Monday, August 29, 2011

Owning Your Power: Brown Outs

As you travel around Africa, sooner or later one of the things you will experience is a rolling brown out. So as to conserve energy, the utility company will target specific areas at specific times where it will dim the power, so as to conserve energy for later use. My experience is that we humans often do the same thing: We only have so much energy to get us through the day’s activities so we pick and choose which tasks we need to be up for, and where we can turn on auto- pilot and simply cruise without expending a lot of power.
However, there is another reason behind human brown outs that is not based upon being wise but upon fear. By turning the power down, say, in my familial relationships, I automatically dim the lights so as to not see what I do not wish to see, but, actually, have seen but am now pretending to not see. Don’t you see?

I don’t want to own my power at home because …

if I do, I won’t be able to manage the conflict and the marriage will end in disaster and it will be my fault.
Owning my power means taking responsibility for the effects of that power and I do not want to be responsible for what is happening.

I do not want to face the effects of choosing to not engage my power.
(“Passivity” is a choice, by the way.)

if I just let sleeping dogs lie, I can at least sustain the status quo.

You choose to not own your power, all the while experiencing an anxiety that screams, Engage! Engage! Bad things are about to happen!
Yes, you do see. Your anxiety tells you that you see. But you pretend not to: you avoid, you evade, you feign confusion, and you deflect.

No I don’t. (Avoidance)
I tried but it got worse. (Evade)
I wouldn’t know what to do. (Confusion)
I’ll turn the lights back on when s/he does. (Deflect)

Reality is going to win here. Whether it is on the job, at home, with a friend or someplace else, sooner or later, it hits the fan and the room smells like a toilet. There is no hope if you stay in the dark. At least if you turn the lights back on and own your power, there is a possibility of solutions and healing. Brown Outs insure defeat. And if you turn the lights back on and still experience a defeat? Well, you can, at the very least, maintain your self-respect.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Somali Refugees

You have been reading the news regarding Somalia: the fighting, the fleeing, the starving, and the dying. My friend, Derek Hammond, and I flew down from Addis Ababa to the border of Ethiopia and Somalia (Kenyan border is around 5 miles away),where so many terrified and emaciated Somalis were pouring into camps that were not ready for 2,000 people a day. 

We are here representing Colonel Doner and Children's Hunger Relief Fund. 
The plan is to find a pilot who is cool with landing in the desert, find our way to the refugees, assess the needs, and make contact with anyone who can help us with logistics involved in delivering aid and relief.

I say, “plan,” but when you don’t know anyone, have no idea what you are walking in to, and are fairly dead in the water if you can’t find a translator – “plan” is far too concrete a description.

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It’s hot. Seeing clouds of dust off in the distance, we head off in the direction of the people, donkeys and cars that must be causing the sand to fly.  First question is, “Where do we start?” We need to find someone—anyone—who can help us or at least point us in the right direction. Upon seeing a partially erected cell tower, we figured that might be a safe area to begin looking.

Sure enough, it was in the middle of UN camp. We bang on the metal door. We are given entre, but that’s it. We see some offices and go door-to-door but nada, zip, kibosh. Finally, someone tells us to wait and he will send someone who will help us with assessments.

Laura, a friendly young Brit, sits down and starts to give us the lay of the land, which is pretty much, "This has all happened so quickly we are playing catch up." Tall American gentleman walks in, “I heard an American laughing!” (He is from Seattle.) He then goes on to describe the disarray, the confusion, the fragile infrastructure, and lists the specific needs and which organizations were seeking to meet those needs.

First thing we are instructed to do is to meet the Ethiopian official in charge of overseeing the camps in this area (3 camps, one transition camp where people are checked out medically, registered, and then shuffled to larger camps. 118,000 people here, so far.) Nice guy. We need to have papers. We can’t go anywhere until we are “approved.” Blah, blah, well-meaning bureaucratic blah.

Ok. Based on the age old premise that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission, we strike out to find our way to the transition camp, about 3 miles away.

Yup. We need a translator!

Less than 3 minutes after leaving the Ethiopian official, a young man walks up to me: (In English) “I have taken a 2 hour course in management. Hire me.” So we hired him to find us transport and be our interpreter.

Somalis seeking to make a living. Kiosks
line the dusty roads coming up around
the UN Base camp.
Thousands of people, not enough tents
Make shift tents built from tree branches
blankets, and debris.
So. Do you think his parents will be
smiling when they realize where
their ration of water went!
Filia Abdiow with her family. 
Three days tekking through the
desert. The camel died. The goats died.
They arrive only to find out there is
no room ... yet. Interesting. These 
people know the west is sending money:
Where is it? Where is OUR Help? 
Hey ... bet the white guy has a food bar!
Yes. That is me, returning to the plane. I now can say I have experienced a desert storm. Sand feels like it is going to rip your skin from your arms and face!

