“You know, one thing I learned recently is this: there are quite a few jobs that a person can do and be perfectly happy with any one of them. It all depends on your attitude and the people you surround yourself. My assignments these past few months changed so much, that I finally told myself whenever something was about to change, ‘whatever, I’ll deal with it’ “. A.L.

Writers are always advised to tell stories about what you know, to write about what is familiar and what you understand. I started  this blog to learn more about myself, my goals and ambitions as well as to share my passions with others. Through this endeavors and other encounters (both physical and virtual (aka other blogs), I started thinking about all the things that make up my identity, the things that catch my attention and get me excited.

All that reflection led me to the creation of another blog. From now on, I’ll be writing here.

If you’ve been reading until now, please follow the conversation and don’t be afraid to say hi!

Many people recommend Community Service because working for something that you care about, something that moves you, makes it more rewarding than getting paid to do something you only care somewhat about, or not at all. I remember times that I’ve had freak-out moments and people would ask me, “What do you care about? What are you passionate about? This young person is all about purpose. Purpose guided the direction in which his life went, Purpose is giving him a reason to live right now. My point in featuring him, is not to say that you have to go through horrible life circumstances, to find your passion. But to keep looking for it. To connect yourself to something that is bigger than yourself.

Name: Emmanuel Jal

Age: Around 29

Country: Sudan (now lives in Kenya and UK)

Medium: Music

emmanuel jal

Credit: TED / James Duncan Davidson

It’s sad to admit, but the only thing that come to my mind when someone mentions the war in Sudan are: the Save Darfur rallies that took place on campus when I was a freshman and the first few pages of this book I picked up a few years. Emmanuel Jal knows more about it than that, because he lived it.

Growing up in Sudan, he saw his childhood slowly destroyed by war. He lost his mother, his family, his house and became a child soldier in the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) at the age of 7. He watched many people die at his own hands or at the hands of others for 2 years. He was later rescued and smuggled into Nairobi, Kenya by a British Aid worker, Emma McCune who later adopted him. In Kenya, he channeled his emotions into hip hop as a way to deal with what he experienced. Now, a world-renowned rapper, Emmanuel still uses music to raise awareness about the situation in Sudan and the plight of child soldiers. For him, Hip Hop is a medium to deliver a message, tell a story. use music to cope, to fight for the things he can. He’s been known to criticize rap artists like 50 Cent for the violent content of their music. He has addressed U.N delegates, performed at Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday and shared the stages with the likes of Alicia Keys, Coldplay, Five for Fighting and Moby.He raps in 4 languages: Arabic, English, Swahili and Nuer.

Not only is he a musician, Emmanuel Jal is also an activist. He made a commitment to live one meal a day until he has raised enough money to build a school in Sudan. During his TED talk, he urged those who would like to help to invest in Africa’s institutions, instead of sending aid. He frequently speaks in favor of free trade with Africa, as well as calls for an end of corruption. He is the spokesman for “Make Povery History”, “The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers”, “Control Arms campaign“.

His foundation: GUA Africa

A documentary that chronicles his journey and talks about Child Soldiers: War Child

Interviews

10 Questions: Emmanuel Jal with Time Magazine

Emmanuel Jal with the New Internationalist

Emmanuel Jal: Behind the Warchild with Rolling Stone Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

Name: William Kamkwamba

WilliamKamkwamba_interview

Age: 22 (born August 5, 1987)

Country: Malawi

Medium: Energy

One of the tragedies that didn’t make the headlines in the U.S changed the life of a young person forever. In 2002, during one of the worst famines to ever hit Malawi, William Kamkwamba dropped out of school, because his parents could no longer pay his school fees. He started visiting the local library, where he eventually taught himself elementary physics.

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When he read about windmills, he connected the knowledge from the books to what his community could benefit from: Energy. After trial and error, he build his own windmill using junkyard parts from a bicycle, old tractor fans, shock absorbers and plastic pipes. His first machine generated enough energy to power 4 lights. The second machine was strong enough to irrigate his family garden.

