From Rural Tanzania to Obama Foundation Summit: Glory & Gloria

Nov 13 2019

There is nothing more joyful than witnessing the awakening and personal transformation of bright women who have overcome personal adversities. As the founder, CEO, of Asante Africa Foundation, I experienced the pinnacle of happiness this past week. Why so joyful you might ask? I am often tasked to represent the hard work and achievements of our organization. And, I do it with great pride. But it is especially meaningful when our African youth and staff get to shine by representing their struggles, learning experiences, and successes. This month, two of our very own had the unique opportunity to present their stories on a global platform. 

In November, Michelle Obama’s organization- Girls Opportunity Alliance (GOA) brought 16 young people from around the world. Representatives from Africa, Asia, South America, and the United States of America converged in Chicago to attend the Obama Foundation Summit. The summit served as a platform to collaborate and celebrate these young leaders. The young people we serve became the voices and the change makers at the global table, able to share, challenge, debate and celebrate with other young people just like themselves from around the world. 

In doing so, they learned that their doubts, fears, ideas, desires, dreams, and challenges were not so different from each other. 

The young attendees were given the opportunity to share their personal stories of unimaginable hardships, how they beat the odds, their techniques of resilience, and current programs they were engaged in. They collectively worked on challenges that each participant provided by breaking the problem into solvable pieces, thus helping and learning from each other.

Participants also had the experience of listening to iconic role models telling their truth about being vulnerable, coming from humble surroundings, growing into greatness with humility, and the desire to “pay it forward” for the next generation of children and families by serving the communities where they began. 

Michelle Obama emphasized that personal shaping happens in your home “village.” Even as you shift to the city, grow up and grow older, the village travels within you. Michelle urged them to own that and help make “home” a better place. She shared her personal story of growing up in Chicago “southside” and described how the values she learnt sitting around the kitchen table with her family helped her in the White House and continue to guide her today. This was particularly poignant given that the travelers had taken selfies in front of Michelle’s childhood home the day before. The experience of meeting Michelle was significant for these young attendees.  Something that stood out for all of the participants was Michelle’s willingness to hug and “just be in the moment” with them. They were seen and recognized as “this generation of leaders already leading from where they stand today.”

This recognition played a significant role in internalizing their own worthiness, understanding the reality of their personal power, and realizing that their voices do matter. The young leaders, now, have a responsibility to go back to their rural communities and do the same for those who will be in awe of their ‘good fortune’ of visiting the USA and meeting the Obamas.  

While these young traveling change makers came from various corners of the globe with different mother tongues, having endured different hardships, and shaped by different cultures, they were reaffirmed and acknowledged as equals, and the global community recognized the vast potential of their home communities. There is no greater gift than this. 

 Thank you Girls Opportunity Alliance (GOA) and the Obama Foundation Team.