Blog Archive

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Meet RSM 90-90-9 Winner: Michelle Nolan

Michelle Nolan | ICS Project Coordinator | Minneapolis, MN
Many people are familiar with the African Proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This message has been a constant theme throughout my life. In various situations my parents would always respond, “It takes a village…” So, as I started friendships, became involved in sports, and started my professional career their words resounded, “It takes a village”. At times my village is physically with me, at times it’s their lessons and values guiding me, and at times it’s their words of encouragement carrying me through. Every goal, every dream, every passion takes a village to fulfill. A little over two years ago, my village supported my trip to Tanzania and my hopes of leaving a lasting impact on the children of Living Water Children’s Centre (LWCC). In turn, the impact reached far beyond what I could have ever imagined and now I want to do it again and reach farther than before. My dream is for RSM to be an instrumental part of my village and help me pursue my passions.

In July 2013, I went to Tanzania to volunteer at LWCC in Arusha, a beautiful village located near the base of the brilliant and majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. The 50 children of LWCC are those with disabilities whose families are unable to care for them, who have lost one or both parents, and who have family who are just too poor to feed and clothe them. I had just spent four years in Dubai teaching, but decided it was time to return to America to pursue my corporate career goals. Before I moved, I desired to pass along my passion for inspiring children and acquired skills for teaching. I provided the teachers at LWCC with workshops teaching them how to utilize the resources I brought with me and techniques to engage and empower children to own their own learning.

Over the four weeks, I understood the power of what LWCC was really doing. The Centre’s founding family would tell the story of each child during our dinners around the campfire. Each story included similar elements: lack of food, no family, abuse, no security. It became overwhelmingly evident to them that every child deserves to have their basic health, welfare and educational needs met. The real power was in doing so, they gave the children the freedom to dream and pursue their passions. I realized through my conversations with the children, that their stories were now filled with imagination, security, love, respect, and dreams—dreams of what they’ll be when they grow up.

During afternoon activities, homework, and chores, I often caught a glimpse of “the roof of Africa”, Mount Kilimanjaro. I was in awe of the stories about peoples’ treks to the top of one of the world’s most iconic peaks. One day, I was laying on the dirt outside of the school house gazing at the clouds with Omega, an incredible and courageous young girl at LWCC. I prompted Omega to tell me a story based on what she saw in the clouds above, and for the next five minutes she told the most elaborate story of two elephants dancing in their backyard. After her story, she looked at me and said, “Teacher Michelle, what are you thinking about right now?” I then began to tell her how I was thinking about being on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and dancing with those elephants. She suggested tomorrow I do just that! I laughed and rattled off all the reasons of why that is impossible. Then, that brilliant six-year-old girl kindly reminded me that nothing is impossible. Since that day, I’ve dreamed of making that dream a reality. I want to believe, despite the list of reasons I told myself of why it was impossible, I was wrong. I want to reach that peak, dance with those elephants, and believe, just as Omega does, all things ARE possible.

As a result of my trip, a piece of my heart will forever reside at LWCC. I came back from my trip to Africa saying I am changed, I am stronger and I am inspired. I looked into the heart of a problem, and now I can’t help but feel accountable for being part of the solution. Sometimes people avoid really engaging in a problem to avoid being drawn in. I stared right at it; I am changed and I am stronger because I did so. My dream is to continue to be changed, be stronger, and be inspired to make an impact.

My hope is to return this year to ensure LWCC’s basic need of having a constant supply of water is possible. During a good rainy season, water is plentiful. But the rainy season is short and often unpredictable. My desire is to help fund the installation of an underground storage tank and rain gutters that will allow for the collection and storage of water for the times when the land is dry. Such a system would lessen dependence on vital water resources needed by the nearby village of Kisongo, aiding both the children at the school and the residents of the village. In addition, I would like for RSM to sponsor one child’s health, welfare and educational needs for a year, giving them the power to pursue their passion.

Little by little, I believe acts of kindness—large or small—have the ability to change the world. I’m eternally grateful for RSM’s consideration in supporting me to be the change I wish to see in this world. I believe I am strong, I am courageous and I am inspiring. I believe my talents and my voice are valuable. I hope RSM also believes my talents and my voice are valuable and support me in my efforts to pursue my passions in becoming stronger, more courageous, and to leave a lasting impact on LWCC and all who are a part of “my village”.

RSM values my passion project links to: respect, integrity, teamwork, excellence, & stewardship.

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