LETTER TO PARTICIPANTS IN THE INTERNATIONAL UNITE SCHOLARS SYMPOSIUM, SENT 9.26.19
Dear Distinguished Speakers, Guests, Scholars, Teammates & Friends,
On behalf of the board and beneficiaries of Unite the World with Africa Foundation Inc., I want to extend my sincerest gratitude to each one of you for your willingness to attend and participate in our inaugural Unite Scholars Symposium, which was to be held in Dar es Salaam in October 5th at the Ramada Resort.
It is with great disappointment that I am cancelling this event. I am sure that you all are aware that for a number of weeks now there has been an international conversation about a possible death from Ebola in Dar es Salaam as well as a number of subsequent suspected cases. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal newspaper released the article WHO Seeks Answers on Suspected Ebola in Tanzania, which now leaves us no choice but to cancel our travels for the safe of all involved. Clips of the article include:
“...international public-health officials suspect... a spate of cases of the virus.”
Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, said he believes “there is credible evidence of Ebola cases in Tanzania.”
WHO member states such as Tanzania are obligated under international health regulations to report suspected cases of Ebola to the WHO. The agency’s guidelines for diagnosing the illness also recommend secondary testing of samples at an outside, specialized laboratory—a step the Tanzania government has refused.
“No one is willing to speak publicly about what is going on,” the official said. “Even our staff in Tanzania have been unable to get any details from their government colleagues given their concerns about prosecution.”
While our hope and prayer is that the media has this all wrong and that, in fact, there is no Ebola in Tanzania, this uncertainty and suspicion has created a fear-based hysteria that is now too pervasive and powerful to ignore.
For years, Unite has been my platform through which to bring people together across cultures and disciplines to love and support one another and to collaborate in the creation and development of original, innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Ours is a network of people who embrace their duties as stewards of Mother Earth and caretakers of humanity. Having all of you extraordinary individuals come together for this Symposium was, for me, truly a dream come true. Not only were we joining together to support our Unite Scholars in their personal and professional development, we were coming together to align ourselves and seek out active ways to support one another in our individual and combined efforts to serve our world. While my personal commitment is to choose courage over comfort, there are more people involved and we have a responsibility to our families and communities. I hope you all can understand this extremely difficult decision.
As the Executive Director of Unite The World With Africa Foundation, a USA-based not-for-profit, I spend most of my time (when I am not traveling to Tanzania) fundraising. I am always asking friends, family, acquaintances and complete strangers to give money, to travel with Unite to Tanzania, to HELP. And while most people run from me (sad, but true), some do not. There are a few precious souls who do give their time, talent and hard-earned dollars to Unite to help fuel our work to alleviate human suffering and create viable opportunities and healthy outcomes for impoverished youth and women across Tanzania. Each and every one of these supporters put their complete in our Unite team.
In recent years Unite has been spending large amounts of money to sponsor a number of talented-yet impoverished youth to study in university; however, there have been questions around the cost/benefit of these investments. As the job market grows increasingly competitive, in Tanzania and all around the world, we know that in order to succeed in life post-graduation, these young people need to (in addition to being book smart) be able to differentiate themselves and connect effectively with the world around them. And there are few things that employers want, need and value more than employees who can deliver sustained value over time and who can master the “soft skills” of professionalism—punctuality, accountability, conscientiousness, honesty, creativity problem-solving, resourcefulness, flexibility, excellent written and oral communication skills, etc.
If Unite spends the majority of our funds on a handful of bright students who are not ultimately well prepared for success, have we done our donors a disservice? Unite’s job is to show our donors measurable impact and lasting results. Our Unite Scholars Mentorship Program was designed to address this issue by connecting our Scholars with trained Mentors who are working with them on how to prepare and execute creative and compelling presentations; how to arrange and succeed in informational and formal interviews; how to assess and manage their own strengths and weaknesses; how to be reliable, dependable and key members of a powerful and effective team; and so much more. This Symposium was a cornerstone of this program, and for many months our Scholars have been developing, refining and practicing their presentations with their Mentors. This has been an intense (and often uncomfortable) process for many of them; however, I know they will be devastated not to be able to present in front of you and shine their lights bright.
Please do let me know if you are interested in connecting with Anty Marche (our consultant and program director) and myself via phone, email and/or skype. We would still love to connect and learn more about you and your work and brainstorm ways that we may be able to work togther to make relatively-small investments unleash large potentials.
Unite’s focus now is on growing our Unite Scholars Program into a global brand that is widely recognized for: Honesty and Integrity; Confidence and Creativity; Quality and Consistency; a commitment to Excellence; and, of course, World-Class Performance. To that end, we are seeking new partnerships to:
(1) Create a pipeline of qualified Division 1 scholarship candidates for our A-Level sponsorship program [see criteria here];
(2) Develop additional support programs and initiatives in service to our Scholars’ growth and development;
(3) Explore new avenues through which we may “build bridges” between Americans and Tanzanians that will serve the greatest good of all (e.g. professional volunteer exchanges; international tree planting programs; mass media campaigns; school-to-school partnerships; etc.).
Attached please find a Fact Sheet about Unite and a copy of the Unite Scholars Symposium Directory for your review. All of your contacts are included in the directory. I hope you will still reach out to one another. We are in this together.
Lastly, I want to thank each one of you for committing to this Symposium as volunteers. No one is being paid to attend (which I am learning is quite unusual). Please know that I too am a volunteer. I am not paid any money to do any of Unite’s work. Instead, like all of you, I believe that with the priviledge of education and resources (of any size) comes great responsibility. Prayerfully I can contribute to creating a safer; healthier; more peaceful, loving, equitable and just world for us all. Time will tell, and I know we all will continue to do our best.
We are Unite! Asante sana.
Yours always in service,
Founder & Executive Director
Our Mission: To provide opportunities for marginalized youth & women across East Africa to thrive & prosper by investing in quality education, leadership & business development programs.
Unite the World With Africa Foundation, Inc. is a Connecticut nonprofit corporation. EIN: 47-2329890