Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Pronounced oo-buun-too is a southern African philosophy focused on people's relationship to one another. Ubuntu: "I am what I am because of who we all are." (From a definition offered by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee.)

The following definitions and ideas are from Wikipedia:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered a definition in a 1999 book: A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.
Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008:
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
Nelson Mandela explained Ubuntu as follows:
A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?
Tim Jackson refers to Ubuntu as a philosophy that supports the changes he says are necessary to create a future that is economically and environmentally sustainable.
Judge Colin Lamont expanded on the definition during his ruling on the hate speech trial of Julius Malema [8]: Ubuntu is recognised as being an important source of law within the context of strained or broken relationships amongst individuals or communities and as an aid for providing remedies which contribute towards more mutually acceptable remedies for the parties in such cases. Ubuntu is a concept which: to be contrasted with vengeance
2.dictates that a high value be placed on the life of a human being; inextricably linked to the values of and which places a high premium on dignity, compassion, humaneness and respect for humanity of another;
4.dictates a shift from confrontation to mediation and conciliation;
5.dictates good attitudes and shared concern;
6.favours the re-establishment of harmony in the relationship between parties and that such harmony should restore the dignity of the plaintiff without ruining the defendant;
7.favours restorative rather than retributive justice;
8.operates in a direction favouring reconciliation rather than estrangement of disputants; towards sensitising a disputant or a defendant in litigation to the hurtful impact of his actions to the other party and towards changing such conduct rather than merely punishing the disputant;
10.promotes mutual understanding rather than punishment;
11.favours face-to-face encounters of disputants with a view to facilitating differences being resolved rather than conflict and victory for the most powerful;
12.favours civility and civilised dialogue premised on mutual tolerance.

Today, UBUNTU hit me like a rock as I was reading over my notes and scribblings from the ILI trip. I am a leader because my parents are leaders because God has put a power inside of me that draws people and groups to me. I am a leader because others look at me as a leader and because I realize that I can not accomplish anything alone. I am a leader because I recognize the consequences of the decisions I make and the power of my influence...still working on harnessing my influence Anndrea! 

We are multiculturalists, we are global citizens, we are leaders. It is up to us to remain global to remain relevant. We have much to learn from other countries, citizens, governments and the way in which we settle disputes, make decisions, work with others, develop our communities affects much more than just us. How different would our lives and communities be if we used the UBUNTU concept as Judge Lamont dictated above?

These questions were asked of us in Peru:
How do we work in our diverse communities as Servant Leaders? How do we manage the different interests? How do you respond to what you don't know? How do you organize the chaos? and for goodness sake, How do you sit and stay in the uncomfortable?!

I plan to spend the next few months and years contemplating these questions with an UBUNTU mind frame. I hopefully will share them on this blog!

Monday, November 26, 2012


OTR a.k.a Off The Record and since those sessions were really Off The Record
This blog is going to be ON THE RECORD

Every evening at the close of the day, Renata and Carolyn led us through an open session called Off The Record. I've never done this before in any job but it was a wonderful way to de-stress. Although the OTR sessions were late at night, a lot came out in these sessions that I can not and will not share in this forum but I know that each and every one of us is forever changed as a result.

On The Record, I can tell you that ILI forced us to look at ourselves. It forced me to look at myself and not just my YMCA career self but myself, Khalilah Pitt; daughter, sister, girlfriend, future wife, friend, future mother.  Carolyn asked us a question one night about Diversity & Inclusion and I cringed inside. I hadn't thought about how I answered that question in the past but what I can share with you all is that I have minimized diversity and inclusion; meaning I have totally said "Diversity isn't just black/white and male/female." Thanks Carolyn for forcing me to turn the mirror back on myself.  Diversity is more than race and gender, but if there was no focus on black and female; where in the world would I be?! 

I, luckily, have never felt uncomfortable or hypersensitive about my race and gender. I always felt very comfortable in my skin in whatever environment. I never once stopped to think that this was not the norm for many people and why I should care that others don't feel this free. What is my role as a leader, now Global Leader, to influence change around this? How do I become a champion for "freedom" to be just who you are?

On The Record, I can share with you that I feel different now. I always thought I had a broad view on life; thanks parents for sending me outside of the US of A to experience other cultures and lives. So I have to say I went to Peru with a very blank slate and very little expectations outside of learn about Peru. I think Peru taught me more about myself than I thought I would learn. These Off The Record sessions forced me to ask some very tough questions of myself on which I think will shape my "self" moving forward.