All in all, it was a productive trip. We need to iron out a few more logistics, but in the next month or so, we shall be sending our first shipment of food: over 20 tons of it. But that won't be enough. 

Please navigate over to CHRF's web site and make a donation to help these people.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011. This includes the photos. If you want to use them write me and ask permission. If not, I will find you, and your next photo will be a mug shot!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Micro-Enterprises II, Nakuru, Kenya

    Lucy Gikonyo is a mother of four. She joined the program at the beginning of the year.  She took a loan of $100 to add stock to her business. Through the proceeds she generates from the business, she contributes a part of it to the family budget … for which she takes great pride! (Avocados for ten cents!) 

    She looks forward to growing her business to a level of a wholesaler, since she will be earning more. “This can only happen when I get sufficient capital which I believe Farming Systems Kenya (FSK) will provide,” says Lucy.

    Stephen Ochieng is married with a one-year old girl. He started with a small business of selling sugarcane near a Primary school in Ponda Mali (a slum). This was the only source of income for the family. With his first loan of $50 (used to add stock) he generated profits that helped him start a greengrocer business for his wife. The wife was happy because she was contributing to the family budget.
    Stephen and his wife are also tailors (Mrs. Ochieng, above pic in red shirt), but could not use their skills because they lacked capital.  With a loan of $150 they were able to purchase two sewing machines. He repaid this loan within a shorter period than allotted because he combined both incomes from his sugarcane business and the green grocers income.
    He then qualified for a third loan of $300, with which he started a tailoring shop where he and his wife are not only selling clothes, but is also training others. (Sorry: Stephen was off working elsewhere so no pic of him.)

    Beatrice is a wife and mother of 8 children. Because her husband recently had a stroke, she is the family’s sole provider. With a loan of $50 she started a food kiosk where she is making a profit of $4 per day. With an additional loan of $100, she expanded her space by purchasing posts and polythene, as well as some chairs and a table.

    As she paid off her second loan in only two months, she is now asking for a third loan of $200 so that she can put up a tin roof and add more seats and tables for her customers.

    The gentlemen peeling potatoes is her husband, determined to do whatever he can to make the business a success.

    Sweet bread and tea will cost you … wait for it …. Waaaaaaait … fifteen cents!

    Florence Waithaka is a dairy farmer. The income from milk sales has supported her in educating her children and for meeting her family’s basic needs.
    Currently she has 3 cows that are in calf: in the next two months they will be calving down. Each of these cows produces around 5 gallons of milk per day. With the profits she is able to generate, she can meet all of her family’s basic needs. 
    But she wants more than her basic needs met. She wants to prosper.
    Toward this end, she approached FSK for a loan of $200 so she can start a poultry business. I have no doubt that this lady will be soon graduating from “Barely Surviving” to “Prospering,” in the near future. (Florence was off working elsewhere, so I was only able to take a pic of her husband, who helps manage the dairy business.)

    Due to post-election violence of 2007, Mary Munjiru was forced to resettle in Kiammunyi. She took a loan of $50 and bought 20 indigenous chickens. Over time, the flock increased to fifty.  She sold them each at an average cost of $4-5. Through the profits she earned, she started a Kiosk outside the Nakuru General Hospital. Since the poultry project does not require much of her time, she spends most of the day at the Kiosk. She earns at least $8 per day from the Kiosk business.
    The man in the photo with me is Amos Manyara, Executive Director of FSK. I have been working in Sub-Saharan Africa for over 20 years and can say without equivocation that this man is a rare gift: educated, wise, a nuclear powered work ethic, compassionate and generous. (Come to think of it. Amos would be a rare gift anywhere else in the world!)
    Amos could be here in the States making his fortune. Of this, I have no doubt. Yet he chooses to serve his community, doing everything in his power to help create a middle class of people who are determined to turn poverty into prosperity, and to be lights shining in darkness. In other words, people like him. Amos is not simply a project partner. He is a friend.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Micro-Enterprises, Nakuru, Kenya

August 9th I had planned on the next two posts being posted over a week ago. Alas, TIA! Between flights being randomly cancelled (without notice, of course: where would the fun be if I knew in advance that I needed to totally rearrange my schedule in Ethiopia?), being too wiped out at night to write, and spending time in the Somalian region of southern Ethiopia, I am just now able to get my brain to function. 

The next two posts will cover some of our micro-enterprises in Nakuru. After this, I will write a report on Somalia ... and then, I am going to announce a brand new charity I have recently begun; Stopping Traffic, International. +

August 2 After the workshop, I wanted to visit some of the businesses we were helping out by providing micro-loans, as well as some trainings. I took Sunday off, and then headed out to see and to hear exactly how our investments were paying off!

