Saturday, December 8, 2007

Khalil Gibran on "Giving"

I wrestle with the idea of giving. Why should I give? Should I give? What does my giving and someone else receiving do to each of us?

I have been given a lot. I"m striving to give a lot.
Some moments of being given have left me feeling used. I'm working to not have our students feel like that.

Can you give in a way that respects the humanity and dignity of the recipients? Does giving necessarily need to create a hierarchy with the giver on top and the recipient humbled and bent in suplication?

What is a good reason to give? Because it makes you feel good?

I really like the passage on giving from Khalil Gibran's The Prophet:

"you give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when
you give of yourself that you truly give. For what are your
possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying
bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy
And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full the thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have -
and they give it for recognition and their hidden diesire make their
gifts unwholesome.

And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their
coffer is never empty.

There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptisim.

And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they
seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue. They give as in yonder
valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space

Through the hands of these God speaks., and from behind their eyes he
smiles upon the earth.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Akili Dada updates!

I've been quiet the last couple of days producing the inaugural issue of Sauti Ya Akili Dada (Voice of Akili Dada) to update our supporters on the organization's growth and development in the last year. You can find the full version of the report here.
But below is the shortened version.

Dear Akili Dada friends and supporters,

As the end of the year approaches I am excited to briefly share our success in 2007, and ask you to continue your partnership with us as we continue full steam ahead into 2008. Please visit our website (www.akilidada.org ) for an extended report of this year's amazing success.
2007 has been a year of incredible growth here at Akili Dada and we have already surpassed many of the goals we set at the beginning of the year. In one year we have more than doubled the number of scholars we support, significantly increased the size of our mentoring network and leadership team, strengthened our operations in both Kenya and the U.S., and are marveling at the multiplying effects of our work!

Double the Scholars!
This year we added five new young women to our program, more than doubling the number of scholars supported by Akili Dada. Our ambitious new scholars dream of becoming a computer engineer, a doctor, a neurosurgeon, an entrepreneur, and a children's charity worker. Without your support and Akili Dada, these would have been dreams deferred. Each of the scholars has expressed her commitment to give back to her own community, thus paying forward the opportunities that Akili Dada has presented to her. Please visit our website to read more about these remarkable young women!

New Mentors
Akili Dada's mentoring network continues to grow at an exhilarating pace. This year's new mentors are top Kenyan professional women who are committed to nurturing and inspiring our scholars. Among them are a gynecologist, an ophthalmologist, a commercial airline pilot, an economist, two lawyers, a director of an international Non-profit, and a program officer at a transnational trade organization. We continue to expand the number and diversity of mentors and welcome your referrals of motivated, professional Kenyan women interested in serving as mentors.

Successful Mentoring Conference
This year's mentoring conference was a wild success thank to the engagement and energy of its thirty-one participants. The students, parents, teachers, mentors, and Akili Dada Board and Advisors participated in discussions that ranged from interviewing techniques, surviving life at a university campus, addressing sexual harassment, identifying career goals and ambitions, and pursuing careers in the specific fields of medicine, law, finance, aviation, and non-profit work.

Diversifying our revenue streams
Book your travel to East Africa through Kairi Tours and Safaris and they will donate 10% of your total invoice to Akili Dada! This is because Akili Dada has recently signed a corporate sponsorship agreement with Kairi Tours and Safaris based in Nairobi, Kenya. Kairi is the oldest indigenously owned Tours & Travel Company in Kenya; it specializes in custom tours throughout East Africa.

We are also diversifying our revenue stream by adding a fee-based portion to our increasingly popular mentoring program. It has become clear that young women from financially stable families would also benefit Akili Dada's growing mentoring resources. Under the new arrangement, these students will pay a fee to participate in our mentoring program while undergoing the same rigorous screening process as our scholarship students to ensure that we maintain our very high standards. Expanding our mentoring program will allow Akili Dada to both to increase its impact in the community while taking a step toward making the mentoring program self-sustaining. It also allows our scholars to transcend class boundaries and connect with a wider variety of motivated young women. As director of Akili Dada, I am keen to explore other means of diversifying our revenue streams and welcome your suggestions.

Strengthening our Kenyan Operations
A year of hard work culminated in Akili Dada being officially registered as an international non-governmental organization (NGO) in Kenya this year. With registration in place we can now operate local bank accounts in Kenya. A new U.S. dollar account and a Kenya Shilling account have streamlined our financial operations and make it possible for us to run smoothly on two continents.

This year we also launched our Kenya office through a partnership with the International Child Resource Institute (ICRI) Africa.

We continued to strengthen our Kenyan operations by established a relationship with another of Kenya's top high schools. Alliance Girls Secondary School has a long history of academic excellence in Kenya and was the first institution at which Black girls could receive an education under the apartheid-like system of British colonial rule in Kenya.

2007 has also seen us expand our leadership team. The Advisory Council also welcomed three new members : Dr. Laila Macharia, Susan Wangui Mbogo and Maggie Kamau-Biruri all based in Kenya. In addition, three new interns have joined our team: Ann Rubia in Nairobi, as well as Briana Shewan and Alexandra Kotcheff in San Francisco.

School Visits Inspire Students
Akili Dada staff members continue to canvass impoverished communities across Kenya in search of future scholars, sending a message of hope and possibility to the poorest students in the country. School heads have told me that, even when students do not perform well enough to qualify for our scholarships, the average grades for all students tend improve after a visit from the Akili Dada team. It seems that Akili Dada, aside from the direct impact of our scholarships, is spreading a message of hope for the future that creates a significant ripple effect in the impoverished primary schools we visit.

Support our Work for 2008
As you can see, 2007 has been a year of tremendous growth for Akili Dada. Without your generosity, none of this would be possible. We live in an interconnected world, and it takes something from each of us to make Akili Dada's vision a reality. Together, we are creating a support system that empowers extraordinary young women and brings Akili Dada's message of hope to girls throughout Kenya. I sincerely thank each of you for your past contributions, and I know that our scholars thank you as well. I urge you to continue partnering with us and to donate again.

Thank you and Happy Holidays!

Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg
Executive Director
Akili Dada

p.s. with the holidays fast approaching, please consider a gift in honor of a loved one. Just include the person's name and address so we can send them a special note.