I thought I’d start putting one or two updates on here again to share a few things I’m up to over the next couple of weeks. Again, just really a diary, primarily for my own benefit, and to keep some of you posted on what I’m doing; please don’t expect any literary merit…
So firstly, as some of you know by now, I didn’t go back to work in the end. The original idea was a temporary sabbatical. The four months ended up turning into six and then, as the date for returning started to approach, I had a really hard think about what I want from life at this stage. Call it a mid-life crisis if you like :-). But actually, I have to say, it hasn’t felt at all like a ‘crisis’. But it was, of course, also influenced by my experiences in Ethiopia.
Two things have become clear to me. Firstly that, after many years of having benefited from amazing opportunities in life (a wonderful family and upbringing, great education and career opportunities, health, I could go on and on…), I’m thinking it’s high time I thought a bit more about my social conscience. In some way, perhaps I need to try to ‘give something back’ (such a cliché I know). I’m not entirely sure yet how, or whether, I can do that, but I’m convinced it’s the right thing for me to be focusing on for a period.
The second thing that has become clear to me is that I’ve very much enjoyed stepping away, for a while at least, from a ‘corporate’ hierarchy and culture. I feel immensely grateful for the many challenging and rewarding years I’ve spent at work, and the excellent people I’ve worked with over the years in some great organisations. But I’ve reached a stage in life where I very much value the freedom, spontaneity and excitement of working and living independently.
I’m well aware this comes with plenty of risk: I’m giving up, at least temporarily, a lot of security and of course the unbeatable financial rewards of the City. And I may ultimately want (or need!) to go back. But for me, right now, it feels completely the right decision. As I’ve probably said on many occasions to those I’ve been with recently, I’ve felt I’ve been truly ‘living’ life the past few months in a way I’d maybe not been doing for a while. I’m viewing life as an adventure at this point (that’s a luxury, I know, because of all the opportunities I’ve been so fortunate enough to have – and one that I’m conscious many people don’t have). But one thing I’m sure is that, at the end of my stint in the world, I’m more likely to be regretting what I didn’t have the courage to try, rather than the mistakes I made and the risks I took.
Anyway, enough of the personal waffle, and apologies if it started to sound like a sermon :-). Here’s a quick update on my immediate plans, for those who are interested. I’m really excited, and privileged, to have recently become involved as a trustee with a charity called The Book Bus (www.thebookbus.org). This organisation has, for the past few years, been helping address challenges around child literacy in Zambia, Malawi, Ecuador and, more recently, India by providing mobile libraries that regularly visit rural schools. For the next two weeks, I’m visiting a couple of the sites where the charity is currently working – I’ll be getting the opportunity to meet the small teams who work on the ground in Zambia, and to visit the schools and local partner organisations. A core element of the service The Book Bus provide is dedicating time to reading with the children and introducing them to the world of books (something that’s not feasible day to day, with teacher to pupil ratios of around 1:100). So despite my limited experience in this (in my uncle duties from time to time!) I’ll be giving it a shot.
The other exciting aspect of the trip is that the cheapest flight is via Ethiopian Airlines – which gives me the chance to stop off in Addis and go back to visit the EEF hostel. I can’t wait to see the students again – I’ve really missed them. Plus the recruitment process for new kids starting in 2015 is now well underway and I’m really looking forward to catching up with Caspar on how that’s going. (Rest assured I’m going to be harping on a bit here about sponsorship for these new kids! If there’s any way you think you could possibly get involved, please, please do let me know.)
OK, definitely enough rambling for now. I arrive in Lusaka Wednesday, then visit The Book Bus operation in Mfuwe from Saturday. Hopefully I’ll have a few photos for the next post (I so want to see an elephant…).