Agnes is a single mom. When she graduated from Beauty School, her mother provided her the capital to open up her own shop. Given her skills and the care she gives her clients, she quickly became the most successful stylist in the area. Depending on the season, she often hires more stylists so her customers never have to wait too long. One day she hopes to establish her own beauty school.
With her first loan, she was able to purchase various products to sell at her salon. With these products her profits increased, helping her pay for living expenses and to place her son in a private school!

Florence is a retired primary school teacher and a mother of two. She practices mixed farming on her small piece of land. She grows vegetables, keeps a few chickens and is a renowned dairy farmer in the area.  Being a widow, she had to work extra hard to ensure that her children received the best education possible. The two are currently in the University. 
Green house technology is a new technology amongst small scale farmers here in Kenya. It is usually associated with the rich and particularly with huge flower farms owned by the Delemare family. Florence visited a friend who was practicing green house farming and was so impressed by the profits being generated that she went home and constructed her own green house.  While she told me that it was quite a challenge, she saw a profit of $500 in only 6 months. (Remember: out here in Nakuru, a family can survive on $50-60 a month!)

After her initial success, she asked FSK for a loan of $200 for a dairy cow. After repaying this loan, she received a second for $350. Adding the profits from her dairy cow, she now had $1,000 with which to construct a much larger green house, where she grows the most beautiful tomatoes that she sells to local hotels and restaurants.

The business is so successful that she has had to hire help. Plus, the neighbors saw her success and are now constructing their own green houses.

Mr. Opondo sells green maize in the retail market in Nakuru. This business has supported his family of four for the last 5 years. His wife was a stay at home mom for some years but, through the proceeds from the maize business, he started her a business– selling ‘Mali Mali’ (assorted products) like, jugs, basins, cups, bowls, beauty products, clothes, stationary, toys, and etc. The family has been pooling resources together to achieve their vision of establishing a shop to expand the Mali Mali business -- a business that seems to be doing better than the maize business! The family hopes to shift the business into town where they can get more customers.
Mr. Opondo borrowed $200 to help increase his stock. He has plans of acquiring more money to inject into his business for expansion. He told Amos (Director of FSK) that his family has known severe hunger and, at times, his children were sent home from school because he was unable to pay their fees. Now, because of the help these loans provided him and his family, that is all a memory.  

More reports on these micro-enterprises, tomorrow! 

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nakuru Training: Discovering, Developing and Deploying Your Potential

(With my incredibly competent translator, Daniel Muiruri) "You have become a famous person … so famous that people are demanding an autobiography."

"What will be title of your bio? What are the ten most significant accomplishments in your life that will be listed on the back cover of your book?"

Off they went into groups of two to help each other come up with a title. The real challenge is with the “accomplishments.” After all, many of these men and women live in a rural area where they farm small plots of land or have a grocery stand on the side of the road. They haven’t traveled, ran a marathon, or developed any cutting edge technology.

As I worked with them, giving them things they might consider, reminding them that they learned to speak Swahili at the age of three, whereas I struggle with remembering four words! 

You could almost hear the wheels turning in their brains.

Then, when everyone had completed the assignment, we brought each of them up in front of the room.

Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for coming to this book signing. We are sooo proud to introduce the best selling author AB whose new autobiography “How I Turned Poverty into Prosperity” is already on bestsellers lists everywhere. 

As you know, she has led a fascinating life…she owns her own plot of land, can read and write, has raised four wonderful children, survived civil uprisings and droughts, and is a respected group leader in her church. Please welcome Ms Aaaaaa Beeeeee!!!!

People roar, they clap, they bang their hands on their chairs. And the authors beam with pride.

Most of these people have received small micro-enterprise loans to either help them augment their business or begin a new one.

One of their greatest challenges is how life and people have continually told them that they are stupid, or “only a woman,” or not sophisticated enough to be successful, or or or or … NOT ENOUGH, NEVER WILL BE ENOUGH.

How in the world can such a mindset ever allow these people to find their way to learn and do what they need to so as to successfully operate their businesses? How do I sell my vegetables to you when I feel that I am not trading value (my corn) for value (your shillings) but asking for your mercy and charity?

By lunchtime you could already begin to sense the shift.

Three women—all farmers—approach me, and thank me for the happiest day of their lives.

“How is that?”

“We really are powerful”

Just. So.

From here I began showing them how to take this new found sense of power and value into their communications with customers. (Although one woman told me that the first place she was going to use it was with her husband!)

Each participant stood before his peers, introduced himself, told the audience what business he was in, and “Why you should buy my product.”