On The Record, the ILI participants enriched my life! I appreciate each and every person that was there and I know that God was in charge of this trip through and through. I enjoyed all of the time that I spent with each person along the way. I am grateful beyond measure and humbled to have been a part of such a special trip with YMCA professionals who are now a part of my family.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Opening thought was given by Anndrea Miller today, Nov 17-last day in Lima. She read the Paradoxical Commandments. Here are a few I wrote down:
  1. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  2. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
  3. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  4. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
I really enjoyed these and had never heard of this. It set the stage for our visit to the Japanese Peruvian Center.

In Peru, the Japanese Peruvians call themselves NIKKEI- Peruvians with Japanese roots. This term was introduced in the eighties and there are around 8,000 Nikkei;almost 6 generations but not all are identified. Here the focus is on 3 areas: Maintaining identity, total integration, and transformation. From what I could understand, the idea is that Japanese Peruvians are Peruvian first, they are encouraged to speak perfect Spanish, learn English and maybe a little Japanese. By doing this and participating in various other cultural activities, they are promoting their country, Peru, where they live, work and play. 

The Executive Director of the center put it best when he said, "if we have to choose between Peru and Japan, we should choose Peru. We are Peruvians in the way we act, look, dress, live..." "In supporting the development of Peru, we must strengthen each other."

The center hosts a Policlinico, a general clinic with services from x-rays to pharmacy that serves the community. As we walked through the clinic we saw a variety of people and staff that encompasses the diversity of Peru. Additionally, there is a theater that seats 1,000; opened in their 50th year anniversary. The Johnston YMCA can appreciate the large active adult program with around 500 participants, I saw an intense game of Cricket! Other programs include free cultural classes and martial arts. The Center also runs and operates a hospital, Centenario, near the YMCA.

The Director had a lot of questions about the YMCA, our religious focus, the relationship of our board members and how we are funded. It turned out to be a rich discussion that went way over our allotted time.

What I learned from this visit is that although you your best attempts at strengthening your community may be met with opposition, Attempt it anyway!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012


First let me say how exhausted I am right now! I'm two days behind on the blog but I'm committed to the account.

Thursday, November 15- CEDET

On Thursday, our focus was on the afroperuvian population in Peru. Up until this day, the afroperuvians seemed like a mystery. We rarely saw them in the city, I think we counted 5. What we know is that African slaves were brought to Peru by the Spanish and they live in communities in the southern regions of Peru, although many work in Lima.  The CEDET is the afroperuvian agency that advocates for afroperuvians in Peru through education (teaching pride in one's race), human rights, publishing books on the topic and a focus on women. The CEDET has been in place for 13 years. The books and marketing material they publish are well written and published, high quality.

The first conflicting information we heard had to deal with the percentage of Peru's population that is afroperuvian. We had heard and read 2%, the number is closer to 6-10%. We met before with INDEPA, the government agency working through the Minister of Culture to advocate for indigenous and afroperuvian populations. CEDET is saying that the group has done little to resolve the issues that afroperuvians face. CEDET is working to change the textbooks that are used to teach so that they portray a positive image of afroperuvians as well as change the images on tv.

We asked: Is it hard to get an afroperuvian to identify as such? The executive director, Osfaldo, answered yes; explaining that the government structure makes it hard. The thing he said that struck accord with us was that there are no whites in Peru.  He said there is my identity and the one I want to portray. He says, there should be a national identity; he's Peruvian first but he has African feelings, emotions and physical features. He talked about the concept of Intercultural education, I learn about you and you learn about me since we are all connected.

I could relate to this concept, this idea that we are all interconnected. Especially since I'm studying Genesis and learning where we came from and how we spread out. I agree with Osfaldo, it starts with teaching the youth to take pride in their identity and the identity of others appreciating our differences but realizing how much can be learned from one another. Susana Baca always called every afroperuvian she met Primo/Prima, which means cousin. Osfaldo called us that, kind of like brother or sister in the black community in the States, when he said it, I felt at home and warm. The afroperuvians are my primos/primas and we've had similar struggles. I'm definitely bringing back this concept to my life and my job. Thank you primo Osfaldo!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Back in tha day!

