Embracing sad memories in the past can lead us to future success…

Reflecting back on my life trajectory, this is one of the things I have come to realize: embracing sad memories in the past can lead us to future success. Gaëlle

Reflecting back on my life trajectory, this is one of the things I have come to realize: embracing sad memories in the past can lead us to future success. Let me tell you why.

I had a rough childhood. I was bullied in school. It didn’t happen until I turned six, a tough year when my mom passed away. Her loss affected me deeply. I became really bad at school, and being penultimate in class was no surprise anymore. There is a day I will remember forever, when one teacher of mine humiliated me in front of the whole class. She said I was a dummy while literally pushing my forehead with her finger. Can you imagine how I must have felt after such a disgraceful incident? I felt miserable and I could not help but weep. I wanted to shrink until I became invisible, but I could not. I had no desire to come to class anymore, but I did. I tried to persuade myself that this was a nightmare that will one day turn into a fairy tale.

Fourteen years later, to my surprise, that very same story of mine inspired 20 young girls from the Peace Corps Volunteers’ Girls Leading Our World camp to keep their chins up while facing difficulties. And later, to my own surprise, the same story ended up inspiring many more youth groups both from the rural and the urban areas. I never thought that one day, people will look up to me this way.

Today, I feel like a conqueror, not because I’m the best (I know I’m not) but because then, I realize that my pain in the past has become a weapon for others to win their battle. This is what I’d call “future success”!

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Volunteer for change

When the American Center invited me to be their guest speaker at Friday Talk, I was unsure of what I was going to talk about. After I took time and thought of my life back then though, I realized that my life has taken a brand new direction since this word “volunteer” came to my life.

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I cherish such moments. It always feels so good to share like what I just did in this photo.

To me, volunteerism is this beautiful concept of Love that not only made me changed as a person but that also made me want to be a change maker in my little world. Wikipedia, Google, and Encarta have got their own definition of volunteerism. You might have yours too. But I personally love to think of volunteerism as a language of love. For a moment, I want you to think of your spouse, your boy/girlfriend, or just your loved ones (I am pretty sure you have at least this person in your life whom you cannot possibly imagine living without). What do you actually do when you want to show them love? The list is by no means exhaustive but I am sure these are things that you might do: telling them “I love you”; blowing them a kiss; spending quality time with them; reminding them how amazing they are; giving them gifts when you feel like it…For me, volunteering is exactly like that. I personally volunteer because it’s my own way to say “I love you” to my community. When I speak this beautiful language of love, I can see “hope”, “happiness” and “life” in my community’s face.

In his book “the 5 love languages”, Gary Chapman talks about 5 possible ways of showing love. As I started to speak these languages while volunteering, I could gradually amazing changes in people’s lives. I guess that is partly why I named my talk “Volunteer for change”…just because I was the one who got changed first when I first volunteered. Changing the world into a better one would have not made any sense at all if I had not been changed myself. To me then, changing the world into a better place is a choice that only you and I can make. I am actually learning how to speak this language of love everyday as I devote my time to volunteering. After all, practice makes better, right? I know it’s not easy but I know for a fact that the more I give the more changes I will see. That prompts me to keep it up no matter how hard speaking this love language might be!

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Q & A

“Share Love for change, volunteer for change”

Volunteer for change

(this is to give you an idea of what my Friday Talk presentation was all about. You would probably not picture the whole presentation as I was talking, interacting, moving and even ended up showing my audience 2 small videos but I am hoping thanks to this PowerPoint, you can at least get a sense of what it was like.)

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Thesis…do it or forget about your degree!

Believe it or not but my graduation was due a few years prior my actual graduation. Let me put it this way; I could only present my thesis a few years after an eternal struggle. What I am saying here probably doesn’t make that much sense (or doesn’t make sense AT ALL) for those of you who went to ‘normal’ schools. You study hard throughout your senior year; you read a lot of books; you stay up late at night; you make a lot of research; you sit for an exam (you name it)…and you get your degree by the end of the year.

In schools like mine, you are constantly under a deadline and a lot of pressure (I guess at this point we are on the same boat). You have a ton of assignments to do (Don’t get me wrong! Doing assignments is okay. That’s what students are at school for, right?). But what was not fair to me was having your ‘Professor’ come in class an hour late (could be way more than just one hour), yelling at you and make fun of you in front of the whole class because as the “elected leader of the class” you sort of made your classmates aware that 1-hour wait is way too much and that this should definitely stop. That person was me. I can still recall that we all left the class before our professor showed up. Maybe I was wrong I so wanted to lecture my professor on the value of time this way. Please don’t think I didn’t respect her because I did. But I just hate it when people are disrespectful. I surely was the student but hey my time is as money as yours so please Professor come to class in time. You can imagine how she felt when I met her (my professor) again later then. Angry. Mad. Furious. I was scold, humiliated, and screamed at. And you know what, she hasn’t changed a bit. She’s remained the same, always my late-comer professor.

During the same period, strikes equaled to trend in my university. Pretty much all the departments went on strike, of course mine did too.  All these things as a whole pissed me off and I decided to do things my own way. I started to do things that mattered to me. I helped out a number of organizations, clubs, and just people/friends do volunteer works. I LOVED what I did. I interned at the EducationUSA, one of the departments of the Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy. I’ve interned there for 10 months. And yeah, I enjoyed every single thing I did. But as a consequence, I forgot that I should come back to school and get my thesis done. Things went on and by God’s grace, I was selected to be one of the YALI fellows. This implied me going to the US to represent my lovely island. So during less than 4 months, I was in the US as part of the program. I was pretty positive when I left Madagascar and said to myself: “When I am in the US, I will study hard at Rutgers University (because this is where I went to for), I will do my best as an intern (I was placed at Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington DC), so on and so forth” and yes I also said: “I will devote an hour or so every night to working on my thesis so that as soon as I am back in Madagascar I will do my presentation and get my diploma”. Now my being too optimistic back then makes me laugh out loud. My schedule was SOOO hectic in the US. Hardly could I close my eyes at night. It was part of the fun, though. But the point is…to be honest, getting my 60-page book all written well was just NOT possible.

Now after my 14-week program in the US, I am back in Madagascar. I get an announcement saying my thesis presentation is due in a few days after my arrival. I was like: “Are you pulling my leg????” But of course they were not kidding. Along the invitations I received from youth clubs, schools, etc. to share my US experience, my thesis kept me very busy. I was working hard on my thesis…day and night. To my surprise though, on the D-Day, my judges and the folks who attended were blown away by my presentation. I couldn’t believe it could be done that well in such a short period of time. I have been praying, praying, praying because it was way too much for me to handle. But I did feel God’s presence all along the way. And you know what, for the very first time in my life, my professor would shower me with A TON of compliments. I even heard people say later then that I had the BEST grade ever and that therefore I was ranked 1st in my prom. To God be the glory! Writing a 60-page document about a customized program about voluntourism to empower girls through camps was not a piece of cake but God helped me find the right words, the right sentences and paragraphs until it became a whole book.

Lessons I personally have learned: if God has put something strong in your heart, and if you feel that it is really important to you, go for it, pray about it and take action. Move forward! See…I finally have my diploma….a few years later BUT now I have it. Yaaaaay!!! This verse helped me a lot by the way: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act” Psalm 37:5

PS: These are a few photos taken during my presentation. Can you spot two flags? I had the US and Malagasy flags on the table because first of all I am very thankful for Madagascar (my country) and second of all I am thankful God used my US experience to inspire me.

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