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WOULD YOU TRAVEL THE AFRICAN CONTINENT FOR A YEAR, BY YOURSELF?

Updated: Apr 27, 2023


THE IDEA

If you had asked me this question in 2019, I would have said, NO without hesitation. But then the pandemic happened. At sixty-five, divorced, empty nester, and contemplating my 2nd retirement, I was open to something different, something big. March 2020, I stopped watching Netflix and began reading, I read 9 books in 9 months.




One talked about going to Africa and starting an NGOs. I kid you not, while sitting quietly, thinking about what I had read, God said, “I want you to do that, and I want you to do it for a year and volunteer, too.” I heard it as clearly as I heard the music playing!



FIRST REACTION

At first, I didn’t give it a second thought, but the next morning while watching CBS news, African journalist, Debora Patta was doing a story on Nzambi Matee, 29 year-old physicist and engineer. Nzambi is the founder of Gjenge Makers Ltd in Kenya, a startup that recycles plastic waste, turning it into bricks stronger than concrete. After the interview, God said, “call her”. I said, call who, the journalist? So I went to Instagram, sent Debora a DM, telling her how wonderful I thought her interview was and that I was thinking about going to Africa and volunteering at Gjenge Makers.



Now, you are not going to believe this, but a couple of days later, Debora Patta, the CBS African journalist responded and gave me her direct email address. I emailed her, shared more about my aspirations to travel to Africa for a year and volunteer. Sometime later we did a zoom call, by that time I was able to share a map of the countries my girlfriend's husband from Nigeria, Sol, created for me. Debora gave recommendations on other countries to visit and even offered her home as a place to stay when in Ghana.



ACCEPTANCE

After that call, it was confirmed. I was going to Africa for a year. I began researching each of the countries; languages, cultures, food, places to visit, distance between each. Worked with Fiverr to design a logo and created a website to capture country research. I also did a better job this time planning my retirement, with two years to figure out how to fund the trip.



VOLUNTEERING

The notion of volunteering in each country was a major focus. However, I realized I didn’t want to just volunteer with NGOs. I wanted to uncover technological innovations like, Gjenge Makers as well as social impact advancements we never hear about in the US. I landed on three areas to focus my volunteering: businesses, universities, and NGOs. The more I researched, the more I found incredible advancements and academia impact areas to investigate.




All in all, this had to be fun. I wanted to learn, educate, discover but also have a great time. As I began researching what each country was known for, I came up with exciting places I wanted to volunteer, like feeding Gorillas in Rwanda, and working in the Diamond Mines in Botswana, and learning from Artisans in Ghana. This idea just began to get bigger and bigger as the year progressed.





NOW THE HARD PART

I previously talked about my planned journey and God’s calling with family and friends but now everyone saw the idea was not going away and began to voice apprehension. My best friend, although always supportive of all my grand ideas, let me know she was very worried about my safety and security. Normally my Taurus trait of stubbornness would kick in but this time I took her concerns to heart and asked God for a way to alleviate the concern. I sought a partnership with the African Tourism Association , after six months of trying to meet with the CEO, it finally happened. She introduced me to Tour Operators in each country to work directly with for transportation to and from the airport, lodging if needed, drivers and suggestions on places to see and visit. Once that was done, everyone seemed to be on board.




TOUR OPERATORS

I put together a list of tour operators that I reached out to at the start of my journey. If you're interested, take a look here.




EXECUTION

The plan was set! I gave notice on the job I loved six months in advance and walked away from restricted stock options. I knew in my gut this was my next. I would create something bigger than myself. I would inspire others, especially retirees to create and give back. I would document my journey and educate everyone watching all about the wonderful, innovative, and creative things going on in Africa.


Once this one year journey is done, mark my words... I will write a children’s and adult book and finally, do a TED Talk!





Love,

Venida


P.S writing this from my current location in Uganda!


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