For two days, we had the privilege of being taught a very important class by Amani Institute’s co-founder Roshan Paul : storytelling for leadership. I have been writing for years and was expecting this class to be easy peasy. I was so wrong! This class challenged me in so many ways. I love stories, and more importantly, I love telling stories. Understanding why people are doing what they are doing. Understanding who they really are, going beyond their job title or nationality.
A good story, we learnt, is made up of three elements : a story of Self, a story of Us and a call to action. During this session, we practiced each step individually, and it was incredibly difficult. Writing a short story in five minutes and sharing with my peers, was probably my definition of a nightmare. I have been writing for years but I never was good at sharing. I had blogs but I never wrote anything really personal (until today, you will have noticed). That day was no different, I did not share. Or at least, I did but I stayed on the surface. My writing was superficial. I could not go deep. Not because I did not want to, but I simply could not. As I was reading my various pieces out loud , I could not help but be disappointed, and I was not hiding it; I had no enthusiasm. I felt frustrated. I had stories to tell but I could not bring them to life.
Roshan gave us a homework to complete for the following day; tell a story, using the three components, on something that matter to us to move other our audience to take action. I was exhausted by this intense day, but I was determined to put my story on paper. I would spend the night, if I had to. I started writing. I could not stop, for at least three hours. I felt like I had given birth. In a way, that’s what happened. I was not scared of sharing anymore. I knew that I would be able to stand in front of my peers and openly tell them my story. And that felt liberating.
Audience : former classmates based in Europe. Hoping to convince them to work with me, and use their skills, for the project I have.
Summer 2012, I embarked on a soul searching journey that took me to rural Uganda. At that time, I felt stuck in my life and I thought that working with an NGO for four months, building a school and teaching kids, would bring me closer to understanding what on Earth I was here for; my purpose.
There, I met Lina. Lina was a 6-year old girl who was living in a village with her parents and her 3 brothers. She was the cutest little girl I had ever met, always laughing, playing, and dancing. She would follow me everywhere; we did not speak the same language but we surely managed to communicate with our hands, and most importantly, with our hearts and souls. We spent our time smiling at each other, and that was definitely worth a thousand words. I’ve always wanted to have a little sister, and it was almost natural to consider her like one.
I quickly noticed though that we were treated differently. This was particularly apparent in small details, that probably only I could notice. She and I were drinking water from different bottles. My water was clear and transparent, purified. Hers was of a strange color, slightly orange, really not clean. I was deeply unhappy about this, it simply did not feel right but at the time, no one around me seemed to be outraged and I was too polite to protest.
6 months later, back in my comfortable student life in northern England, far far away from the rain forest and the burning Ugandan sun, I got a phone call. It was my friend Mary from the NGO in Jinja. She called to inform me that Lina had died of diarrhoea , as a result of the water she was drinking. At that moment, I felt sick. I also felt sad and angry. At that moment, I promised myself that I would stop being too polite to raise my voice against the inequalities that surrounded me. At that moment, I promised myself that I would dedicate my life to fighting water pollution, and to finding ways of providing affordable and clean water to those who do not have access to it. I had found my purpose.
842 000 people are estimated to die each year from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking water. I know these numbers may only be numbers to you, and I appreciate that it must be difficult to fully grasp this situation, and to relate to it, as here in Europe we are not directly confronted to this issue.
But let’s pause for a second. Let’s imagine a different reality for a moment; imagine that instead of being in the City of London, we are in a small village, in the middle of nowhere in the North of Wales for instance, no one owns a car or bike and accessing water is complicated, almost impossible.
We open our tap… and no water
We go to the main shop in the village, and we’re told that we will need to walk over 50kms to another shop to get water because they just ran out of it. But there’s also no certainty that we will find any there.
In this scenario, our options are limited; we could try our luck and if we’re indeed lucky, we might succeed in finding some clean water somewhere; or we could also just give up and we will probably die within three days. Another option would be for us to drink water from a river, if there’s any, but it is very unlikely that it’d be clean. So after a while, we may die too. That does not sound very exciting, does it? This could easily happen in the near future. Water supplies are limited. Climate change is a reality. Water pollution affects us all, whether we are in Uganda or in England. And we cannot do nothing about it, if only for the sake of our children.
So I would like to invite you to join me on a very important and meaningful journey. Join me on my mission to provide access to clean water to all the Lina’s of this world. Join me to make sure that kids get the chance to always laugh, play, and dance.
I have a vision that could greatly impact the lives of over 100,000 people in the next three years, and a prototype of what could potentially be an affordable solar powered water purifier. But I need your help. And I need it now. I need your financial acumen and your technological skills to turn this vision into reality. If this resonates with you, please join me.
I am sure that together we can contribute to the creation of a more sustainable future for generations to come in Africa and in the whole world. Thank you very much.
On the Side : Abd Al Malik – C’est du Lourd