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Back in Africa, Part 16 – “Unexpected and Expected Blessings”

Just the Two of Us

As I mentioned in Part 1, we originally had 15 students and two faculty as part of the team when we started out in late January/early February. While it would have been nice to have a larger and committed team with us, Nancy and I both feel that we have benefited a great deal from being on the ground from start to finish. Being involved in all aspect of the program has enabled us to come up with creative and exciting ideas to make the program even better. In fact, we have already looked into making the development of SE 101 “2.0” a guided independent study course in my MBA program. Over the next few months, I will be working with Nancy to improve and expand the curriculum, based on our experiences teaching it, as well as based on our knowledge of the Kenyan business community and culture. Nancy’s vision is to “perfect” the program in Nairobi and then to adapt it for the rural areas. Who knows, perhaps this program can serve as a model for other countries in East Africa and beyond?

Graduation Day

Today was graduation day. After two long days of completing the business plans, we finally were able to celebrate all hard work over the past three weeks. I suggested last week that we should make it a cultural day as well so I asked everyone to wear traditional Kenyan clothing, if possible (I wore my traditional shirt). The ceremony was held in the church hall at my site in Kimathi. In addition to the graduates, attendees included representatives from the Ministry of Youth Affairs, ICT, past graduates, and church elders. After opening remarks from Nancy, each graduate read out their personal mission statement. It was inspiring to hear them speak passionately about faith, family, friends, community, and self-actualization. Next, Nancy and I handed out the graduation certificates and pens as each graduate came to the stage. Over the remaining part of the ceremony, some of the guest speakers gave words of encouragement and commendation for their achievement in the program. I gave the “closing” remarks – I spoke about how much Nancy and I have been inspired by their commitment to their communities, touched by the friendships we have made, and impressed by how much the students have learned and grown over the past three short weeks. I said that our role is but to be a small catalyst to unleash their potential: this is just the start – success is within them and it is up to them to pursue it. I also mentioned that joining the SE 101 program in its third year has been great timing for me because I witnessed the coming together ofthe pieces – the involvement by the Ministry of Youth Affairs, church groups, universities, and businesses to carry out the mission and vision of the program. It was personally gratifying to see all the hard work by Nancy and her previous team members pay off. I closed the ceremony by saying how I hope to return next year not only to continue building the program, but also to witness their growth as entrepreneurs.

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