Sunday, May 5, 2019

Reflections under the Monkey Tree

Cecelia (Thembi) SilundikaCecilia (Thembi) Silundika originally from Zimbabwe but has lived and worked in the Ottawa area for many years. In the Fall of 2018, Thembi was nominated and elected to be part of the IofC’s International Council. To read more about the International Council click here. Recently this has taken Thembi to participate in two IofC consultations in India and Nigeria

Never in my life had I thought I would see a monkey casually walking about without visiting a zoo! Monkeys exist all over the world but they certainly have not been part of my radar, at least before 2019 happened. In February I travelled to India to attend a conference hosted by Initiatives of Change India at Asia Plateau in Panchgani. I arrived in Mumbai airport at 10:00 pm at night, and the journey to Panchgani took another 3 hours, arriving fatigued in the early morning.

But the warm reception got me settled fast despite my jet lag. The next morning I took a meditative walk around the well-manicured gardens of Asia Plateau. Unexpectedly, I spotted a bunch of monkeys on trees which scared me. But later, after chatting with friends, I was told that monkeys were actually part of the local habitat. So I had to learn to overcome my phobia real fast.

Fast track to Lagos, Nigeria, March, where I attended a Pan African IofC Consultation at a nice venue on Victoria Island by the Ocean, where there were parallels with my Panchgani experience. This does not include obvious things like high population density; busy vendors and animals on the street, nor similar patterns of traffic behaviour of scooters intertwined with cars.

Rather, the fact that there were monkey trees, and happy monkeys bouncing around! But more importantly there was similarity in the warmth and hospitality of our Indian and Nigerian hosts. Their love and care was effortless, and I learnt so much. I also observed that they shared some great enthusiasm in teaching the IofC principles. I took part in a session targeting public servants in Panchgani on ethical leadership. There were also other seminars for corporate executives. In Lagos, IofC Nigeria has about 10 different offerings annually. Both IofCs have ties with communities and have successfully augured strategic partnerships with the public and private sector.

To me this was a wakeup call since here in Canada we continue to struggle just to sustain our fellowship! I think that this might be beyond a lack of financial resources. Having done an outreach in Sweden in November, I witnessed a thriving IofC with activities like Canada used to have in the past. I look forward to supporting our domestic efforts to do more because Canada has so much to offer to the world. The good news is that we now have the Trust Building Pilot which should help spur our outreach efforts. Even though we have no monkey trees in Canada to support our reflections, I am confident that we can still succeed to rejuvenate the spirit of IofC globally again!