Update from Nigeria

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At the beginning of June, I travelled back to Nigeria for my third visit to our office there, and to the incredible group of leaders that are a part of our Leading from Within project in Cross River State.  We are now halfway through the three-year program, and the changes in the way that the participants are seeing, acting and being are profound and inspiring.  Inquiring into, questioning, experiencing and embodying what we have shared with them at the Retreats, they have made the learning their own as it connects to their own goals and visions. 


The participants of Leading From Within are currently engaged in developing Breakthrough Initiatives where they apply the learning through the program to a small project where they use innovation to ‘breakthrough’ into new territory around a social change issue that previously seemed unachievable.  With projects ranging from the translation of an HIV/AIDS handbook into a local language, to economic empowerment for widows, to alternative livelihoods for youth involved in election violence, the participants have been hard at work developing the ideas and proposals for these projects.  Click here for more information about each of these projectsTheir dedication and commitment to creating change is evident in the application of their learning in these projects, and it is exciting to see this new and powerful group of leaders emerging.


One of the key outcomes of the program thus far has been the establishment of the African Integral Development Network (AIDEN), formed by the participants to create a forum and collective space to grow this new group of leaders, and to work collaboratively around new ways to engage social change.  The Network is entirely the idea of the participants of Leading From Within.  While I was there, elections were held for the board positions, and the network was in the process of being formalized.  


It is a long, long journey from the West Coast of Canada to the Niger Delta.  And, yet, it is a place that has gained a particular familiarity for me.  As I arrived at the One Sky office, it was a bit like coming home into a space that is comfortable and known. The staff at the office has been working hard to create a welcoming and operative space, a feat that is not easy in a place such as Nigeria.  The State electricity is on for just a few hours a day on a good day, and often not at all for days at a time. This means no access to computers, lights, printers, email, faxes – all of the aspects that are required in to make an office functional.  That is, unless you have a generator. 


So, it was with great excitement that the first day of my arrival coincided with the arrival of the new generator for the office.   This means we have access to electricity at any time which represents a big step forward for the office, and means that we can use computers, printers, projectors, lights whenever we need them.  The garden that the staff has started in the grounds around the office is beginning to produce vegetables – I even was there to try the first batch of okra!  The team at the office provides a great foundation and strong support for the overall work of One Sky in Nigeria, and their leadership is continuing to advance the work and One Sky’s vision of supporting sustainable living globally.


Fortunately, my visit overlapped with the World Cup, and was able to witness the football fervor that overtook the country with Nigeria’s participation as one of the African nations.  In fact, we even had to end our Retreat early one day because of the 3pm start time of one of the games. Despite the severe lack of electricity, “coincidentally” there was electricity during each of the Nigeria World Cup games!  Being there for the World Cup, I was also struck by the global connections that exist and continue to grow.


As I sat at the office one afternoon on the weekend, I could hear a chorus of singing children approaching.  I went outside to watch a formation of about 30 young boys running down the street singing the World Cup anthem, a song that is written by K’naan, a Somali Canadian.  Soon after, a group of girls came running by, animated by a Nigerian folk song and the collective joy that their singing inspired.  The boys ahead turned back their formation, and the two groups met right in front of the office driveway.  And then they continued on their way, filling the streets with their creative play and music.  I was struck by the truly global nature of the world that we live in.  In the heart of sub-Saharan Africa, there were this group of boys singing a song by a Canadian who originally is from Somalia, a song that is being sung all over the world in different contexts and different meaning. 


And this is how this leadership project finds its context.  We live in a globalized world.  Even when the majority of the world doesn’t have access to experiencing that world, we continue to impact and be impacted by each other in profound ways. The skills, perspective and concepts that are needed to deal with the environmental disasters of the Niger Delta oil region, the diminishing rainforests, women’s inequalities and poverty all require solutions that can take into account and address the global context, even while working at the local level.


It was a visit full of energy, excitement, inspiration, and ultimately deep relationship with these participants.  They are lit up by what integral theory offers their theory and praxis, and are so open to embracing and exploring what integral offers their work and their lives.  The space of learning becomes a place of deep sharing as we grow together on this path of supporting fuller and richer expressions of Self and Group.  I continue to feel blessed and so inspired to have this opportunity to share a new way of Being together that supports a more awake, open and fuller expression of consciousness.


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