So I left out a small but rather significant part of what happened when we arrived in Ndola yesterday. I explained that we were picked up at the airport and taken straight to a Hope Ministries gathering. And I mentioned that they asked me to speak and that I talked about Nelson Mandela.
But I failed to mention that when I was finished and sat down on my bench in the front row, about 30 women all moved to the front and started singing a lively and passionate song. Whenever they sing in Africa, it comes with a lot of movement , so there was some serious dancing going on as well. Brightly colored chitenges (African fabric) were wrapped around the women’s waists, and some of them were even wearing their Spark Ventures t-shirts. (That was cool!) After so many trips to Hope, I’ve become accustomed to this type of celebration, and I find it to be one of the many inspiring and joyful moments of a trip like this. But at some point the women started to move towards me in what looked like a line dance, and I thought, “Oh no, they are going to make this muzungu (white man) dance with them,”which would have been a both hilarious and quite sad.
The woman at the front of this procession was Mama Maureen, one of the house mothers at Hope House orphanage. She was carrying a medium-sized cardboard box with the Aquavita logo on the side. (Aquavita is one of the brands of bottled water in Zambia.) As they got closer, the singing got louder and other people in the audience began to cheer….and at some point I realized that this was not a box of bottled water they were bringing to me. Nor were they going to ask me to dance.
As my mind raced to figure out what was going on, all of a sudden the women dancing started to kneel down, some of the men from the audience also moved to the front and bent down next to me. Everyone’s arms were waving in the air and as the singing and shouting reached a climax, Maureen knelt right in front of me and placed the box at my feet. I looked down and in the box was a beautiful white chicken. Alive. I just stared at this animal in disbelief. And the chicken just looked up at me like, “I have no idea what is going on either!”
Once the singing and commotion died down, they took the box with the chicken away, and Ba Charles, the Executive Director of Hope Ministries, leaned over and said, “Our community wanted to show their appreciation for you. This is how they chose to do it; I was not involved. Ba Rich, this is a great honor.” In the hours that followed, I had several conversations with our Zambian friends and found out that it is a custom in the villages of Africa to present a living white chicken to someone who has been a great friend to their tribe.
The tribe of Hope Ministries chose to honor me in this way, but I know that their appreciation extends to the entire investing community of Spark Ventures because what we have accomplished, we have only been able to accomplish together. I wish all of you had the chance to be here with me on this trip: to hear the stories and see the transformation. For now, you’ll just have to take my word for it: there is an amazing community half way around the world that is incredibly thankful for their partnership with Spark Ventures. We have been a great friend to them. And I thank you for making this possible.