I am calling seat 33C home for the next 10 hours. And lucky me! 33D has no passenger! The luxury of it all. How simple the pleasures when I remember not to want more than I have in the moment. This is a direct flight to Amsterdam and then another direct flight to Rwanda. Only 21 hours. My shortest flight itinerary yet. As I celebrate my 9th trip to Rwanda, I am struck with the one quality that is necessary to accomplish the extraordinary: persistence.
It is not perfection, luck, great intelligence, wisdom, money, or any other quality that could be credited with the reason ordinary people accomplish the extraordinary. It is persistence. Never giving up on what matters most. Never allow the obstacles facing you to stop your progress. In the moment. In the future. In the past.
Persistence is how I got to Rwanda. And persistence is why the Itafari Foundation will celebrate its 7th anniversary this Fall. If you’ve ever wanted to work in a country and make a difference, you must be prepared to face challenges and obstacles you could never imagine. You must prepare to have your heart broken. You must suspend disbelief that others cannot find joy unless they have every electronic toy known to the western world. You must get out of your own way and be scrutinized not just for what you say you will do, but your ability to get it done and do it in a culturally sensitive fashion. You must be willing to be so tired from jet lag that you wonder if your internal clock will ever start ticking normally again. You must be willing to celebrate the smallest of victories with true joy and awareness of what you have accomplished. And you must persist in the moment when you’re not quite sure what to do next. All you know for sure is that you’ll figure it out because the cause, the people, the work is worth more than an ego that says it should all be easy.
Itafari Foundation was formed because I was asked to come to Rwanda by a woman named Rita Ngarambe. She and I had no expectation that we would become friends and we still shake our heads in wonder over how the kindness of words would turn into a lifelong friendship. But the friendship wasn’t enough. What sustained our modest beginning was a group of people in the US and Rwanda who began to dream big and caught a vision for what they could create together.
My friends, donors, some board members, and even my family do not know my friends and loved ones in Rwanda. And they donate their time, money, strategies and wisdom.
In Rwanda it is the same. Our beneficiaries, my friends, our partners…for many of them, I am the face of Itafari. For me, that is an injustice; for I am NOT Itafari but its representative. All of the office support is donated (25+ hours per week). The board members serve without compensation. Our largest donations have occurred as friends and supporters have donated or secured donations from within their circle of influence. We have had wonderful in kind donations, like the website, which is world class.
And yet we’ve only just begun. In my last blog post I mentioned that Itafari’s vision should reflect Rwanda’s Vision 2020 which is unbelievably forward thinking and successful. With my excellent math skills, I calculate we have eight more years to line up with the country’s vision for itself. As Rwanda successfully becomes less dependent on NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) like Itafari, Itafari must become more sensitive and aligned with Rwanda’s vision.
I believe running a successful NGO is exactly the same as running a for profit business. While Itafari is definitely a not FOR profit, we must not be NON profit. We must build a sustainable model that can be duplicated and replicated. It’s not all about the money, but without funds, great and necessary work cannot be accomplished.
This brings me back to my 30,000 foot theme (literally and figuratively). Persistence. I am going to Rwanda this time to work with our partners and ensure a common goal, a common focus. I sell what I believe in. I want to improve and enhance the vision Itafari has for the work we are doing so that when I ask you for donations I am clear that your decision to support our work is a wise use of your funds. That though you may not go to Rwanda, you know your funds are being used as requested. And that the stories of success I hear that come from your donations, your efforts, come back to you and amaze and delight you.
I am persistent in reaching this goal for you, our partners in Rwanda, our beneficiaries, and for myself. Join us in support of this amazing country. Read more about our programs.
- We have unsponsored children that need you – consider a monthly sponsorship.
- Join us on a trip in the Fall. Sara Oberdorf and I will once again be leading a small group – and you will meet and work with these amazing people. (details to come)
- Donate monthly and regularly to support the cost of running a not for profit. We have rent to pay, utilities, bank charges for credit cards, wire fees, printing, mailing, marketing costs, etc.
- We’re persistent in our belief that we will help to build the Kigali Parents Secondary School. If you believe in the power of education, we have naming opportunities, buy a brick that will be placed in the courtyard or make a general donation.
- Need incredibly beautiful baskets and jewelry from Rwanda? We have them! Call the office for more details.
- Hold your own Pay It Forward and invite your friends. I’ll come and speak, we’ll sell baskets, ask gently but clearly for donations, and you and your friends will be changed and empowered.
You’re still reading!? Thanks! Remember: it is not hard to change the world; it is more difficult to believe you can. It is more difficult to think you have enough to give and that whatever you give is enough. I know this is true and I appreciate anything you do to assist us.
I’ll be back in Portland on April 5th. Don’t hesitate to write, call, comment and donate. All is appreciated all makes a difference, and all of it will accomplish the extraordinary.
Vicky aka Mama Itafari