She came to Kenya from India at the age of 23. Her passion to serve in Africa was her reason for coming. She started teaching at a village school in Mombasa, Bamburi High School. Gradually, she rose up the ranks of leadership and service to establish Nairobi International Schools. The first E school in East Africa. If you do not know much about the school, here is one thing you must always remember from Mrs Radhika Lee herself.
From nothing, extraordinary things emerge if we believe and connect to a higher experience of God.
I got into the school 30 minutes late. I had missed my directions to the majestic high school section that rests off Maji mazuri Road, Lavington area of Nairobi. Getting in, you are immediately struck by the calmness and cleanliness within. At the reception, I notice Mrs Lee in a meeting; she’s quite noticeable from the several images of her work in the media.
I am curious and excited to meet her and a bit nervous too. When I eventually get into the office, I meet a lady, quite confident, calm and inviting.
It’s interesting how someone like her, appearing successful has had immense challenges, from abusive relationship to having no money. Her story of trying to survive and showing her best self every day at some point in her life, reflects what several people go through in their pursuit to make a difference today. Here are a few nuggets that we captured from the 1 hour encounter with Mrs Lee at her Senior school’s center:
1) Giving up is not an option
In her pursuit to make a difference and offer her gift to the international education landscape, she battled with several issues. Family abuse, financial challenges and identity, being an Indian living in Kenya tops the list. Despite all these, she would think of several other things, and giving up was never a part of them.
2) Paint your vision, put some pictures and words into your dream
At the point of struggles, and survival, even though she had a job, she still woke up early to write and put down images of her dream into paper. She recalls with a smile on her face how she would talk with her son about the names of the classes in their conversations. She indicates that early mornings, with all calmness, were her time to put down her thoughts.
3) Show up your best always
It’s common that when we have challenges in our personal life, we let it trickle into our work and several areas of our life. While we recommend people to take action whenever they are in any crisis, Mrs Lee also believed in showing up her best at all times. In one instance, when a receptionist in one of the former schools she headed talked poorly to a parent, she was dismayed and offered to speak to the parent directly. To her, the parent was the reason for their being there and she had to show respect and understanding to them. She adds that the culture of an institution determines how the people there experience life and transformation.
4) Nurture and treasure relationships
When she came to Kenya, then in a rural village school, it’s by the support of close connections who gave her the push to expand beyond what she already knew. When she took it upon herself to treat a parent right, the parent eventually became a trusted partner in her dream school becoming a reality. She says that relationships are very important in the life of a new generation leader. Some of the sauce to nurture effective relationships is openness, flexibility to meet people at their point of need and being relatable. You could almost laugh when she recounts listening to trendy music and playing basketball, for the fun of it while connecting more to her teen students.
5) Prayer, meditation/quiet time & connecting to the divine is a bedrock for progress and impact
Importantly, Mrs. Radhika Lee has had an immense connection with God in her life and experience. In fact, she attributes all her success and impact to the God advantage. When asked what exactly she means by God, she starts passionately about the experience of God and reflections that are personal to each and everyone; only available in quiet times when the mind is calm. She has a tradition at her school of a 30 minutes quiet time every morning. According to her, each silence is a chance for the students to tap into their experience of God. As she explained, I could almost imagine all classes quiet; gates to the school locked, all students calm, as meditation music guidance chimes from the speakers available in each and every class.
Much recently, Mrs. Lee published a book called Rainbows in my Clouds, a sensational experience of a young girl who blossoms into a woman of the modern times. It’s a story of resilience, persistence, courage and consistency to overcome insurmountable odds and make a difference in the lives of children across the world. In the book, you will find out how she almost lost her life had her house manager not acted quick enough at the face of an abuse.
The proceeds of her book go to support CATSI, The Cancer Awareness and Treatment Support Initiative that lends a helping hand to the brave souls fighting cancer.
What inspires you from Mrs. Lee’s life nuggets? My favorite is number 5. Let’s take this conversation to more people that need it! Share the love!
Photo credits: Kenya High Commission