The Trap of Poverty is not a requirement for life.
To any onlooker, this moment pictured here looks like one of the happiest days of my life. It was my second of two graduate school graduation ceremonies because I completed a dual master’s degree from the prestigious Seton Hall University in Public Administration; and Diplomacy and International Relations.
But, sadly it was not. My stomach was churning and my heart was racing. On one end, I had successfully completed a rigorous academic program on a full-tuition scholarship before the age of 24. But, on the other end of being a new graduate, I was a new wife and mother to a newborn – and most importantly — jobless.
In spite of my achievements and accolades, I couldn’t get a job. It didn’t matter my connections from previous internship experiences or applications submitted to both small and large organizations, I was nonexistent to any employer. I was irrelevant.
Unlike the majority of my classmates, I was in a totally different position after graduation with an enourmous amount of responsiblites — one that was much bigger than a Salle Mae student loan.
Trust me – if you are a recent graduate or about to graduate, I promise you there are far scarier things in adult life than Sallie Mae bill collectors.
For me, it was facing The Trap of Poverty.
Let me explain. But in order for me to do that, I have to take you back to the beautiful fishing village of Mankoadze, Ghana.
July 2013 was a beautiful summer for many reasons.
For starters, I got married. This is not a love note — so I’ll just stop right there, but as you and I continue to engage together through my writings, you will learn very soon that expressing my sentiments about my husband can’t actually be done through writing.
Now as I digressed — the second reason July 2013 was amazing was because of our trip to the beautiful fishing village of Mankoadze, Ghana. My husband and I couldn’t afford a honeymoon, but we still managed to travel overseas.
As a first-year graduate student in the School of Diplomacy, I was fortunate enough to receive a Nalgo Soren Scholarship to launch an educational summer program for an organization called Brighten Your World (BYW). BYW provided a feeding program to the fishing community at Mankoadze, but allowed us to create a math, English and technology based curriculum for the summer.
With the support of local volunteers, my husband and I taught more than 300 students by the end of the summer. The relationships that we built and the impressions that were made on our hearts and the hearts of the children were immeasurable.
But, what gave me the awakening of a lifetime?
One day in class, I was working with a particular young boy named Samuel. On the outside, he was clothed with what looked to me like second-hand clothing —worn and oversized. Yet, this quiet, very respectful young boy was full of amazing entrepreneurial ideas. I remember being astonished time and time again when he presented these ideas to me.
I would think to myself: Who would know that this idea exists in the mind of this young boy? In the mind of a young boy who’s encouraged to go out on the boats every day to help fish to provide financial support for his family? In the mind of a young boy whose life and all he knows starts and stops inside the village parameters of Mankoadze?
I felt both excited about his potential, but helpless about his place/position in society. I thought to myself: The Trap of Poverty (should not be) a requirement for life.
Fast forward to the day of my graduation, that same exact feeling that I felt two summers prior while working with Samuel from the fishing village of Mankoadze overwhelmed me. I was excited about my potential, but helpless about my current place/position in society — jobless.
For years, that title jobless killed me. It killed my mind and spirit.
But, I quickly learned that what was “killing” my mind and spirit was not the fact that I couldn’t land a job to care for my family.
What was killing me was I felt entitled to a title. As an aspiring diplomat, I felt I had done all the work I was asked to do and I deserved a big job title. I had no job title, nothing to parade around with, let alone money at my disposal like others I saw around me. Not attaining the expectations I had of such a title was what was killing me.
Until God checked my heart and asked: Since when did helping underserved people and communities start and stop with a “job title”?
If you say you want to impact economic development (in Africa), why don’t you just do it?
I got delivered from entitlement and as a result got my power back and starting creating global impact through the
Virtual Global Consultant Group, a company that develops and designs eCommerce systems that help generate revenue online for people, companies, and organizations; and The Digital Diplomat— currently my blog focused on economic development and public policy.
Sadly, I don’t know where Samuel is today.
But, every day I’m reminded of the story of Samuel and the importance of using technology as The Digital Diplomat to actiavate potential so people in underserved communities can experience the possibility of breaking the Trap of Poverty.