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He has since spoken around the world, attended conferences and inspired people everywhere. A book just came out about his life, along with a documentary and a foundation.  You can read his blog here.

Read more about him here:

Other people’s comments

The realization that we only have 4 week s left in the fall semester, has come with a mix of happiness and increased anxiety. References to graduation in my classes have gotten more and more poignant. As seniors, we are “facing graduation”, as if we’re “facing the firing squad” or “on the verge of graduation”, like “being on the verge of jumping off a cliff.” And in reality, some days, it feels just like that. Jumping off the cliff of Certainty (or perceived Certainty). Jumping into the unknown with a shrinking safety net. Jumping, full of a level of adrenaline only something as amazing as finishing up a degree can give you, yet scared sh_tless, nonetheless.

Only this fear isn’t ours alone. Our professors remind us every day in class, with every comment followed by “especially, in this economic climate”. Adults shake their heads and say “In all my years, I’ve never seen anything like this”. You can see it from the slow shake of the head what they’re thinking “I sure wouldn’t wanna be you, graduating right now, kid.” The freak-out moments that occured way back in Sophomore year are slowly coming back, “Crap! What am I going to do with my life? Oh, crap! I don’t know the answer to that question.” It’s the feeling you get on a test when you realize that you’ve read every section of your notes, except for that small section that is now worth half your grade on the exam. It’s feeling like you should know, though you have no idea.

In the past week, a few amazing speakers have come to Cornell that just inspired the “heck out of me”. Though their words were eloquent, elegant and elevating, it’s the thought of having a vision such as theirs that inspired me. One speaker, especially, emphasized the fact that most of the things happening as a movement are being organized by people our age.

That led me to ask many questions about those young people. If “especially in this economic climate”, or looking at all the atrocities in the news, there are young people are finding the hope and the motivation to act, I want to know about them. When I started looking around online, or asking my peers, my list started getting longer and longer, richer and richer.

So, I’ll be writing a little bit on these people. Usually young people as defined as being between 15 and 35. I’ll try to keep the list about people under 30. Some are alive, some have passed on. Some have acted because they were inspired, Some have acted because they felt they had no choice. They all act through different mediums and speak to different communities.

Since the rhetoric right now is that we are a more global society, I will be talking about young people from all over the world. There will be a bias toward African youth, because being from the continent, things about Africa hit my radar the fastest, but I promise, it’ll be a very diverse list. There will also be a section on Cornellians, people in our classrooms, who are on their way to acting on our world.

These past weeks have gone on so fast, and time seems to be running so fast, that I’m convinced that somebody’s stealing time. I swear, it’s like I turn around for 5 minutes and the next thing I know 30 minutes are gone. There must be a Time Pirate somewhere, stealing time a little at a time.

Even though things seem to be moving really fast (0nly 4 weeks left of the semester!), I’ve had some wonderful opportunities meeting some pretty cool people (more on that, later), as well as be inspired towards action by many situations.

‘Can’t wait to share them all. I’ve been inspired and I hope I can help others be inspired as well.

So, fall break came and went. I think this is the time when I should be feeling all nostalgic and tagging everything around me as a “last”. So, my LAST fall break as an undergraduate college student. For me, fall break was filled with a line of accidental movie marathons. Accidental, mostly because I have trouble saying “no” to people. It was great nonetheless. I was able to do many of the things I wanted to do, except for applying for Americorps and signing up to take the GRE. Many people are freaking out around me about interviews, GREs, other tests and post-college uncertainty. I feel guilty for not being one of them. I should do those things soon though. I have a feeling I’m gonna regret feeling relaxed right now.

So, instead of spending hours on the bus for a few days, I watched a few movies I’ll talk about later: God is Brazilian (Deos es brasiliero), Ghost of Girlfriends Past, Hot Fuzz, Priceless (Hors de Prix), the House Bunny, etc.

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