Friday, February 20, 2015

Empowering the African Youth !

Last Thursday, I woke up at 7:30 am and my phone displayed -10°C. There is no need to tell you that I automatically heard this smooth voice saying “It is okay if you cancel everything and go back to sleep.” My bed was so comfortable and deliciously warm that I didn’t want to leave it and go out. Fortunately I thought about everything I planned for the day, the people who were counting on my presence and I finally said “Goodbye bed, see you soon.” THANKS GOD I had victory over my laziness. My day was so great that I would definitely do it again if I was asked to.

I had the immense pleasure to volunteer with Books for Africa and discover what people are doing there. So here is the short story. “Books for Africa was founded in 1988 as a non-profit organization by Tom Warth, whose dream was to ship donated books to the children of Africa. Tom’s visit to a Ugandan library, where books were almost nonexistent, inspired him to create a system for collecting discarded books from American schools, libraries, and publishers to send to Africa.”

I was very excited to be in this cold warehouse full of wonders… We sorted out books according to the subject (math, leisure, art, science…) and to the audience (elementary, middle, high schools, university). I don’t know how to explain what I was exactly feeling. I wanted to read most of the books I had on hands but despite the fact that I couldn't, I felt happy to know that someone else would be able to do so. Many people including myself, take for granted this chance that they have to learn, to travel by turning a page. According to the United States Agency for International Development, forty-six million African children have never set foot in a classroom. Moreover, 10 to 20 of those kids having the chance to go to school may have to share one textbook.

Books for Africa is the world’s largest shipper of donated books to Africa. In 2013 alone, they shipped 1.5 million books, 775 computers and 3 law libraries valued at over $22 million to 21 countries. They also shipped French-language books from Paris to Cameroon in July and to Guinea in October 2014. The books are collected at the Books For Africa warehouses in St. Paul, Minnesota and Atlanta, Georgia from individuals, book companies, publishers, schools and libraries. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. This is the reason why BFA is working to end the book famine in Africa and give the chance to millions of children to improve their lives and help realize a better future for Mama Africa.

As you can see on the next picture, there are many ways to get involved in this wonderful journey of empowering the African youth. 

I talked about the organization with one of my friends and he asked “Why are we the ones always receiving?” Of course he was wrong because other parts of the world also receive some helps in many domains. But still, it is true and sad to see that African countries depend so much of the others’ charities. Although I am grateful for this opportunity given to millions of kids, I wish that one day we won’t have to rely on exterior aid to solve our own issues. It is great to discover other places, cultures through the books but as Chimamanda NgoziAdichie said, we should not have a single story of what books are. I hope that in addition of books from other parts of the world, there will also be more African books (both leisure and academic ones) written by and about Africans that will be spread around the continent. Books are powerful so let’s use them to tell and learn our own story.

After two hours in this wonder-room, I left to bridge the gap between surplus and need of medical supplies with Medshare. I told you…I had a great day J



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Let's say something nice !

I have a friend – It seems like you will hear a lot about my friends on this blog. – So as I said I have a friend that I admire because no matter the kind of troubles he may be going through he will always lend an attentive ear to those in needs. This is the kind of friend we all want in our lives but we, ourselves, are we this kind of friend?

I am taking an online course of interpersonal communication. I was going through the second topic of the class and I learned more about the notion of self-concept. Basically, self-concept is defined as a relatively stable set of perceptions that, as individuals we hold about ourselves. The subject is really broad but what I want to talk about today is the influence we have on others’ self-concept. We have high expectations from people while we forget that others also wish we support them. Words are powerful but more than anything they are irretrievable. What we say to people may hurt them in the same way that theirs can hurt us.

You know these little jokes we make with our friends, brothers, sisters and other relatives? Although it seems like we tease each other in a friendly way, our remarks can actually create a lot of damages.  We need to know that self-concept is shaped by the comments and judgments of those around us, especially when we are young. We pick up signals from people in terms of our self-worth. They can make you feel loved, valued, and capable. Or, they can send messages that imply that you are of little or no value, inadequate and rejected. Our self-concept is a product of messages we receive throughout our life.

So while reading this chapter, I was thinking about the times someone’s words broke me down. I may have not expressed it, showed that I was hurt but it always leaves something. Of course it was then my choice to decide whether or not these words define me or to prove them wrong. The way we will handle people’s remarks will determine what we will think about ourselves because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what we believe.