How many of you remember the song by Ahmad, that goes Back in the day when I was young, I'm not a kid anymore, but sometimes I sit wish I was a kid again. I was singing this in my head as I was thinking about our time in Lima Centro, the YMCA in a small, meager neighborhood in Lima. We spent the day, and I mean the day, painting a mural and getting to know the parents, children and staff of the Ah-Say-Hauta (ACJ) but you have to pronounce the letters in Spanish to get the feeling behind them.

This trip has been interesting from a tourist perspective, this the first time I've traveled to a Spanish speaking country with people that don't speak or understand Spanish. This really stuck out to me that day when we blessed our lunch, I'll talk about the new fruit I had in a minute, in English and then had a loose translation of that prayer in Spanish. It was the first time I realized that not only did we not understand our friends, they didn't understand us!!! Ok, so for dessert we had this sort of cross between Flan and sponge cake that was the flavor of the fruit that was cut in half on top. It's called Aguaymanto. It is smaller than a cherry tomato, orange, with tiny seeds inside, really tart and I learned that it has more vitamin C than kiwi! It was fabulous, if we had these in the States, I would eat them like grapes.

The best part of this day was spending time with the children and watching them take in our names and the cities and states we are from. CHEECAGO?! Is what they would say every time they heard it, la ciudad de chicle (the city of gum). Doesn't make sense in English but in Spanish HILARIOUS!! I finished the day with a game of Chipitaps, which I later learned is Pong; which I'd never played before.

So on this day, I didn't have to wish I was a kid again....I got to be one for an entire day!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How do you self identify?

Self identity- the way in which we categorize who we are. Sometimes we define ourselves by our career, our family, our city, our friends, our style. Whatever you choose, in the United States it most always includes a color that is very static and singular; black, white etc...

Today we visited several dignitaries; Gustavo Zambrano, Executive Director of INDEPA (Institute for the development of indigenous and amazonic cultures) as a part of the Ministry of Culture, Richard "Dick" Smith & Maria Rosa, the Institute of Common Good (founded on the need to care for common resources for the commonwealth), the Evaluator from the Ministry of development and social inclusion (focused on social inclusion as ensuring that all have the essential capacities to take advantage of opportunities created by economic growth).

In Peru, this question has different responses and depending on who you talk to may not even have an answer. What we know/have been told is that there are around 5 classifications in Peru- indígenas, mestizos, criollas, blancos, afroperuanos. Depending on the year, day, time and audience, a Peruvian may be any one of these. Nester, a Peruvian professor, said that Peru is a country that is multicultural and multiethnic.

The #1 question we are having is how does a Peruvian self identify? So far, we have heard a different answer from everyone; by their language, how they dress, where they live, the customs or beliefs. One thing is for sure, it is hard for us to imagine why defining oneself into an ethnic group is so complex/variable.

So today, we set off in another direction....helping to paint and revitalize on of the YMCA branches, Lima Centro.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Today was such a heavy day. We visited the YMCA Peru and had a tour of their facilities. I wish I could upload the photos! The YMCA had all of the things you would expect, a check-in desk, a teen center, a gym, a pool. And some things you may not expect, a cafeteria and a YMCA pro shop run by women who learned how to sew at the Y through an outreach program that teaches women how to be entrepreneurs. And now those women have their own business making YMCA apparel for staff and camp.

There are just some things that are part and parcel of a YMCA. The Pueblo Libre is the main branch of the YMCA Peru association. This branch has two main focuses; formal and non-formal programs. Formal programs are the academic side of the YMCA, with 3 schools and around 1,000 students. Non-formal programs are all of the recreational activities that we associate with healthy living and youth development.

The YMCA Peru has a strong faith based mission and vision, believing that it is our responsibility as Christians to reach out and help our community. I saw this very clearly today when we were invited to the opening ceremony for a new "branch" in the slums in Lima. The message was heavy with thanks to God first and foremost. It was overwhelming the reception of the Peruvians of our group into their ceremony. This center is for the development of early learning, like preschool, and will serve nearly 500 kids per day through learning and education as well as nutrition. The Senior leaders attended and led the opening with a blessing of flower petals that we were allowed to throw on the building as a symbolic baptism or renewal of the center. Additionally, as a part of the opening we were asked to give hugs of blessings since a hug is a blessing for yourself and someone else.

I have a different perspective of social responsibility now for sure.
Until next time-