours, carrying over 40lbs of water. Water which is usually still not safe to drink.

This issue violates the basic human right to clean water and sanitation.

clean water africa

photo courtesy of Living Water International:

This issue hits close to home…
Because in the village I called home, I watched my neighbors drink water from the same creek in which they washed clothes, bathed children, and dumped waste.

Because most days someone I knew was hospitalized, suffering from any number of diseases spread through unsanitary water.

Because even though I was diligent about boiling and filtering water, I still contracted typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery, among other parasitic infections. May I never again take clean water for granted.

This issue has changed me. I’m trying to stop wasting water…
Before I went to Africa, I used to take long, hot showers.

Before I went to Africa, I used to leave the faucet running while brushing my teeth.

Before I went to Africa, I used to throw clothes in the washing machine even when they weren’t visibly or smellably dirty.

The good news?

This issue can be changed. And YOU can help change it…

  1. Educate yourself. Learn the facts.
  2. Find out how much water you use and discover ways to conserve water. Calculate your water footprint. Use the Web calculator or download the iPhone app
  3. Follow San Francisco’s lead and stop drinking bottled water (1/3 of which is actually tap water).
  4. Clean up our water. Dispose of hazardous products correctly.
  5. Consider making a donation to a reputable water project like Charity: water or Living Water International.

FYI: Today is Blog Action Day, an annual event which unites bloggers worldwide. By focusing on the same issue, blogs are able to generate discussion and encourage social action. Its a wonderfully noble, forward-thinking concept, put forth by Today the global conversation is centered on water. Clean, safe water.

What’s Missing From Your Wrist?

One of these fabulous new wristlets from Amani Burundi (aka Amahoro)!

amahoro wristlet

Wristlets created by Burundian women. Available in a variety of textiles.

Burundi products aren’t yet available online. I know, I know…I’m working on it.

In the meantime, check out some of the other items from Amani Kenya online, or swing by the Amani boutique in Washington DC.

the news stories that you haven’t heard:

The news doesn’t stop. Not ever. Even if I’m out of touch, the news will still go on. Because whether or not I believe things are noteworthy, life continues to happen. And someone out there thinks they’re worth reporting on. But from time to time, stories which are newsworthy go untold.

I wish to shed light on the stories happening just outside my doorstep that don’t often get reported on…because rather than major crises, they’re more like daily experiences.

  • The news you heard: Major BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The news you didn’t hear: For decades, oil companies have exploited the Niger delta to supply 40% of all the crude oil for the United States. And between 1970 and 2000, there were more than 7,000 reported spills. In 2009 alone, Shell spilled over 14,000 tons in two major incidents. And what’s being done about this? Many of these spills are still awaiting cleanup and no significant action has been taken on Nigeria’s behalf. Sadly, the local people suffer tremendously as they are fully dependent upon their environment for drinking water, fishing, and farming.
  • The news you heard: the American economy is in a recession. And no doubt, it has taken a toll on your mental, physical, and emotional health.
  • The news you didn’t hear: The Heritage Foundation published a recent Economic Index ranking the economies of nearly 180 countries, evaluating trade freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption, among other things. Despite the recession that many of you are experiencing firsthand, the United States still ranks among the top 10 economies. Guess who scored among the 10 worst countries for economic freedom? Yep. The Democratic Republic of Congo ranked 172 out of 179 countries. Pretty sobering.
  • The news you heard: the World Cup is occurring…in an African nation, no less. Experts agree that this shows huge progress for the continent.
  • The news you didn’t hear: A large majority of Africa still lacks the ability to participate in such an event. Speculating, I’d assume that the stands are filled with more expats that nationals. But attending the event is only part of it. Millions on the continent are still without electricity, internet, newspapers, or postal services. Hence, its pretty doubtful that Africans—whose deepest love is soccer—are able to enjoy these games. They don’t have the opportunity to watch the matches, read about the final scores, analyze the lineup.
  • The news you heard: Traditional casket-makers are branching into a new market, manufacturing over-sized coffins for the obese. I can’t help but wonder how many of the deceased requiring these caskets died as a result of their obesity. In America we eat ourselves to death.
  • The news you didn’t hear: Yesterday morning, Angelia, 6 year-old girl from the surrounding UCBC community sat on my lap during chapel. Her oversized, secondhand dress was worn to shreds and missing any type of closure (buttons and zippers had long since fallen off). At the end of chapel, she leaned forward, picked up a small piece of discarded chalk from the dusty ground and began eating it. I tried my best to discourage her from eating the chalk, but her face was sullen as she explained the ache of hunger. I guess hunger makes you desperate when you wake to it each morning.

