AFRICA’S CITIZEN OF THE WORLD.

The Internet and newspapers are awash with glowing tributes to the former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan . I for one will always remember and thank him for having inspired the youth especially those from the Developing countries to understand and appreciate that everything is possible if you believe in yourself and are prepared to work hard. Kofi Annan was the seventh UN Secretary General but the first African south of the Sahara to head this prestigious Organisation. He replaced Boutros Boutros Ghali of Egypt in 1997.
This trail blazer was born in an aristocratic family in Kumasi Ghana, studied in USA and Switzerland was then recruited as a budget officer in the World Health Organisation in 1962.

He rose through the ranks to become the Secretary General of the UN and served in this capacity for two terms. He considered it a great honour to serve the world from 1997 to 2006. He was considered as an international diplomat, a citizen of the world but referred to himself as ‘ a stubborn optimist’.
He served during a period that had numerous challenges among them the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the September 11 attacks, the war in Iraq, all demanding for critical solutions .
He and his team at the UN worked hard to create a more equal and peaceful world. He shared the 2001 Nobel Peace award with the UN Organisation.
He was in the Peacekeeping Operations during the 1994 Rwanda genocide. After the UN had pulled out its peace keepers, over 800,000 people were brutally murdered. This unfortunate tragedy weighed on his conscience for the rest of his life.
All in all, he was up to the task and made us feel extremely proud to be African. Many young Africans were empowered and wanted to be like him. Role models like him, instantly accomplish what laws and policies on paper take years to achieve. The UN itself has been struggling to meet the 30% quota for women employment in the UN for the last thirty years! Available records show that the closest it has ever come to it was in 2012 with 24% of women at senior management level.

As a medical doctor, I cannot thank him enough for having set up the HIV/AIDS Global Fund. Through it , poor countries like mine were able offer Treatment and run better Prevention Programmes for its people. His team also set up the proposals for the Millennium Development Goals in the eight key areas of poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, the environment and global partnership. These time bound targets were commissioned by the UN Secretary General in 2002.
The Millennium Development Goals (2005-2015) were set up to alleviate extreme poverty in the world. They impacted the African continent and triggered some beneficial changes that improved ordinary people’s lives.
As an East African, I remember him and thank him for his mediation between the two parties of the conflict after the 2007/2008 post –election violence in Kenya. It could have erupted into something more sinister for the whole region.

While researching for material for this post , I learned that Kofi Annan was a great athlete at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. It got me thinking that after the firm foundation at home in Ghana, he developed the characteristics of all great athletes namely: drive, discipline, competitiveness, self-confidence, aggressiveness, commitment, determination, adaptability and good time management. He must have brought these characteristics to the UN job and they helped him serve with honour.
Among the many tributes was that of Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland. She had worked with him earlier on at the UN and later on they were both members of the Elders an international Organisation founded by the late Nelson Mandela to promote peace and human rights in the world. She described Kofi Annan as a gentle gentleman who was committed to creating a more peaceful world.
Last July, they were together in South Africa to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s centenary. Though Kofi Annan was unwell and had been advised to go back to Switzerland for treatment, they proceeded to Zimbabwe a few days before the July 30th general elections. He was being driven by his relentless pursuit for peace and justice.
To the shock of many, shortly after, he breathed his last in Switzerland on 18th August 2018.

Ghana declared one week’s mourning for this great son of Africa. We are the poorer without him but at the same time we remember with pride all that he was able to achieve for mankind. His life’s work will live on forever. We take off our hats to him and bow our heads in great respect and admiration of him.
Christine Gregoire , an American politician and lawyer said: “ Education can lift individuals out of poverty and into rewarding careers.’’
She also said that, “ It’s our responsibility to pass on what we inherited , not to squander it, but to build on it.’’
Kofi Atta Annan will live on in his children, all that he created with a lot of commitment and devotion and the Kofi Annan Foundation.
I owe it to him to ask myself every day : “What am I doing to make my community, country live better than I found it?”

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The Power of Knowing What You Want in Life and How to Get It.

Knowledge is said to be power especially when you apply it to improve your life and the lives of others. From a tender age, one of my young sisters has amazed me by how she clearly knew what she wanted in life and how to get it. Enid has always loved cooking and her fantasy was to cook and serve hearty meals at home, in hotels and at big functions. Before she sat for her Ordinary Level examinations, she had made up her mind to take up a course in Catering and Hotel Management. She did not stop there, she knew some of the best colleges in UK where she could pursue it.
She made it extremely easy for us to facilitate the realization of her dream. By the early 80’s, she was cheerfully studying that particular course in a college in South east London.

She pursued the 2 years course with determination and gave it her whole. With the innocence of a child, she was curious and developed that sense of being ready to explore. She approached each new experience with wonder and took it as an opportunity to learn. She trained her mind to persevere, she focused on the task and excelled.
She developed a sense of discipline and responsibility which enabled her to finish the course among the cream of the crop. We were all not surprised when she was immediately offered her first job in the Kitchen department of the prestigious Saint Thomas’ hospital in London. She worked with the team planning and preparing the patients’ meals.

She then set her mind to getting married by her twenty-fifth birthday. By her twenty -third birthday, I was in London with my eight months old son celebrating her marriage to a brilliant, diligent, focused and rational Ugandan student pursuing a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds, West Yorkshire. Later as they grew old together , I found out that they shared common interest, values and purpose in life.
A few months later, the young engineer had completed his PhD and was offered a job as a lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering at the University Of Nairobi. Enid found no difficulty in getting a job at the Kenya Utalii College, Nairobi founded in 1975. It is now Africa’s leading Hospitality and Tourism training institution. She lectured there with a lot of enthusiasm until her return to Uganda with their first child in 1987.

