Jose Antonio Ruiz Diez is pensive in the mountains

Let’s Make a Difference in Africa Together

This is the first time ever that I write about this fascinating project. Words that I probably should have written a long time ago, but I never expected the impact my actions would have on people. To all of you, thanks.

That is the reason why, as of today, I openly invite everyone to share in the Mzungu Project with me through this platform.

It all started on a terribly cold day (-25.6 F) in 2008 in Antarctica — half way between the South Pole and the coast of the white continent. One day, I sat down, alone on the ice (believe me, there is nothing but ice there!) and started to reflect on my life.

Having met all my goals up to that moment, I came to the following conclusion: I had to give back to life what life had given to me. It was that simple. I felt fortunate to have a wonderful family and to have accomplished what I wanted professionally. I was only 33… And now what? I asked myself. I believe my answer to that short question was as right as it was fair.

How do you give back to life what it has given to you? My logic originated from the financial efforts my mother had done for me to have access to school, and thereby, eventually earn a decent living. So there is where I found my answer. I would carry out my project by providing education.

That was the origin of it all. That day changed my life. I went back to camp and got to work on it. Well, it was not that easy. How do you do something like that? It sounds great but… And now…? How do I…?

Having taken my decision, it was time to start getting things done. I quickly set my goal: To make a difference in Africa by building a school where no one goes — where it is just not comfortable to go help or the rest do not dare… Just like that.

Why? Basically, because where others dare, there is already people helping but… What happens elsewhere? Why should children in countries like the DRC have less opportunities? No way… “Here I am!” I told myself.

I will never forget how some people questioned what I was doing. “Are you trying to redeem your sins?” or “What exactly are you looking for?” or “Is there a void you need to fill?”. I never thought someone would have to give explanations when it came to helping others. But for most, they stared back at me with their eyes wide open as I told them what I was about to do. They wanted to join me and make a difference in any way they could, and they never asked about my determination.

The time arrived to study different options: NGOs, Foundations, Government Development Programs, etc. Honestly, I had no idea where to start. I did not know (and still do not) anything about NGOs or Foundations and even less about development programs of countries I had only seen on colorful maps.

I had nothing against these kinds of entities, but I did not know them and was not going to put my hard-earned money at the risk of potentially funding organizational costs.  Would my money reach the right place? I was not going to follow that path.

And development programs? A bit of the same. Would they help me? Would they take advantage of me? I did not want to find out. Every cent had come from my own efforts and sacrifice.

Many times we think one needs to be a millionaire or a Hollywood star to undertake these sort of projects. Well, my dear friends, it is NOT the case. And although some of them actually undertake these kinds of efforts, my guess is many could do more. A lot more. While a few do it to for their image, a few do it right from the heart. To the latter, congratulations.

There are always three elements important to tackling any project: skills, knowledge, and attitude. Skills can be trained, knowledge can be acquired but attitude, you either have it or you do not. To me, attitude represents at least 70% of success. And both in attitude and determination, I had plenty so I was ready to make a difference. Ready and lost…

In the end, I was left with only one option for me to accomplish my goal: TO DO IT ON MY OWN.

AND SO I DID.

It was not without obstacles or sacrifices. It required lots of dedication and effort, and I actually reached the point of risking my life on several occasions. Today, in the jungle, in the most dangerous region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 200 children happily attend their new Primary School every day. To the children, thank you. To all those that helped me on the way to making it possible, my eternal gratitude.

Welcome to what is about to come, as you are all invited. No exceptions.

Jose Antonio Ruiz Diez

(About him)

 

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