Sunday, June 13, 2010

Inspiration From My Abuelito

From talking with remarkable individuals who have started other organizations, I've noticed that people often have more than one motivation for starting organizations. This observation may seem intuitive, since humans are multi-dimensional creatures that can be driven by several ambitions at the same time and since starting an organization is a huge, personal decision. However, for lack of space and other reasons, you might not always find out about all of these key underlying drivers just by visiting an organization's website or seeing a PowerPoint about it.

In our case, I know that Fatawu's motivations include an ambition to create positive change in his community and to "pay it forward" by giving young people in northern Ghana even more chances to succeed educationally than he's had. At some point, Fatawu may talk more about his sources of inspiration in his own words on here.

I share with Fatawu the vision of many more early educational facilities throughout northern Ghana, improved overall quality of early and primary education, and better access to school for economically-poor children. Working towards accomplishing these goals every day is part of what gets me up in the morning. And, like Fatawu, I recognize the incredible family and community support networks that helped me succeed academically, including attending high school in Switzerland and a top liberal arts college in the US. And I, too, want to pay that foward.

In addition, I draw inspiration from various family members who have worked hard to support other family members and contribute something to great people who happen to have less financial or political resources than them. My grandfather (Abuelito in Spanish), Juanleandro Garza, in particular, is one such person for me. Although a large portion of my family on my dad's side are from Monterrey, Mexico, the business capital of the country, my abuelito moved his nuclear family to a much poorer part of the country to start and become the principal of a school. Children at the school excelled, and he worked there for many years. As a retiree, he offered bilingual counseling and a friendly face to Mexican immigrants and others in a San Diego hospital. Two of the lessons I draw from the way he has lived his life are: 1) that we should seek opportunities to empower others, especially in such long-lasting ways as high-quality education and 2) we should view people - regardless of geographic background, color, etc. - with the respect and desire to serve - in an unpatronizing way - befitting our common humanity, and act accordingly.

Unfortunately, my abuelito has fallen ill with a terminal condition and may not be with us much longer. However, even though I am deeply sad about that, I'm simultaneously grateful that his legacy will live on through lessons that he has taught to others. I think Nelson Mandela's quote about inspiring others through your light applies here in spades. Thank you, Abuelito.