She immediately went into self –employment. She started her own catering company and tapped into the fullness of her capacities. Since then, day after day she has served delicious meals across all levels from the state house to the ordinary men and women in their homes.
All these years, she tapped into her creativity, creating dishes which express who she is: passionate, positive, patient , energetic, tender-hearted, and fun-loving. She has never allowed herself to be controlled by fear; she often feels it but then goes on to do what is required of her. To many people’s surprise, she hardly misses the 7am Mass at her church!
She never forgets to allow herself to take it easy : enjoying her beer and dancing. This is what helps her to have inner peace and increase her productivity. After all it is the Magician in each one of us who helps us to be true to ourselves while the Fool in us allows us to express our childlike spontaneity and playful creativity gifting us with enjoyment, pleasure and aliveness.

It has not been plain sailing; she has faced many challenges like having to wake up every day at the crack of dawn to travel the thirty-two kilometers to Nakasero market in Kampala to buy the fresh food, fruits and vegetables.
With the support of the engineer, she has always been able to take it all into her stride.
Like any great teacher, she has inspired, mentored and encouraged many young women and men . She has used her unique talents to create a thriving community within the Hospitality industry.
I for one have watched with great joy and pride as she transformed herself into a sophisticated cook, wife, mother, and grandmother. She has earned the title of a celebrated cook.
She constantly renews herself as a cook and still creates mouth-watering dishes just for the joy of it.
Oprah Winfrey said: “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”
Enid, you are always full of life, energy and joy. This gift was truly yours nothing or no one can take it away from you.
I can never have enough of your version of Shredded Chicken with Vegetables and the Stuffed pumpkin- meat in the moon. I would say that you cook from the heart.
Maurice Young said: “To become a master at any skill, it takes the total effort of you: heart, mind, and soul working together in tandem.”
Young sister, I take off my hat to you. You are among the best of your time; I had to share you with the world.
Like ‘Johnnie Walker’ keep walking strong. They say that the hunt is never over until both your heart and your belly are full.

Thank you for reading this post. Kindly share it with family and friends especially the young ones to encourage them follow their dreams and live them. I would also love to hear of your experiences related to this topic.

TAKING ON THE CHALLENGE

One of my favourite quote is by an American writer, Alvin Toffler (1928-2016). In his book entitled ‘Future Shock’ ( 1970) he says: “ The Illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write , but those who cannot learn , unlearn, and relearn.’’
In this digital era, things are changing constantly and fast. The solution is to wake up each morning ready to learn how to learn. To increase my adaptability wherever I am, I have to learn, unlearn and relearn. Learning is defined as the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience or being taught. It is a lifetime job.
In last week’s post I informed you that through repeated experiences I had acquired the habit of decluttering my physical space once a year. This habit would free my mind, heart and soul to engage fully with life. I was happy and productive. But since my return home, I had relaxed on this good habit of mine and found myself accumulating stuff faster than at any other time in my life. This attachment to things had started weighing me down emotionally and was decreasing my productivity. I had to save myself by ‘relearning’ the good old habit: Regularly let go of things, keep only what I needed at that moment in time, not keeping things that I might need in future.

The English writer and social critic, Charles Dickens, said: “My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.’’
Not to stress myself, I decided to start on this task of organizing my physical space immediately by clearly defining what I needed to do and coming out with a plan of how to do it. I have planned to do a little at a time and to ensure that it is done and done right. Every Saturday morning, I shall clear one room at a time, taking one item at a time. I am determined to stick to this schedule for the next three months. I have to avoid distractions and I have given myself permission to ask for help when I need it.
Knowing that the best time to do something is usually ‘now’, last Saturday, I rolled up my sleeves and took on the challenge. I did not want to give myself time to think of procrastination.

I started in the spare bedroom which I had literary turned into a store. I had three labelled big plastic containers : one for items to be given away, another for items for the garage sale and the third one for items I needed at that moment and therefore could keep. I only kept items that I really needed; any holding some significance in my life and any that served a purpose in my life. I never kept anything that I hoped I would need one day.
As I combed through the accumulated stuff, the first three hours were tough on me due to the emotional attachment but as time went by, it became increasingly easy. Much to my surprise, I had started enjoying the childlike spontaneity and in the process, I became open to the experience.
By the end of the morning, I was thrilled that I had focused on the task and cleared one corner of the room. I felt in control and felt good about myself. I was doing the right thing to ‘relearn’ a good habit that served me well in the past.

I had no doubt that if I sustained this energy and zest and worked to schedule, I would meet my deadline of getting rid of clutter in the house in three months! I celebrated the little I had done right over a bottle of wine with one of my childhood friends. I am now looking forward to next Saturday to take bold steps towards my goal.
The experience has reminded me that with any big task, you start small and that the beginning of anything worthwhile is the most difficult part.
There is also a Spanish proverb that says : “ Tomorrow is the busiest day of the week.’’
We all have the tendency of putting off things until tomorrow and yet the best time to do them is now.
If there is something you want to do, do not let fear hold you back. Acknowledge your fear, allow yourself to feel it but then go on and do what you have to do. This is what courage is all about.
Napoleon Hill said: “ Do n’t wait. The time will never be just right.’’

The Chinese say that : ” The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

I am thrilled that I have taken my first steps.

Thank you for reading this post, I would be very grateful if you shared your experiences with me. Kindly leave a comment and feel free to share the post with family and friends.