Since we are in a month of gratitude with Thanksgiving (in the United States) and the holiday spirit soon upon on us, I wanted to build on this important theme. I know I am not alone when it comes to facing adversity and looking for ways to overcome obstacles, but I do think there there is a lot to be thankful for, especially those of us who do find positive coping strategies. I would like to put this in perspective so readers can make positive changes and derive their own benefits.
“Helping professionals,” namely teachers, doctors, nurses, coaches, educators, therapists, religious leaders etc. have all played a critical role in my life and ongoing recovery. Through their kind words and deeds, I was able to receive the care I needed at the right time and place. As I’ve alluded to in an earlier blog post, we are all on journeys through time and space which only we as individuals experience to fully comprehend our life on earth. Sometimes, our individual and collective journeys can lead to painful emotions, sometimes it can lead to dullness and sometimes it can lead to awakenings, among other ways of being.
2013 Gift from Khelshala Service Trip Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2019.
I have come to learn through experience gained over the last decade, that if one practices gratitude with a positive attitude this can lead to happiness. Practicing gratitude is a habit that can be formed through both small and big acts of kindness. These are usually learned at home from family and friends and then through socialization at clubs, schools, universities, faith-based organizations, businesses or even at times, government agencies. A retired educator once noted that there are no limits as to how many times you can say thank you. To operationalize this concept, I would add that if one exercises the “gratitude muscle” through random acts of kindness with a positive attitude this will result in greater happiness. Thank you and may you find happiness!
During this week, I attended my third The Child is Innocent (TCII) fundraiser in Boston courtesy of one its co-founders – Kevin Schwartz, MD of Massachusetts General Hospital. I was introduced to this non-governmental organization by Stefano Rossi of the Centro per la Cooperazione Internazionale in Trento, Italy and have found it a good way to stay connected to the people and well-wishers of Uganda. Kevin and his team at TCII are planning to build a new school campus called Hope Academy in Gulu, Northern Uganda in three phases. The detailed architectural plans were on display at the event to encourage others to donate and get involved.
Hope Academy: Vision and Master Plan, The Child is Innocent Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2019.
What impressed me about this organization was its core group of volunteers and dedicated supporters. They are committed to the TCII mission and travel frequently to Northern Uganda to meet with local staff to be proactive with decision-making and fundraising. Perhaps one area they could improve upon relative to other NGOs I have worked with is on the concept of “radical transparency.” Attending a fundraiser in Boston with little knowledge of the issues on the ground in Northern Uganda, I can understand how some observers might feel skeptical as to how funding might be mismanaged. This is not a criticism of TCII but of many charities around the world. Therefore making budgets, financial statements and fundraising transparent and available to everyone via the Internet might garner even more support and goodwill for TCII and other similar charities.
Hope Academy Architecture, The Child is Innocent Fundraiser, Photo credit: T.Mohammed, 2019.
In the spirit of transparency and collaboration, the front cover of both the printed and online version of this blog are of a group of African HIV orphans who I had the privilege of coaching and refereeing more than fifteen years ago in a suburb of Kampala, Uganda. Though not part of my official United Nations Volunteerterms of reference (TOR), it was a very signifiant experience in my personal growth and development. Hence, I would like to acknowledge Stefano Rossi of the Centro per la Cooperazione Internazionale in Trento, Italy, who along with several Italian and Irish volunteers in Uganda invited me to the orphanage in Uganda on a weekly basis. This coaching experience became one of my many inspirations in the field of sport for development and peace.
The sport for development (SDP) sector comprises of for-profit, not-for-profit and hybrid business models that at the end of the day require revenues or donations in order to sustain themselves to perform mission-critical functions. All SDP organizations need funding to ensure sustainability for their stakeholders. This is why I have ventured into a new role with RK Global, an international growth marketing agency headquartered in Los Angeles as a Business Development Consultant.
My three-month hiatus from blogging was to assess new ways of monetizing and sustaining activities for a “win-win” situation to enable SDP organizations, the readers of this blog and myself. The acceleration of growth in the SDP sector through information and communication technologies (ICTs) – such as the Internet, cell phones, artificial intelligence, 3-D imaging, virtual and augmented reality – create many ways for growth-oriented SDP organizations to reach more customers and people in need, regardless of whether they are in high-income or low-income countries. Ultimately, ICTs are not a panacea for all the world’s problems but can promote systems-wide action if used for good.
The bottom line is that SDP organizations do not operate in a vacuum and are influenced by political, economic, social and environmental forces. This means in order to avoid organizational shutdowns and failures, sufficient political, economic and social capital is needed. The twenty four innovative technological tools and multiple marketing strategies offered by RK Global are potential solutions for the sustainability of the SDP sector. This blog as a subsection of the Internet will not end, as long as I am able to do so. Therefore, I look forward to writing more blog posts in the future.
