I arrived safely in Great Barrington/The Berkshires yesterday around 12:40pm! It is such a great and quaint New England town. This is where W.E.B. DuBois was born and raised I believe and also where he gathered colleagues and friends and started to envision the NAACP!
Inspiring does not begin to describe where we are actually staying which is a wonderful abode offered to us for the week by a generous Penn Alum of ’87! So far, it has been a whirlwind of an experience meeting 21 other budding social entrepreneurs, with such little time to even reminisce on the Philly & Penn experience which ties us all together. Everyone really does have such amazing ideas to change the world! I rode the bus from New York with a rising junior at Penn who has already launched a nonprofit called Hope Line Designs to help fund sewing machines and fair compensation for women in India. I’m rooming with an Indian South African young woman who is at Penn for her MBA and is interested in micro-funding small businesses in South African townships versus micro-loans which she has observed people have misused for such things as teeth whitening. (Apparently teeth whitening is taken very seriously in South Africa J My other roommate is interested in developing a platform for socially responsible community-based marine and fishery enterprises in Canada! There are others interested in everything from education, healthcare, financial literacy, carbon emissions recycling and more!
So far, Scott Sherman a leader in the field has led two interesting icebreaker exercises and we’re getting deeper and deeper into our visions and products as the hours tick by! Scott Sherman (please google him), has led most of our learning and group activities thus far. He’s executive director of the Transformative Action Institute. I’ll share this mini-gem as time is limited!
At 17, after being jumped on his college campus in California due to gang initiation activities, he became committed to changing the world and inspiring others to do so through non-violence! He also committed at that time to meet the Dalai Lama, the Pope, Mother Theresa, & Desmond Tutu and did it at age 22, simply because he dared to ASK! We just completed our 2 was a crazy rope maze we went through blindfolded. We were told to find our way out and along the way Scott would yell “If you need help just raise your hand”! We stumbled through held onto each other and I’m happy to report I was perhaps the 5 out. The key to my success & escape? I raised my hand and asked for help. If there’s one gem I can leave with you guys and share about my experience it’s to dare to ASK. The worst that could happen is you get a no. I must say I’ve dared to do that before and most recently with this crowd-funding campaign you guys helped me with!
I wanted to thank you again for your generosity in helping to make this experience possible. I am already more invigorated, inspired and am confident now in fulfilling this dream of a Healthcare Management Consulting company in Liberia. After breakfast we each flew through 30 second pitches of our ideas and broke into a group of 5 to discuss them further! My group was composed of another healthcare interest idea, an educational mentoring platform idea, a latrine idea for remote and rural areas in Ghana, and a carbon sequestration intiative! By the end of the exercise not only were we thinking of ways to partner th one “out” of this rope maze that really had no way up but we all became equally as passionate about fusion innovations ideas, like mobile design stations that could be also incorporated into the mentoring initiative!
After lunch we made a list of things we wanted to achieve in the time we had here. The exercise was called "Daring Greatly". We presented this list American Idol style and then got feedback and/or encouragement.
My top 5: Paul Farmer (Partners in Health), Oprah, Bill Clinton, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey (CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). We were essentially dared to reach out to these people in the time we had here! I even got a direct connection to Bill Clinton and Raj Panjabi (a Paul Farmer disciple of Tiyatien Health one of my inspirations for healthcare work in Liberia)!
I have many many more updates but our days are jam-packed! I am unfortunately not staying the full 2 weeks. I’ll be here for only 6 days and so I’m super charged and super motivated to make the most of it! Wish me luck! I hope you guys are enjoying the rest of your summer! I also want to invite you guys to the culmination event next Friday 8/23 in NYC, there will be light refreshments amongst other amazing surprises! I included the Eventbrite invite in the email.
It would mean a lot especially in my absence if my family and friends who are aware of my idea and venture thus far could be there to represent my vision and share in some of what you’ve helped me to experience! I hope you enjoy these photos.