Anyway, during my reading, I was prompt to blame others for what they told me. However, I suddenly realized that some people also probably think about what I have told them once or many times. I tried to think of what I could have say to someone that could have hurt him or her. It is difficult to evaluate the impact of other’s on our lives. But in the same way, we would like people to be supportive, they also want us to help them shaping healthy self-concept.

If you haven’t heard yet about Ms. Lopez of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, I invite you to learn more about her role in her scholars’ lives. We should all aspire to be a person that inspires. A person that shows to others that they are valuable. Ms. Lopez is that kind of person and by extension I invite you to discover the Facebook page Human of New York if you haven't yet.

Anyone can make a change in someone’s life. It ranges from the friend, the older brother, the parent to the teacher… As  Confucius said, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” I am definitely not an example but I will try to apply the “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” I share with you my favorite song of the moment and I wish that I will be the kind of friend whispering “Don’t give up, you are smart, you are beautiful, you are worthy, you are great.”

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Back To High School !

Remember in my lastarticle I talked about my reluctance for public speaking. I also mentioned the means I am using to get out of my comfort zone despite all my fears. Then guess what? I made a huge step (it’s huge for me) in that way. So here is the story. A week ago I received an email from an international advisor saying that the director of the International Student & Scholar Services needed an African girl to speak at her daughter’s High School. I was like “Can I do this?” and then I thought “Why not?” This was a great opportunity to improve my oral communication and presentation skills. After thinking about it for few seconds, I decided to get into the train. 

The first thing I can say after that day is that I love my country. Yes I already knew that but it was like discovering it again. I was supposed to speak to two seventh grade social studies classes about my country. There was also a graduate student from Niger who accepted to be a speaker on the occasion. I did not really know what I could speak about so I decided to take few facts I like about Cote d'Ivoire. The students of Griffin Middle School were enthusiastic and eager to learn more about Africa. I would like to share with you what I actually showed to my young audience. And additionally give you some facts I learned from my co-speaker presentation.

1-     The food is actually what I love and miss the most from Cote d’Ivoire. Alloco and attieke are definitely the best dishes in the world. 

2-     I was shocked when I saw Americans eating peanut butter with bread. We rather use it to cook a sauce and eat with rice. 

3-     Each time you eat chocolate there is at least 34.5% chance that it was made from cocoa produced in Cote d’Ivoire. 

4-     There are more than 60 tribes in Cote d’Ivoire contributing to the cultural diversity. 

5-     Michael Jackson is not only the king of the pop, he is also a prince from Krinjabo Kingdom located in…Ivory Coast of course J

6-     Even if loincloths and bazin fabric are considered as African fabrics, they are actually from other countries like Holland (wax) and Great Britain (bazin). But we still have our own local fabric like you can see on the picture. 

My brother trying to weave and some dresses made from African fabrics

7-     We recently inaugurated the third bridge of Abidjan, the economical capital but we also have a lot of Liana Bridges in the country. They are handmade and only few initiated people know how to make them. 

8-     We have the biggest religious building in the world: La Basilique Notre Dame de la Paix de Yamoussoukro. Yes, even bigger than St Peter’s basilica in Vatican.  

9-     We have a mix of both tradition and modernity but unfortunately, modernity tends to overshadow all these traditions we are supposed to be proud of. 

10- Although they gave us a lot of heartbreak when playing together, our soccer team called “The Elephants” had and has some of the greatest players in the world. 

Here are few things I learned about Niger…Thank you Bachir

1-     It is not uncommon to see a man riding a camel in the cities. There was even a  picture where we could see a camel in a Taxi. See it by yourself. 

2-     The Fulani, one tribe of Niger, claims to have the most beautiful girls of the country. I can’t blame them for that because the Fulani women are actually gorgeous. 

3-     There is a ceremony during which the Fulani men try to apply the best make up on their face in order to get the women’s attention. 

4-     It is considered an insult to refuse the tea from a Touareg (another tribe of the country). 

5-     There are so much sand in Niger that they do ski on sand. Yes you read it correctly, SAND SKI!

Although I had a great experience, I was sad to notice that there are so many things about Cote d’Ivoire that I don’t know. The most important thing I need to do is to be able to speak my hometown language before I die in chaa Allah. Then I wish I will discover more of the folklore that the country has to offer. Finally I am so glad I took part in this journey and again, getting out of your comfort zone is always rewarding!!!