In my failure biography on this blog, I describe my first psychotic experience in 1999 in New York City. Twenty years later after a lot of psychotherapy, medication, vocational and family support I am very lucky to have not ended up on the streets of New York City without food, clothing and shelter. In this blog post, I would like to share some of the amazing work of the Bowdoin alumni I am grateful to know who swiftly saved me during my medical emergency.
Marc Wachtenheim, Founder and CEO of W International based in Washington DC and a member of the Class of 1997 was the first person to call and alert my father in the early morning hours in The Netherlands when I experienced my first psychotic episode in New York City. Marc and I have remained in contact over the years and he has been a mentor to me and gracious host during many of my subsequent visits to Washington DC. The video below is Marc speaking about human rights at the Oslo Freedom Forum.
Eddie Lucaire, Vice President of Brand Partnerships at Copa90 and a member of the Class of 1999 walked me to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan where he assisted in voluntarily admitting me for emergency psychiatric care. At the time I did not know where or why I was going to the hospital but thanks to Eddie’s good guidance I was safely given the treatment I needed. Eddie now lives in Los Angeles working for a start-up in the global soccer business and we have remained in contact over the last 20 years.
Adam Stevens, Principal of PS 4 Duke Ellington School in New York City and member of the Class of 1999 was employed by American Express Corporate Travel Services in New York City. I was about to begin my first day in the same department of American Express with Adam, but did not make it to my first day of work. Adam also reached out to my father and family by sending them a fax in The Netherlands to let them know how things were going. Adam and I are not in frequent contact, but I know he is continuing to serve the common good through education.
While I was in New York city, I had two roommates in Manhattan – Crispin M. Murira and Daniel P. Rhoda – who were working in investment banking for Credit Suisse First Boston. They too noticed the warning signs of my psychosis and helped work as a team with Marc, Eddie and Adam to get me the care that I needed at Bellevue Hospital and later at McLean Hospital in Boston. Sadly, in 2013 Dan passed away due to an unknown reason but I was able to attend his funeral in Houlton, Maine. Today, Crispin is the Co-Founder and CEO of Copia Global which leverages technological solutions for bottom of the pyramid customers in Kenya (see video below).
The reason I share this true story is not only to express my gratitude, but to assist with fundraising for Bowdoin College and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) both of which I contribute to in meaningful ways. I hope readers of this blog post will feel moved to make a contribution to these mission-driven organizations.
Over a 26-year span of immersing myself in the global squash community through various roles as an amateur player, volunteer, coach and administrator, I, along with the more than 20 million squash players worldwide, wish to see the sport of squash designated an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee. Many (including non-squash players) consider squash to be a “true-sport,” unlike “eSports,” which has recently become a multimillion dollar industry attracting major sponsorship. The target customers of eSports are mostly young people, but the industry also has the potential to reach stay-at-home parents, “differently-abled” athletes, career professionals-in-transition and senior citizens with extra time on their hands to participate in leagues and tournaments.
In recent years, the Professional Squash Association has made limited attempts to license squash video games to bolsters its marketing efforts to capture the “eye-balls” of both current and potential squash fans. My prediction for 2019 and beyond is that, if there are any serious technologists, publishers or members of the gaming community, who possess the know-how to develop, market and sell a world-class gaming squash product (without violence as the premise which in the case of squash is a gentleman’s sport) there is a good possibility for a win-win of squash’s inclusion in the Olympic Games as well as developing a profitable eSports business leader. eSports will never be able to replace the skill, athleticism and mental fortitude that the real sport of squash requires but it can help capture the public’s sporting imagination to expand squash’s audience.
My Bowdoin 20th class reunion will be held in May/June 2019 and as such I’ve been reconnecting with staff, students and alumni at my alma mater. Any former government and legal studies majors and the general public may learn from a Distinguished Lecturer in Government Bradely Babson’s course “The Two Koreas and Geopolitics of Northeast Asia,” class podcast held back in May 2018, by current Bowdoin students Tim Ahn ’19 and Sam Jablonski ’18 on the role of sports diplomacy in the Koreas.
The recommendations set forth by researchers from George Mason University Center for Sport Management are based on the assumption that the “intent of sports diplomacy programs is to create meaningful change in local communities.” Though the costs of sports diplomacy can be expensive and time consuming, I tend to agree with the GMU researchers’ recommendations, since in my own small way I have lived as a volunteer, coach and administrator to play a role in fulfilling the intent of sports diplomacy.
Ever since I can remember I’ve always been a kinesthetic learner which is perhaps why I ended up completing my graduate degree in Physical Education. I missed out on having an older brother as a kid, but I am super proud of John “Jay” Morrison, my elder brother-in-law who completed the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon recently in over 4 and half hours. Respect to anyone who completes the 26.2 miles of a marathon.
John “Jay” Morrison, my brother-in-law completing the 2018 New York City Marathon. Photo credit: P. Mohammed, 2018.
