Written By: MIM!—Capitalizing on his understanding of different cultures and markets, TMS Ruge has become a successful global social entrepreneur with ventures that include: (1) co-founding www.ProjectDiaspora.org—an organization he co-founded in 2007 to motivate, engage and mobilize the African Diaspora to take an active role in Africa’s development), (2) running UMPG—an indigenous farmers’ business in Masindi, Uganda and (3) advising Women of Kireka, a women’s jewelry making co-operative in Kampala, Uganda. The Free Radical of MIMI's Hot 21, Ruge sat down with MIMI to reflect on Africa and the African Diaspora. Here is what he had to share on these subjects and more ...
1. Life right now is ... Superbly hectic! I've got a whirlwind travel schedule over the next few months. I am in Uganda as we speak supervising some social entrepreneurship and community development projects for Project Diaspora. I'll be sneaking out to Rwanda, Kenya and the UK for some speaking engagements before heading to Dallas. Life right now, is beautifully occupied with thoughts and actions of giving back to my continent and doing my small part in my small corner of the world.
2. My first job was ... (Laughs) My first job was as a dishwasher at this restaurant. I used to rollerblade to work and spend 8 hours washing dishes and bussing tables after school and weekends. My only perk was watching Michael Jordan play in the NBA finals. I think I was earning $3.75 for the pleasure. Big money!
3. I knew my career (Project Diaspora) and me were meant to be when ... The constant and dreadful thought of occupying yet another corporate cubicle drove me to embrace the idea of PD. And then when I started meeting members of the African Diaspora at conferences who were telling me they are fans of PD, it really cemented my drive to do more, and I knew I was meant to do this. The tiniest of successes along the way to getting PD to where it is have provided for a lot of smiles as I drift off to sleep.
4. Being passionate about Africa is all about being ... Comfortable with all facets of Africa. The good, the bad, the ugly, the unsung. It is all part of me. From the dusty air, to the red mud between my toes after a tropical storm. It is about looking beyond 400+ years of foreign rule and bad news and listening to the drums of a renewed continent determined to lift itself out of dire straights. Being passionate about Africa is loving to do whatever is needed even if you are not getting paid for it. The journey is the payment, and accomplishing something along the way is the bonus.
5. The one phrase I overuse is ... "I love, love, love it!"—I am an idea guy, and I get very excited when I hear out of the box ideas that bend the norm. As a result, it has just stuck that this is my natural response to good news, great ideas, suggestions, a good conversation ... whatever.
6. My fictional hero is ... Tony Stark. Billions of dollars. A genius brain. Oh yeah, the cool toys that blow up things are a nice touch.
7. My real life hero is ... For obvious reasons, Mr. Nelson Mandela. Every inch of his life is the epitome of a life of service to a calling. Closer to home though, it would have to be my mother, easily! She is such a warm spirit and such an example on how to overcome adversity everyday. She is an inspiration in her community and lives every day to serve God and man. She is truly loved by all.
8. Living the dream for me would be ... Being at the forefront of a rising continent. It is like sitting at the lake at dawn watching the sun rise. It is very surreal what is happening here. Living the dream would be watching the people I work with everyday have their lives transformed by something I was a part of! Nothing more satisfying than watching someone's life transform. The beautiful thing is that they don't have to know. It is just my little secret.
9. My wish for Africa is ... Everything under the sun. Why not? Well, let me be more specific, I wish for successful improvements in ALL sectors. My wish is for Africa to take the reigns for once and the world to take the training wheels and baby-sitting mentality off the continent so we can really come into our own. We may stumble and we may falter, but we will learn with every generation how to rely on ourselves. Nothing will happen if everyone continues to do things for us.
10. My next project is ... A complete secret. Shhhhh.
(Photo Credits: Provided Courtesy of TMS Ruge)