Hey, folks. I don't talk much about my involvement in local organizations here in Austin because our audience is global and everyone has issues, causes, and groups they support in their own communities. I want to make a personal appeal today, however, for your help with The African Leadership Bridge (ALB) on whose Advisory Board I sit. ALB's vision is to help prepare leaders who will create an Africa in which all citizens have an opportunity to realize their potential. We are in the stretch run of our annual campaign and I'm asking the PEL community to support this great organization. I have a goal to raise $3,000 by November 7th. [Update 11/5 - we're 1/2 way there! Thanks so much to those that have donated already!]
ALB was founded by my friend Rick Reeder to help John Kidenda—a Kenyan student at the University of Texas at Austin who was struggling to find the funds to finish his degree. Money his family had budgeted for John's education had to be spent on unexpected medical bills and John was in danger of having to give up his studies halfway through his B.A. program. Rick, impressed with John's thirst for knowledge, his intelligence, and his gratitude, partnered with some colleagues to found ALB for the purpose of funding John's B.A. to completion.
As John neared graduation, Rick asked himself whether his work was done, or if he might not help other students from Africa with ambition, drive, and aptitude. Having seen what a positive impact he was able to have in John's life, he opted for the latter. Eight years later, ALB has another graduate, Yves Mafolo, and four current students (Takalani Malivha, Diana Esmat, Wambui Mburu and Ukairo Ukpai Ukairo) at UT and Oklahoma State University. The growth of the organization is not only a testament to the commitment and passion of Rick and the rest of the ALB board, ED, and volunteers, but also the outstanding talent and drive of the African students.
Simply put, there are not enough institutions of higher education on the African continent to support and educate the growing number of young students who aspire to transform their home countries. Study abroad is difficult due to cost, culture shock, and loss of the family/friend support network. ALB helps to address these issues and set up students for success by providing financial scholarships and mentoring as well as a local community on which students can rely for guidance and assistance. In exchange, students agree to meet a high level of academic and personal achievement as well as subscribe to ALB's Pay It Forward model, which requires students to give back in donations, service, and moral support, according to their capabilities, to support future students. This creates a sustainable, virtuous circle that invests students in the success of the organization and of those who follow them to the United States.
I first met Rick when we worked together at Dell. We became friends through a shared approach to our jobs and a shared set of values. Rick had just founded ALB and was serving on the board of the local Komen affiliate; I was on the board of an NGO working with offenders re-entering the Austin community. I immediately saw why ALB was needed and became a supporter. Meeting John motivated me to get involved. In addition to being one of the kindest, smartest people I know, he's a voracious learner, polymath, and relentlessly positive with unbelievable taste in music (friend him on Facebook if you want to broaden your musical horizons). Needless to say, it's mutual: he's a PEL Citizen :). To meet John is to love him. And I have had a similar experience with all of the ALB scholars. They reaffirm my belief in the human spirit and my commitment to education as a vehicle to transform lives.
With the generous assistance of the two universities through in-state tuition waivers we are able to fulfill our mission at about USD$20,000 per student per year. I'm asking for the help of the PEL community to fund higher education for future African leaders. From our current set of four students we have a goal to have 25 students in and through the program by 2025. Your donation will go to things like:
- Supplies: $300/yr
- Meals: $600/yr
- Textbooks and research materials: $1,200/yr
- Tuition and fees: $3,000/semester
My goal is to raise $3,000 for a semester's worth of tuition with the help of the PEL community. My commitment is that I will match all PEL donations made prior to our annual gala event on November 7th up to $1,000 total. Use the donate button below for a contribution of any size. If you are in or will be in Austin and want to come celebrate with us, tickets for the gala can be purchased here.
Thank you so much for helping me invest in a better world!
P.S. In case you are wondering, both our graduates are back in Africa working and contributing to their communities. Yves is working for GE in Angola and John—after getting a Master's in International Development from Harvard's Kennedy School—is consulting for Dalberg Global Advisors in his home of Kenya.