Be In Service: Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 15, 2018

By Jennifer Jones, VP of Strategic Communications & Resource Development

When you walk around Counterpart’s headquarters, you’ll notice something everywhere you look – diversity and inclusion. You’ll see staff from around the world huddled up having discussions in several languages, filling up white boards, challenging each other, and celebrating staff contributions on our “Kudos” board in the lunch room. You’ll also see constant reminders that our work here in the comfort of our offices in Arlington, Virginia is really about the dirt roads and small villages, concrete-block schools and community gardens, kitchen tables where activists keep their dreams alive, and government meeting rooms where citizens are seated at a table with their government counterparts. If you walked into any of our field offices, you’ll see the same thing — diversity and inclusion and people huddled up to do one thing — to be in service.

Senegalese school children looking over concrete wall

Between 2011 and 2015, the Food for Education program in Senegal increased student enrollment for girls by 26 percent.

On Monday, January 15th, we remember Martin Luther King, Jr. and celebrate his legacy. When I look around our office, I am reminded of his words: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” He taught us that “everybody can be great… because anybody can serve.” At Counterpart, we work every day to put these words into practice.

I think about the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), a network of emerging African leaders who will move into public, private and social sector leadership roles in the coming years. O’Brien MaKore, a YALI fellow from Zimbabwe, told us, “I was challenged to discover the potential I didn’t know I had. That has played a central role in my work and the community I serve is benefitting immensely.”

I think about Sabin Khasiyeva, a young woman from Azerbaijan who was selected to participate in a Counterpart leadership program in her country, where only 12 percent of women hold decision-making positions in government. Most women don’t have the confidence to step up as leaders, despite their strong desires to be of service. Our program brings women together to gain the confidence needed to run for municipal office and serve their communities. Of the women we’ve trained, half have run for office, and nearly half of those have been elected! Sabin told us, “Now I never say, ‘I can’t do something.’ I believe I can overcome anything. I believe in myself and now others do too.”

Being in service is what drives us here at Counterpart. And we know that there are so many others like Sabin and O’Brien who want to be in service in their communities to give everyone a voice, to ensure everyone’s basic human rights are protected, that everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential. So as I pause and reflect today, I nod to another quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. I have on my wall: “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”

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