I’ve also had a chance to chat with Rick and Wendy Walleigh whose new book was just released, From Silicon Valley to Swaziland: How One Couple Found Purpose and Adventure in an Encore Career. As the title says, Rick and Wendy vacated their comfortable, high pressure and successful careers to live and work in Swaziland and later, Kenya, to try and make a dent in the poverty levels there. “As we looked around the Silicon Valley bubble we lived in,” Rick said, “We saw a huge population of our peers who could provide great service to society while having similar adventures.”
This is similar to other stories I’ve heard from folks committed to making things better in the world. But what’s different—and remarkable—is the level of commitment they made. They were there for almost 2 years and have made numerous trips back since. And they continue to be involved by serving as advisors—for minimum wage mind you—and on Boards of Directors for the organizations they worked with in Africa.
What’s also different about this book is the level of detail offered, not just about the work they did and the accomplishments realized, but about what it was like for them on a daily basis. It reads almost like a combination diary and travel book, and, indeed, Rick and Wendy were able to explore areas of Africa on their own. Having been to South Africa myself, I related to the sites and sounds they experienced. They spend a great deal of time and space informing the reader about the cultural aspects of the life there which, of course, provides a great deal more understanding to the challenges they faced in their work. They discuss the political unrest, the poverty, the corruption, and the cultural barriers holding back many of the entrepreneurs, seen through the eyes of Westerners who were working with locals.
The driving force behind the Walleighs’ commitment shows up in something they wrote. And that’s something we should all heed. “Gerontologists say that the way to stay young is to stay active mentally and physically and to challenge yourself to learn new things. We intend to take this advice by continuing to encourage others while we benefit ourselves from the experience.” Indeed.