Finding Encouragement in ESL

So I recently assigned homework to my UCBC students – Write a paragraph about someone you admire. Provide supporting details to explain why this person has earned your admiration.

Bless my heart, one of the students–whom I frequently reprimand for tardiness–wrote the following:

student paragraph notebook paperSo what have I learned? Apparently I hate noses…or my students need to improve on spelling.

Conflict: Exposed

Why Your Cellphone is Fueling Congo’s War

If you’re like most people, your cellphone is never more than inches away from your body at any time. In fact, if it’s not glued to your ear then it’s attached to your hip, living in your pocket, or lost in your purse. Am I right?

Since you’re well-enough informed by now, you strive to live a more ecofriendly lifestyle, minimizing your carbon footprint and drinking fair-trade coffee. If you’re not yet living green, you’re well on your way. You feel good about the ways which you contribute to the betterment of society. You’ve seen enough movies and read enough articles about Africa to feel outraged by the violence. But did you know that your most recent electronics purchase might be financing the ruthless violence in DRCongo?

congo guard gun

photo credit: j. hubbard

Right now, DRC is touted as the World Capital of Rape, the most dangerous place on earth for women and girls. Rape has become a new weapon of warfare among the familiar and endless scene of brutality. Congo’s conflict is based upon extortion; their political system based on theft (a.k.a. “cleptocracy”). For decades, global ignorance has helped this illicit economy thrive. The overall struggle is rooted in the country’s vast supply of natural resources. It’s about controlling and profiting from the extraction of minerals including tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold.

How are you contributing to this violence? Well, these minerals are found in the technology you’re using every day: cell phones, laptops, mp3 players, DVRs, even jewelry. The minerals are extracted from mines in my region, just a few kilometers from where I live. Armed groups controlling the mines use terror and rape as a means of ensuring cheap civilian labor for the extraction of these minerals. There is no denying the link between the raging violence in eastern DRC and the multimillion-dollar trade of conflict minerals. Foreign governments and international businesses are perpetuating the corruption by purchasing minerals from this deadly supply chain.

So, what can you to do?

  1. Become informed. Educate yourself and others about the atrocities happening in Congo. Learn more about the minerals and find out which companies are involved.
  2. Demand conflict-free electronics and jewelry. Endorse the Conflict Minerals Pledge. Urge electronics companies to do the same. Visit to read the pledge and send your emails now.
  3. Don’t buy electronics you don’t need. The constant demand for new electronics only increases the amount of conflict minerals bought and sold. Recycle your old electronics to minimize the need for new mining.
  4. Contact your Representative and Senator. There are two bills before Congress which would help regulate this industry and prevent armed groups from benefiting from conflict minerals. Writing to your Congressman or Congresswoman is easy and effective. (Click on this link and Send an email to your Representatives regarding the Conflict Minerals Trade Act.)

Best and Worst Places to be a Mom

photo credit: Justin Hubbard

Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report was recently released, comparing the wellbeing of mothers and children in 173 total countries. Norway, Australia, Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark were listed as the top five countries, receiving very high scores for mothers’ and children’s health, educational and economic status.

On the other hand, DR Congo performs poorly on all fronts, ranking in the bottom five, along with Yemen, Chad, Niger, and Afghanistan, where mothers and children live in dismal conditions.

The statistics revealed in the Mothers’ Index only underscore how deep this chasm is between the top and bottom.

In DR Congo, the findings show that on average, 1 in 13 mothers die during complications associated with childbirth. One child in 5 dies before their fifth birthday, while 1 in 3 suffers from malnutrition. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I told you that nearly every mother in DR Congo is likely to suffer the death of at least one child.

local mother and her children here in Beni, DR Congo

The typical Congolese woman has less than 6 years of education and will live for a mere 49 years, earning only $0.46 for every dollar earned by her male equivalent. Furthermore, nearly 55% of the population lack access to clean, safe water.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the United States (ranking at a modest 28th). The average American woman has 16 years of formal schooling and will live to the age of 82. Only 1 in 4,400 women die from pregnancy-related causes and only 1 child in 125 will die before the age of five.

May this be a year where you celebrate motherhood in whatever country you may live.

Congo: the World Capital of Rape

A new report shows that the number of civilian rapes in eastern Congo has increase 17-fold over the past few years. Meanwhile, U.N. peacekeeping troops are preparing to leave this area.

Part of me is appalled that the U.N. would even consider withdrawing its forces considering the brutality which occurs here every day. Another part of me questions the value of their presence, considering the reports which indicate increased violence.

Read more: