Do you ever wonder where you’ll be five years from now? Wonder what life holds (good and bad) and if you could possibly truly imagine what it will be like?
The first time I was on my way to Rwanda in 2005 I journaled. I knew I’d be doing more as I flew home from that first trip – but never did I imagine that less than five years later I’d begin my 7th trip. I SAID in those first journal entries I knew I could do more. And while more was done, the “I” became a “we”.
The time between my Women of Rwanda for World Vision event in May 2005 and my trip three weeks later in June 2005 was a world wind. After our successful event, I met within the week with two women who had heard me speak and asked if I’d consider holding a similar fundraiser when I returned.
“We’ll see” I said. And see we did. That June in Rwanda, I was struck by the resilience of a people who had suffered greatly yet often were sincerely grateful for every opportunity presented to them.
The joy I felt, the acceptance and the responsibility to do what I could to help, was never a burden. It was an honor. And in these last five years, my enthusiasm has not wavered. My fierce belief in the strength of the human spirit is not lessened.
And with those two women, Karen Freelander and Bethe McChesney (and their spouses who supported them) we dared to dream that we could raise $50,000. And from that dream the Itafari Foundation was born. Now thousands more have joined us. We have raised over $350,000 and changed lives as our lives have changed through this work.
John, my husband has been my greatest supporter – my confidant, my engineer on projects in Rwanda, the voice of reason during my most unreasonable time. My most favorite traveling companion to Rwanda. No one waits more anxiously for me to return -no one more willing to step aside and let me be “Madam Itafari”. He truly is the wind beneath my wings. Without him I am a grounded bird – (think platypus!)
My friendships in Rwanda are some of the sweetest of my life. I think it is the depth of character of these friends, our shared passion, their knowledge that I and Itafari are truly about Rwanda and what they want and need.
The women in Rwanda are magnificent. They know they have no time to play small – the stakes are too high -the needs too great. And someday, when their lives are over, while there might be regrets of what they couldn’t do, what they did was more than most women in the US that I know could even dream of doing. It is a gift that I never would have dreamed of – that these women would become my friends and that the color of our skin would not be a distraction. And together our shared dreams, fears, doubts, and hopes could create something we never could have imagined creating apart.
The men in Rwanda with whom I work, partner, laugh and share lifelong friendships are equally as impressive. I am amazed at how hard everyone in Rwanda works. And no one with whom I work, from leaders in government to the poorest of microloan recipients is waiting to have someone else make a difference in their lives. They are determined to do it – and to be even a small part of their dreams is humbling and daunting (a good day for a friend and coach!)
The children of Rwanda have made me value my kids and grandkids even more. I see in my grandchildren only possibility. I don’t know what they will do in their lives – but I believe they will live with great compassion and purpose.
My sons were forced to endure me and my ideas from the time I met them in 1980. Sometimes I would pack the holiday table with so many clients (from my days as a conservator/guardian for seniors) they would look at me – roll their eyes, and then be incredibly kind because I asked them to be. And my daughter Tara? I couldn’t ask for a more loving daughter. We met when she was 17 and I was 23 – can you imagine?! How do you thank people in your life who let you just be you? In my case, it’s by loving them every day and never forgetting the gift they gave, and continue to give to me of their support and love.
All of this comes to mind on my 7th journey to Rwanda. This 2nd leg, Newark to Brussels has such context of its greater purpose. I love the adventure of travel. Only anger and unkindness ruffle my feathers. Delays, cramped quarters, solving the impossible, tiredness, etc., are just signs I’m out of my comfort zone. And when did being in my comfort zone ever feel so comfortable to me?
I thank God for this crazy life I lead. I’m not pulled in a thousand directions, but I’m swept along in the directions I choose to go. It’s a wonderful life – full of trials and tribulations, exceeded expectations and lost opportunities. Lessons, love and laughter. Works for me.
And from all of that comes a huge amount of accomplishment and satisfaction. It is about a life well lived – one of success and significance. And each of us get to define what those terms mean in our own lives.
If you know me well, you know I challenge you to keep your eyes on your own paper – to do NOW what you want to do. Build and sail that ship at the same time!!! (Beats sitting on an island waiting for someone to rescue you.)
Less self indulgent reading can be found on the Itafari website – it’s good work – join us if you can. But most importantly, run with your dreams. If you need a rudder for the journey, coaching could be for you-I can provide it or give you some referrals. But most importantly, never give up. You matter, your dreams matter, and you can create something that will take your breath away.
Bon Voyage, and safe travels.