Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela

Hafsat Abiola-Costello: A World Democracy Champion Like Martin Luther King Jr., Corazon Aquino, & Nelson Mandela

16 Aug

Hafsat Abiola-Costello is a human rights, democracy activist and day 4’s hero of  Scott Lazerson’s A Hero A Day.

Mrs. Abiola-Costello comes from a family of dedicated Pan-Africanists in Nigeria. Her father, M.K.O. Abiola, won the Presidential election held in Nigeria in 1993 but served out his term in solitary confinement, incarcerated by the military. He died in prison, on the eve of his release. Her mother, Kudirat, was a democracy leader who organized major strikes, marches, and fought assiduously against the military. In 1996, she was assassinated in the streets of Lagos.

To continue the legacy left by her parents, Ms. Abiola founded and directs an organization called the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), which seeks to strengthen civil society and promote democracy in Nigeria.

Ms. Abiola is also involved in the global movement to empower youth and women and to strengthen democracy. She was a founding member of the State of the World Forum’s Emerging Leaders Program and Global Youth Connect. Currently, she is a Fetzer Fellow and serves on the Boards of Youth Employment Summit, Educate Girls Globally, Women’s Learning Partnership, Hewlett Packard’s World e-Inclusion Project, and the Global Security Institute.

Ms. Abiola holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University. Honors received include the Youth Peace and Justice Award from the Cambridge Peace Commission in 1997, the State of the World Forum Changemaker Award in 1998, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development’s “Woman to Watch for” Award in 1999, the World Economic Forum’s Global Leader of Tomorrow Award in 2000, and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation Global Award in 2001.

To learn more about Mrs. Abiola-Costello’s inspiring work please go to www.kind.org

Hafsat Abiola-Costello is Executive Director of the Kudirat Initiative of Democracy, an NGO that works to strengthen & empower women throughout Africa by providing leadership training

The Long Journey to Africa

21 Nov

While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument of our hardship and suffering.  We would want it to be a symbol for the triumph of the human spirit against the forcers of evil : a triumph of wisdom and largeness of spirit against small mindness and pettiness : a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness,” are the words of Ahmed Kathrada Prisoner 468 64.

I am on day 6 of my amazing journey through South Africa.  From the beautiful Table Mountain of Cape Town to the small HIV/AIDS orphanage in the Mfulleni Township where  “Mama”  Amelia takes care of 150 orphans to the prison cell of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island I am feeling the core of South Africa — the definite “courage & determination over human frailty & weakness”.

There is so much to say about the state of South Africa in terms of philanthropic need.  Africa is the epicenter of crisis, with continuing food insecurity, a rise of extreme poverty (this is poverty that kills), stunningly high child and maternal mortality, and a large number of people living in slums.  The need is great & thus the focus of the Interface Foundation on high impact public charities achieving the Millennium Development Goals is crucial.

Last night the owners of the Fifth Avenue Beach House  where I am staying here in Port Elizabeth shared with me the story of one of their personal heroes, Bishop Paul Verryn of the South African Methodist Church.  This is a man who works tirelessly with volunteers and staff to feed and shelter over 1600 homeless refugees at Johannesburg’s Central Methodist Mission.  After giving me Bishop Verryn’s background he actually arrived at the Beach House from Johannesburg.  

Ray Buchanan (a personal hero of mine & the founder of Stop Hunger Now, the reason I am in South Africa)  and I get to hear from Paul that there is an endless line of people waiting each day outside his office, five or more are always from Zimbabwe.   This has been going on for the last 4 years.

Women and children sleep in the sanctuary of the church every night, while homeless men wrap themselves in blankets and sleep head-to-toe like sardines in the meeting rooms above. Conditions for 200 people in a church building not meant for housing are a nightmare, Paul said, but a far sight better than living rough on the inner-city streets.

Some of the women appealing for help are refugees in the truest sense of the word. “Just recently we had a small family of a child, a mother and a father who came down. They had been to an MDC (a political party) rally, leaving their seven-year-old at home. He had been beaten up and was crying outside the house. They decided to move. I won’t tell you of the rest of her story because it is too horrendous for words, but they certainly left Zimbabwe in great fear of their lives.”

Young girls harassed to join the youth militia are also appearing more frequently at his office.

Although the outside world may think that what is happening at Central Methodist is commendable, Paul kept saying he finds himself “very ambivalent about the quality of what we are able to do here and would want it to be very different.”

“Some of the people we have in the building are extraordinary people: accountants, school teachers, qualified nurses, a doctor. Some are very ingenuous in the way they are making jobs and little projects trying to begin. So, sometimes just a little seed money for somebody to go and start a small business would make all the difference. We have wire artists, people who are making fly fishing lures. We have ballroom dancing, a drama group, all sorts of enterprises. Our goal is to try to enable people to take responsibility for their lives; to reduce dependency is a critical priority.”

Paul’s prayer is for a politically sustainable solution for the Zimbabwean crisis. 

As an American I had no idea what the Zimbabwean crisis even was and in the simplest of ways he describes it as a genocide in the making.
As Paul put it simply, “This is a God Moment.  It’s an opportunity for us to open our hands and knuckle down and be what we say we are.”

I have so much to learn, so much to do, and so much awareness to raise for the “Bishop Paul Verryn’s”  of the world!  I ask all of you to join the crusade in bringing compassion & justice to all on this planet!

A day with Mama Amelia in Mfuleni

A day with Mama Amelia in Mfuleni


22 Oct

Great leaders, like Jane Goodall and Nelson Mandela, derive their power from taking a stand. They know the distinction between taking a position and taking a stand. Taking a position, or having a “point of view,” forces us to take sides and argue for or against. It gets us going, but rarely has a lasting influence. Taking a stand opens up new visions and possibilities, and adversarial feelings begin to dissolve. It is a way of living and being that strengthens our capacity to make a difference.”

“You don’t have to be a Gandhi to make a difference in your job, in your company, in other important places in your life. We all have a stand inside of us waiting to be expressed, and when we are in touch with that place, we become more fully ourselves & can truly change the world, ” are the very wise words of Lynne Twist.

On August 23 in Raleigh, North Carolina over 4,000 people (students, faculty, community leaders, businessmen & women) took a stand on global hunger and packaged over 1 million meals for Stop Hunger Now.  Take a look & get involved:

Thanks to Ray Buchanan, the founder of Stop Hunger Now; Rod Brooks, CEO of Stop Hunger Now; Chessney Barrick, Development Director of Stop Hunger Now; Jesse Metcalfe, Lisa Spackman, Danny Hewitt, Mike Debenham, Drew James and everyone else who has supported the Stop Hunger Now Interface Foundation initiative.