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August 3, 1992

Sunset or Rebirth

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In recent years, whenever Jayla Rice-Washington returned to her home country of the United States, it seemed like a foreign land to her. She had spent so much time in the East African country of Mozambique that she felt more Mozambican than American.
In 1990, when the civil war in Mozambique came to an end, Jayla—fresh out of a master’s program in nonprofit management—had founded Children’s Refuge Mozambique to assist in caring for the nation’s vast number of orphaned boys and girls. At the outset, she and her board had defined “success” as having at least one well-run orphanage in operation under a trained Mozambican director in each of the nation’s ten provinces. Before returning to the United States on this current trip, Jayla had installed a local director in remote Niassa, the last of the ten provinces her organization had reached.
Perhaps it was because of this milestone, with the resulting sense of relief and accomplishment, that Jayla felt more comfortable in returning to the United States than she had in a long time. She was in Atlanta for the annual CRM board of directors meeting.
The agenda basically came down to this: Now what? They had achieved “success,” as originally defined, so what more—if anything—should they be doing?
Most of Jayla’s board members had been with her from the beginning. She trusted them, and they trusted her, and discussions tended to be open and wide ranging.
At one point the Rev. Dr. Jeffers said, “We achieved what we wanted to. Mozambique is in a better place than it was back when we started. The needs of children there are still serious, but it’s time to let the nationals run the next lap. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Amanda, Jayla’s old activist partner and still a firebrand, jumped in with a different view. “It would be crazy to stop now when we have assets, stability, connections. Let’s don’t just quit. Let’s reinvent ourselves. There’s so much more good we can do.”
Another board member nodded and started wondering out loud about expanding their orphanage work to neighboring Zambia or Zimbabwe, with perhaps more nations to come.
Still another suggested staying focused on Mozambique but shifting emphasis to primary education or children’s health care.
“What do you think, Jayla?” asked Rev. Jeffers.
Jayla had been dreading that question, though she knew it would come. What was the best thing for CRM to do? Was it time to sunset itself? Or should it get ready for a rebirth of some kind?
And beyond that, she knew, the decision that the board would make would also determine her own future. She still had a good ten, maybe fifteen years of working life in her. Would she prefer to spend them in her adopted homeland or back in the States?
Right now, she told herself, I’ve got to lead this board in making the decision to either start a new game or put the pieces back in the box. And I have no idea how to do it.

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