The Trap of Poverty is not a requirement for life.
To any onlooker, this moment pictured here looks like one of the happiest days of my life. It was my second of two graduate school graduation ceremonies because I completed a dual master’s degree from the prestigious Seton Hall University in Public Administration; and Diplomacy and International Relations.
But, sadly it was not. My stomach was churning and my heart was racing. On one end, I had successfully completed a rigorous academic program on a full-tuition scholarship before the age of 24. But, on the other end of being a new graduate, I was a new wife and mother to a newborn – and most importantly — jobless (insert crying emoji here).
In spite of my achievements, I couldn’t find a job. It didn’t matter my connections from previous internships or applications submitted to both small and large organizations, it became very clear that I was nonexistent to any employer. I was irrelevant.
And unlike the majority of my classmates, I was in a totally different position after graduation with an enourmous amount of responsbility — one that was much bigger than a Sallie Mae student loan.
Trust me – if you are a recent graduate or about to graduate, I promise you there are far scarier things in adult life than Sallie Mae bill collectors.
For me, it was facing The Trap of Poverty.
Let me explain. But in order for me to do that, I have to take you back to the beautiful fishing village of Mankoadze, Ghana where I met some of the most amazing young people in the whole world —- some of which are pictured below.
July 2013 was a beautiful summer for many reasons.
For starters, I got married. This is not a love note — so I’ll just stop right there before I get all mushy gushy about my husband Dominique, but as you and I continue to engage together through my writings, you will learn very quickly about our special union and commitment to our life’s work. Here’s a picture of Dominique and some of our amazing students.
Now as I digressed — the second reason for an amazing July 2013 was because of our trip to the beautiful fishing village of Mankoadze, Ghana. My husband and I couldn’t afford a honeymoon, but we still managed to travel overseas because of our wedding gifts and an opportunity from my University.
As a first-year graduate student in the School of Diplomacy, I applied for and received a Nalgo Soren Scholarship to launch an educational summer program for an organization called Brighten Your World (BYW). BYW provided a feeding program to the fishing community at Mankoadze, but allowed us to create a math, English and technology based curriculum for the summer.
With the support of local volunteers, my husband and I led classes from morning to afternoon for four weeks to more than 300 students by the end of the summer. The relationships that we built and the impressions that were made on our hearts and the hearts of the children were immeasurable. Here’s a picture of most of the students representing grades Pre-K through 8th.
But, what encounter made the biggest impact on my life? This one.
One day in class, I was working with a particular young boy named Samuel. On the outside, he was clothed with what looked to me like second-hand clothing —worn and oversized. While this was the case for most children in the village, what caught my heart was his mind. He was very quiet by nature, but his ideas were loud. What I mean by loud is that his ideas were strong. He shared ideas about building fishing tools to make catching fish in the village easier and safer. This was the same boy that showed me a few days earlier a drawing of a computer keyboard and told me that he uses this piece of paper to learn to type.
Every time I interacted with Samuel, I would think to myself:
Who would know that these ideas exist in the mind of this young boy? In the mind of a young boy who’s only encouraged to go out on the boats every day to help fish to provide financial support to his family (note: many of these families have lost their financial providers ie father or mothers due to sicknesses etc.)? In the mind of a young boy whose life and all he knows starts and stops inside the village parameters of Mankoadze?
I felt both excited about his potential, but helpless about his place/position in society. I thought to myself: The Trap of Poverty (should not be) a requirement for life.
What do I mean by this?
The situation he was born into has the potential to trap him into a category of financial poverty that his mind in reality has the power to break.
Fast forward to the day of my graduation with my nine month old daughter Autumn Eve on my hip, that same exact feeling that I felt two summers prior while working with Samuel from the fishing village of Mankoadze overwhelmed me. I was excited about my potential, but helpless about my current place/position in society — jobless.
The situation I had fallen into had the potential to trap me into a category of financial poverty and add me to a statistic that my mind in reality had the power to break.
In fact, for years, that title jobless killed me. It killed my mind and spirit.
But, I quickly learned that what was “killing” my mind and spirit was not the fact that I couldn’t land a job to care for my family.
What was killing me was I felt entitled to a title. As an aspiring diplomat, I felt I had done all the work I was asked to do and I deserved a big job title. I had no job title, nothing to parade around with, let alone money at my disposal like others I saw around me. Not attaining the expectations I had of such a title was what was killing me.
Until God checked my heart and asked: Since when did helping underserved people and communities start and stop with a “job title”?
If you say you want to impact economic development (in Africa), why don’t you just do it?
I got delivered from entitlement and as a result got my power back and starting creating global impact through the
Virtual Global Consultant Group, a company I cofounded that develops and designs eCommerce systems that help generate revenue online for people, companies, and organizations; and The Digital Diplomat— currently my blog focused on sharing my perspective on economic development and public policy.
Sadly, I don’t know where Samuel is today. But, every day I’m reminded of the story of Samuel.
My encounter with Samuel has in many ways inspired my own journey to becoming The Digital Diplomat.
How you may ask? Well, while I was on government support for my first year after graduate school, it was digital technology and the power of eCommerce that allowed me to create any real form of money to provide for my family.
Digital technology helped me break free from the Trap of Poverty.
Now, its the vehicle I’m using to empower global economies in my journey to Diplomacy.
The Digital Diplomat