I was in 5th grade when my big brother Brian was sent to the United States on a full scholarship to earn an engineering degree at the University of Arizona. We know what they say about visualization, – “It is almost impossible to become what you don’t see.” I was lucky enough to have my big brother to look up to, and visualize what I could possibly become. He always told me that I had potential to do better than he did, and I wanted to prove to myself that he was right. He showed me that blueprint for success was education. I stayed up late at night studying material that was way beyond my grade level. I came to realize that no matter where I was, with an education, I could be somewhere else the next day.
Prior to my brother’s move to America, I watched my parents struggle to make ends meet. I was born and raised in Zambia, in a small town called Kankoyo-Mufulira. My Father was working as an underground miner for Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM). His job was tough and money was tight. Kankoyo was blighted by generations of poverty, not knowing where our next meal could be coming from. My parents had 16 children, and I was the youngest. For us to manage to eat, my mother had to think of ways to make money too. She sold fish, vegetables, fruits and other kinds of food at the local market for profit. My older siblings were in the streets trying to help bring bread to the rest of the family at home. Our house was small; some of us had to sleep in the kitchen and on the concrete floor. All of us in my family were bright and intelligent, but resources were limited. I’m talking about kids walking to schools, 7 to 10 miles away.
While attending school in Arizona, my brother sent us money, and he finally purchased a bigger house for my parents in Zambia. He sent us pictures of the American sky scrapers, highways, restaurants, and his new found lifestyle. He also sent the book titled Think Big by Dr. Ben Carson. I immediately took an interest in America. I wanted to be successful, and USA was the place to make that happen for me. I read “Think Big,” and wanted to become a Neurosurgeon. I worked hard in both academics and sports. After high school graduation, my brother invited me to the USA so that I could fulfill my dream-to live an American dream.
I have used my tough life in Kankoyo-Mufulira as fuel to propel myself forward in America. I believe in dedication to tasks, outworking others, giving my very best in everything I do. According to my brother, that spirit is what helped him navigate his way through America, securing leadership opportunities in fortune 500 companies. However, no one prepared me for the challenges such as systemic racism, police brutality, and isolation (I will talk more about challenges in my future blogs). Getting immigration paperwork was extremely hard. Education for international students was twice as expensive and came without financial assistance from government. One thing that helped me during that process was reminding myself of where I came from. I had sacrificed so much to be where I was. I was not going to disappoint my mother by returning to Zambia empty handed. I was willing to sacrifice my present pleasure for my future benefits. I worked three jobs while attending school. Life is about choices, and I chose not to go to medical school at the time because I was paying for my education. I quickly earned my bachelor’s degree in accounting while working for a fortune 50 company. I had the education, hardworking spirit, and dedication to the job. Despite corporate politics, I navigated my way through and joined their leadership team. I eventually earned my master’s degree as well. I’m writing this not to brag but to motivate my followers. Among other things, I was able to build my mother her dream house before she died, she actually designed it. I bought my dream car, Range Rover, a couple of houses, invested my money, and financially helped my family and friends back home. I have been able to mentor a lot of people, and lead by example. I’m a good example of what’s possible for anyone willing to sacrifice their current enjoyment for future benefits. I have also been able to fulfil my dream of making life for my kids much easier than it was for me growing up. I believe in setting specific goals, and going after them. As far as I know, we only have one life. Why not go out with a bang?