While I am yet to run a marathon myself, the preparation and training before to qualify and compete in a marathon is not only a physical but mental challenge. Jay was a recreational ice-hockey player in his youth and became a fan as a season ticket holder of the men’s ice hockey program at University of Denver (his alma mater). He is also a golf and skiing enthusiast. His interest in athletics did not stop him from staying physically fit and maintaining a balanced diet (which he learned how to do as an award-winning chef). Currently, Jay is leading a busy life in the food distribution business, but he still finds time to keep fit even though he recently turned fifty!
Miriam (my sister) and Meena and Anjali (my nieces) cheering on Jay at the New York City Marathon. Photo credit. P. Mohammed, 2018.
What can we all learn from my brother-in-law Jay? Well, he is a great example of an American male who is aging well by staying physically and mentally active. Jay did not specialize in sport but is a well-rounded athlete who is sharing his sporting lessons with his young daughters and wife. Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from Jay is to keep on moving and learning new things. Whether you are in third grade or a senior citizen, maintaining physical and mental fitness throughout one’s lifespan is worth it!
Today happens to be the United Nations sponsored International Day of Peace, which prompted me to write this blog post. It relates to the notion of “peace of mind”. Readers of this entire blog, might ponder why the title has the word “explorations.” This is because I have attempted to balance personal and professional lines of thought and action which are outlined by numerous themes. As part of my exploration in physical spaces, I found an exhibit at the MIT Museum on the “Beautiful Brain” which sums up the essence of my exploration in mental health.
At the Santiago Cajal “Beautiful Brain” Exhibit at MIT Museum. Photo credit: Unknown, 2018
The founder of modern neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a Nobel-Prize winning scientist, was also a Madrid-based artist who drew intricate sketches of the brain as part of his study of its structure and function. The beautiful hand drawings (for example, see below) are very detailed and helped pave the way for modern neuroscience to make early discoveries about the brain and cognition.
Cajal drawing at MIT Museum, Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.
I could really relate to Cajal’s quote below from the way in which psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has helped in my mental health recovery. It has never been my intention to cause confusion (although it does happen unwittingly from time to time), but to seek greater understanding and balance of the boundaries of my personal and professional reflections. Many people (some known and unknown to me) have helped contribute to my health and wellness for which I am grateful. Many of them have reminded in small but simple ways to “stay happy, stay healthy.”
Cajal quote at MIT Museum, Cambridge, MA. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.
Tariq Mohammed and participants at the 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo credit: W. Webster, 2001.
Our role as facilitators were to create a positive and inclusive environment for cross-cultural learning and dialogue on political and economic crisis simulations. The facilitators also acted as chaperones for the participants on social and cultural excursions. For example, my group (see photo above) visited the Japanese Embassy, toured Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty and ate an authentic Czech meal. The combination of activities fostered a genuine exchange of ideas and modes of cooperation. It was not always easy to find solutions during the crisis simulations given different points of view, however by practicing mutual dialogue, negotiation and advocacy skills participants were better equipped to tackle real political, economic and social issues when they returned to their countries of origin.
Embassy Visit of 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference Participants, Prague Czech Republic Photo credit. W. Webster, 2001.
If you are a parent, educator or coach of a recent college graduate, I recommend that you nominate a young individual to participate in forums such as the International Youth Leadership Conference which currently hosts events in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and of course Eastern Europe. In addition to the skill-building activities, there are opportunities to network with leaders from all walks of life and explore a new part of the world to gain a different perspective on your own beliefs and values. If we are to truly create the world that Nelson Mandela envisioned for the future, then today’s youth might want to consider participating in an International Youth Leadership Conference close to you.
Prior to the reorganization of ITG, Geoffrey organized a company retreat in Duxbury, Massachusetts. The photograph below is of a handful of the ITG team who were in attendance while other key team members were missing. Starting from right to left they were: Colin Maclay, Marcela Escobari, Geoffrey Kirkman, Magda Ismail, Carolina Vizcaino, Mridul Chowdhury, Chutney (the dog) and myself. Thanks to Geoffrey’s own blogging projects and his mentorship over the years, he positively influenced my blogging endeavors. I’ve enjoyed preparing, editing and writing my blog posts for a general audience. However, as my 100th blog post and counting, it is not clear how this will impact the limitations of space in the printed format.
Nonetheless, I shall share a few thoughts on how blogging has helped me and prospects for the future. First and foremost, the ability to reflect upon my work has not only allowed me to document the work done, but to pause and think about the importance of health and wellness. Second, this blogging project has connected me to a wide array of individuals and organizations working to improve the state of the world in real and meaningful ways. Third, I have developed a platform on which to translate longstanding political, economic and social issues in America and around the world through the lens of sport and development.
What does this mean for the future? This year – 2018 – is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is the original framework on which my workbook “What Squash Can Teach You?” was derived. Furthermore, my time with Reebok’s Human Rights Programs also shaped the work of this blog project by wanting to combine and continue my interest in sport and sustainable international development. In the future, I hope that the printed formats of this blog and my workbook will be used as educational tools to facilitate critical thinking as well as create positive economic and social value, in the United States and across the world. By reflecting on the start of these writing projects, I intend to create a better finished product.