Lean to those colleagues…

Niteo Africa

Sitting in a Van

I didn’t mean to become a humanitarian. About 10 years ago I was sitting in a van. It was purchased by the students of my elementary school. We did a benefit concert and a Month of Love ( and, as a result, we raised enough to purchase a ‘bookmobile’ that delivered books we had collected from families and schools in our school district in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. We took a risk and it worked out and now I was sitting in a van in Kampala, Uganda driving with my Ugandan friends and Canadian colleagues to visit the first few libraries and make connections and friendships with our Ugandan partners. I didn’t mean to learn what it was to be a humanitarian while I was teaching. I happened to lean into the right colleagues.

It was not a perfect project. The books we shipped to these little libraries were used. They were not from a Ugandan publishing company. The illustrations in the books would not reflect the faces of our Ugandan friends. Maybe we shouldn’t have done it, except our Ugandan friend, Okello Kello Sam said, “These are luxurious conversations. Just send the books. Once we make inroads with literacy, the rest will follow.” We now have 13 little free libraries in neighborhoods in Uganda and South Sudan. There is so much more to the story, but let me get to my point today.

Who would have known?

I would have never sat in that bookmobile, founded the ‘Month of Love’,
gotten to know Okello Kello Sam or dared to do a benefit concert had I not
encountered powerful colleagues. Karine Veldhoen ( and Erika van Oyen ( I leaned into their conversations, learned, voiced my insecurities and the limits of my experience and thinking and then risked and expanded.  I have travelled to Uganda with them. Students and colleagues from our district and valley have also traveled with them to learn what it is to be a global partner/friend. That’s the shortened story of how I found myself sitting in that van.

Lean to those Colleagues

You will have these colleagues in your schools – the ones who risk and expand thoughtfully. These are not people who impulsively have an idea and throw it against the wall to see if it sticks. They hold a vision and co-create carefully, thoughtfully, sustainably and humbly. You will know them by their long term results, their reputation, their impact and their ability to risk.

Lean toward them. Dare to expand and see who you become throughout this amazing teacher-journey.

It is the summertime. As I write, both Karine and Erika are in Uganda again learning, risking, expanding and becoming. If you want to travel with either of them, click on the links below. I dare you. I honestly thought I’d never make it there. Powerful colleagues turn “I can’t” into “I can”.

Erika van Oyen

Karine Veldhoen

If you want to know more about Month of Love, click here:

If you want to hear a little more, listen to my TEDx talk:

Thank you for turning some of my “I can’ts” into “I cans”,

Rhonda Draper

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