Challenges. Revelations. Happiness
I vividly recall the first time I entered the ELI Africa’s education center in Mon Gout back in 2011. The building was made of rock and the backyard was full of beautiful plants which, as I would later learn, were planted by the students themselves. The place immediately struck me as being friendly, welcoming; filled with laughter and smiles. The program officer had planned to meet me there to show me around and introduce me to the students. But unfortunately, the latter couldn’t make it on that day as she was sick. I didn’t realize it at that time but it was the start of a challenging, revealing and happy journey.
Admittedly, I felt completely lost on that first day. There I was, in an environment completely unknown to me with a group of teenagers whom I had never met before. But then something amazing happened. Some of the students approached me, welcomed me and started showing me around. They eventually showed me where I was supposed to run the class and they themselves gathered the other students in the class. So I started talking, timidly at first, but then I confidently delivered my first class. For one whole hour, I was totally immersed in the experience. I didn’t think about anything else and really enjoyed the time I spent with those children, sharing what I knew and at the same time learning about so many things; things which I would later realize helped me grow a lot. As from that day, I went there every week until sadly due to a lack of funding, the Mon Gout center had to close its doors.
In June 2012, I started an internship in the ELI Africa office in Calebasses where I helped with IT stuff and the 2012 ELI Fellows program. Three months later, Vikay, who was then the program officer and vice-president of the organisation, left for Hong Kong and I got the opportunity to take over his duties.
At first, I was afraid and unsure. Fear is simple. We fear what we don’t know. We are afraid of undertaking something new because the outcome is unknown. So what can we do about it? I guess we simply have to know, then we won’t fear. And the only way to know is to go forward, try our best and see how things turn out.
So going forward, I embraced my new duties as program officer and vice-president. With the help of my colleagues, we launched our educational programs in Roches Bois. Since then, ELI Africa has grown a lot and I am proud to have played a part, albeit small, in all of it and hope to continue doing so as far as I can.
Challenges. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride. It never is. As Vedant Seeam, our president, often says, “Doing good is hard”. That’s why I am always amazed when I see young volunteers, some younger than me when I joined ELI Africa, do such great things. It’s clear that many more challenges await ELI Africa in the future but I am confident that with committed and passionate volunteers, ELI Africa will be able to knock down the obstacles which it will encounter. Many times, I felt disheartened when things didn’t go well but the feeling one gets when one finally succeeds after perseverance and hard work is ineffable.
Revelations. It is easy to make judgments and come up with theories from our ivory towers. We are humans and our ego very often leads us into believing that we know more than others do and very often we don’t. We are simply wearing two different pair of shoes. One thing I learned during my journey at ELI is that there are so many things we don’t know and until we admit it, we can’t get better and grow. Getting out on the field allowed me to discover and see things which I never thought were possible. It also led me to questioning myself several times. Learning by doing is definitely the best way to learn.
Happiness. Throughout this journey, I met a lot of people who have all, in one way or another, contributed to helping me grow. When I joined ELI Africa, I was introduced to the theory of multiple intelligence. Over the years, I actually saw it in action. Each and every person is different and intelligent in his or her own way. Life would be very boring otherwise. I believe that’s ELI Africa’s strength. We are a group of people, passionate and committed, different but working together towards common goals, and where the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. We are colleagues. We are friends. We are family.
Challenges, revelation, happiness. I guess those three words pretty sum up my ELI journey. Life is a series of rooms and who we get stuck with in those rooms adds up to what our lives are. Sometimes, you have to leave a room and close the door behind you, even though I’m certain that the ELI door will always remain partially open…