417: How receptive have the people of Guinea Bissau been?
S.B.: They’re very excited. There’s very little foreign investment or aid in Guinea Bissau—the United States doesn’t even have an embassy there. To have a group of people in America who have a natural desire to preserve the Balanta language and can access funding to produce education materials through the resources that are available, it’s like a Christmas gift to them.
I sat down with the elders and I said, "what do you need?" They said, "the first thing we need are solar panels for this pump and we need taps, because the women are tired at the end of the day from having to carry so much stuff." When they need water, they've got to pull it up from a well and carry a bucket for 30 minutes. So I said, "Let's try to access those programs for solar panels and things like that, and we can deliver those things ourselves."
417: Is your work with Guinea Bissau your main focus now?
S.B.: Absolutely. We can do significant development work to benefit Balanta people and all people in Guinea Bissau because we happen to live here and have access to resources. By doing people-to-people development we have a direct relationship. This is a model of development for Africa based on what we call “the ancestry movement.” It’s not just me; I work with other ethnic groups who sit on a council together (houseofancestry.org). Once you have a real connection with the people, you’re going to feel it in your heart to do what you can to help them.
417: How has it impacted your personal outlook?
S.B.: In one way, this experience has given me clarity of vision. In a second sense, it's what I call "complete alignment." When you go to motivational speaker or entrepreneur's success seminar, you'll often hear people talking about "what's your why?" The why has to be big enough and grand enough, right? So, you've got to know what your why is and to have that clarity. Then you've got to write it out in detail. Your goals—smart goals that are specific and measurable. That's what the grant proposal writing process basically is. So, when all aspects of your life are in alignment the energy in the universe flows and you'll be successful.
You can help Siphiwe Baleka in a few different ways. Take a look at the official website for the Balanta B’urassa History and Genealogy Society, the House of Ancestry Association, or give to his GoFundMe directly. You can also see more about his professional and personal history on his website.