Monte: Now pretend to be the President of Kenya … now a Queen … now the largest land owner in Kenya. Persuaaaaade Meeeeee!

Amazing to watch, as they each began stretching the limits of what, up until now, they believed possible. 

It was a memorable day, with some very amazing people. 

My next report will be filled with photos of some of the actual businesses and owners, taken 2 days after the workshop.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

Strategies for Effective Leadership

My philosophy is that the more fun the participants
have, the easier it will be for them to learn ...
and to overcome the challenges that are being presented.

Helping each other ascertain where in the world
they want to be in 5 years, 10 years, etc. 

One of the frequent challenges for leaders of spiritual communities is to overcome the tendency for a passive spirituality. This is where we all sit around feeling spiritual, feeling close to our God, and feeling love for each other … while actually giving little or no attention to demonstrating that “love and closeness” to the world around us.

As a community, why are we here?

How are we, specifically to demonstrate our love for God, self and others to the world around us?

As the person seeking to guide the conversation toward answering these questions, I wanted to massage their brains to begin thinking new thoughts. To accomplish this, I needed to use language they were unaccustomed to.

As these men and women were all participants in the Christian Faith, they were use to hearing of being fruitful and glorifying their God. So. What did I talk about?

What will success look like, sound like, and feel like … in your particular community? If you can’t describe this in specific detail, how will you know that you are headed in the direction of your vision, and fulfilling your mission?

Five years from now, what do you want to be seeing, hearing and feeling in your community?

Five years from now, what do you want the people outside of your community to be seeing, hearing and experiencing from your community?

Now. Let’s design a strategy for accomplishing this.

We then discussed the differences between being oriented around Needs and being propelled and guided by Mission.

One of he initial push-backs was my suggestion that none of the communities being represented here were equipped to be All Things to All People. No community, however large, is.

St Paul spoke of his own mission as This One Thing I Do. “What is your community’s One Thing?”

You can’t feed the poor, care for the orphans, provide graduate level theological education for the faithful, set up medical clinics, provide micro-enterprise loans to help people start businesses, create environments conducive to attracting unbelievers to the Faith, and etc., etc., etc. You don’t have the resources to Be All Things or Do All Things. Period.

From here, the conversation took off into exploring what each individual believed he or she was passionate about accomplishing in his or her communities, and then designing strategies for communicating and accomplishing their visions.

As a trainer/facilitator, I never know what the Big Takeaway is going to be for the participants. When the two days were over and people were standing to share what was most helpful for them, one of the most oft repeated topics was my comment (not original) that HOPE WAS NOT A STRATEGY.

You accomplish what you plan on accomplishing.

If you don’t plan, someone else will … and where will that lead?
If you don’t have a strategy that you are executing daily, you are at the mercy of circumstances.

“Leaders Lead. Leaders are headed in a specific direction, setting out to attain specific outcomes. If this is not your mindset, you are not a Leader.”

It was a great two days. Can’t wait to begin receiving feedback as to what is taking place in the communities these men and women are leading!

Tomorrow, I will be training 40 men and women involved in our micro-enterprise project. “Discovering, Developing, and Deploying Your Potential … or OWNING YOUR POWER!”

Stay tuned for my report!

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Owning Your Power V: Intentionality v "Motives" -- UPDATE

Given the email I have been receiving, it appears that my use of the word  “Motive” as opposed to Intent is confusing some of my readers actually waited a day to post this blog, searching around for a more descriptive word. Should have waited a week!

See if this helps:

While Intent is a determination that guides our Power, our Life Force, I can experience feelings that take me nowhere in particular or take me somewhere contrary to my professed intentions. I used the word “motives” because it is here where so many of us delude ourselves. How so?

If I profess noble feelings – e.g., Love, Kindness, Care, Empathy, Truth-telling – in regard to my words and behaviors, then this is all that matters, correct? Using the illustrations from this post…

It doesn’t matter that the policies and regulations I am executing are creating more and more poverty. What counts, what absolves me of all wrongdoing, as well as the failure to produce my stated Intentions, is the fact that my feelings—My Motivation—are noble!

It doesn’t matter that my words and behaviors have wrecked some of my relationships. I was experiencing loving feelings while saying and doing what I did, so the wreck is not my doing, so it is not my problem.

We delude ourselves when we divorce actual outcomes from stated intentions.

In contrasting Intent and Feelings (Motives), I am asserting that 1) feelings can be dreadful guides and interpreters; and 2) at the end of the day, what matters to people who are Intending to produce a specific outcome is whether or not this is taking place. They don’t hide their failures to produce behind professions of having noble feelings. In owning their power, they own the results it is producing.

Or so I believe …

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011