Thank you all for coming. It has been nice getting to know some of you, and your stories I will be sharing with the Nyantende Foundation team back home. They are inspiring and I will never forget this time I have spent in Nyantende. You all have made me feel welcome, like this is my home. I thank you for those who have given me gifts.
For the last two weeks I have been very busy visiting 15 of the 20 schools you all attend. I now have over 75 pages of information that, as I have explained to you, will be compiled into individual school reports and distributed throughout the West. I want you all to know it is never an easy task asking people to donate their time and money to a place they have never seen and to kids they have never met. Fortunately, for Nyantende Foundation, we have over 20 students at 2 universities that care about you and want you to have real opportunities to achieve your dreams.
I have heard from many of you that you are the only one of your brothers and sisters to receive an education, and that many of your friends too cannot afford school. It pains me to tell you there is only so much a small organization like ours can accomplish. It is why, for example, you see Mulume walk to all your schools, while other bigger organizations would drive cars. The point here is this, Father Emmanuel has selected you for a reason, that being, he believes you are special. He believes that you all understand the gift you have been given must be returned to those who have not received this life changing opportunity.
For those of you that have failed this semester or were close to failing, I hope this message is clear.
In ten or twenty years, as Congo washes itself of the war, and the conditions of its cities and people continue to improve, there will not be the same number of organizations here to help those without opportunities for education. That responsibility will fall on your shoulders.
Like me, you are all young and have yet to determine what you are living for. There are many roads we can take that will define us. For you older kids, now is the time in your life when you must take those first steps down a given path. And for you younger kids, watch closely how they walk and use their experience to guide you. You are all in similar circumstances and there is strength here in your numbers. Together you have the power to build new roads leading from Nyantende out to the world, so that future generations may have more opportunities to find success. I ask you now to make friends with the people in this room, they are more like you than you may think. Support each other and be the best examples of human beings your community produces. That is how you will find the true road to a life you and your family can be proud of.
I hope that makes sense to you because I have another point to make using the image of the road. You may look at me, the Muzungu, and think that I travel these roads to my future in beautiful new shoes while you must do it in bare feet. You may think that this makes everything better for me, that my road will be easier. I must explain to you that where I am from, people are born into the world given everything, but are blind to what they have that those travelling in bare feet lack.
Do you understand what I am saying? I mean that if, for example, they step in a small puddle and dirty theirshoes they may be feel the same level as sadness as you when you see their nice shoes. Money and materials do not mean a better life with more happiness, please never forget that. I have friends and family that have everything, but are less happy than the poorest person you know. The feeling of choosing the right path and walking it with the people you love will bring you a lot more happiness than walking a path in the wrong direction with the nicest shoes money can buy. We all are born with the same heads and the same hearts. Do not let what people show on the outside confuse you and influence the path you will take. Family and friends, and the happiness and love you share with them, will never leave you. They can give you strength to fight and the wisdom to guide you towards the life you dream of. Money and materials, I promise, cannot do this for you. This is true for all human beings no matter where in the world you are from.
To finish off, here is what I want you to always remember, in hopes that it inspires and comforts you when you are sad.
Now is the time in your life to begin looking for your path – to define for yourself what success means to you. You may see no opportunities to advance your life now. They may not come for 5, 10, maybe even 20 years. We all know the current state Congo is in. But I promise you if you continue to walk down the right road, if you continue to grow into the human that everyone admires for their kindness, honesty, work ethic, leadership, generosity, etc. you will find what it means to be happy and to be successful.
Lastly, do not be a fool and think that money and material richness will bring happiness. Everyone, including people where I am from are tricked into thinking that. Friends and family and the love and happiness you share with them will always give you more in life than materials can. That is true for all humans. Think of it like this, when you are old and dying will you remember the cars you had and the clothes you wore, or the people you loved in life and the memories you shared with them?
If you have understood everything I have just said, then we are all connected right now. Help each other remember these lessons, and in these important years of self-growth and self-understanding, walk together using love and happiness to guide you.