– Le Flambeau Featured Leader, September 2012
In moving forward we must first look back and recognize those special individuals who were pivotal in getting us to where we are today, and who will always be a part of our makeup. These are the Le Flambeau Featured Leaders, individuals who selflessly lit the torch and passed forward their gifts for the longer-term benefit of our Haitian youth, our global citizens, and our communities throughout.
Featured is Ms. Amanda Kralj Hill, a friend and an advisor to Le Flambeau Foundation. Amanda’s exemplary contributions in innovative IT applications, passion for education, character, and commitment to making a sustainable difference; played a leadership role in giving birth to the Foundation’s on-line presence and innovative learning platforms. She continues to nurture this growth as an advisor to the Foundation. Following is a recent interview with Amanda.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am originally from Wisconsin in the USA. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering and a Master’s from Northwestern University. I now live and work in Hong Kong. My biggest hobby is travel. I have been fortunate enough to travel all over the world, learn about different cultures, and have amazing experiences connecting with others. I am also into cooking, music, scuba diving, photography, reading, and writing. Professionally, my work involves connecting people across cultures and locations in order to share their experiences, knowledge, and expertise. This involves technology, understanding of human behavior, cross-cultural communications, and much more. It is an exciting space to work in, because it is constantly evolving and multifaceted. And it is all about helping others to connect and share, which I find personally rewarding.
What is your perspective on education and the role that it plays?
I think education is the cornerstone for any country. It is how to advance as a society and a way to grow an economy. Education is an investment back in the people. I think education is key to developing countries such as Haiti to evolve. While money and aide is very important to developing nations, an education is a direct investment in a person that does not just teach them a trade or a skill, it is showing them that they matter and have a role to play in this world. The potential in Haiti is great, and expanding their educational resources may be the tipping point it needs.
What is your perspective on technology and the role that it plays in any country, particularly in Haiti?
I see technology as an enabler for success within a country. With such an interconnected world today, we now have unprecedented access to content, knowledge, ideas, and people than ever before. If a country or individual does not have this access, they are not able to fully participate and reap the benefits of the world we live in. I think that for people in countries like Haiti, having technology not only helps them to learn and expand their own minds, but gives them an opportunity to share their experiences as well. It gives them a voice to the rest of the world that may not be known or heard.
Is there anyone in your life that you feel made a difference in how you’ve chosen to impact others?
While there were so many people in my life who really showed me what it means to impact another person, there are two people who stand out and showed me by example.
First, was my grandmother, Maryann. She always encouraged me to dream big. She taught me that if I wanted to live my dreams, it would take hard work and that you must give back to the world what you have received. I learned from her example – she lived life modestly, laughed often, readily helped others, and loved openly. I strive every day to live by her example. I would not be where I am today if it were not for her love and support.
The other person is Steve, who has been a father to me in every sense of the word. Steve taught me that it is okay to just be myself and that you should be passionate about life and share your talents with others. I was lucky to see this in action in the people he worked with and among family. And people loved him for it, because he did it with humility and humor. He taught me the importance of seeing the humor in life and how that can connect people across cultures. Through his example, he has shown me what it means to live life to the fullest and the joy one receives in helping those around you.
What difference do you most want to bring to the lives of those you work with? Why?
I want to help people see the world around them in new ways. We are all from different parts of the world, different walks of life, with different ideas and experiences. If I can in some way help a person see things from another’s perspective without judgment, then I am glad and feel I have made a difference. I think we need more understanding in the world and should embrace our differences. We learn so much when we can just listen openly without judgment.
Why Le Flambeau Foundation? …why did you choose to donate your time and talents to this organization?
When I first met Jean and Sheri, I felt like I had met long-lost family – we shared many things in common, especially our views on the world. In many ways, it felt like we were meant to meet one another. While I did not know much about Haiti at the time, I shared the same feeling that education was the way to help people in this world. The passion they both have for what they do was and is infectious. Also, the more I learned about Haiti, the more moved I was by their history and their people. I am honored to be able to help in any way and be a part of what Le Flambeau Foundation is doing.
What is your vision for the future? What bit of advice do you wish to offer to our youth of Haiti?
My advice – never lose that fire you have within for a better future – for yourself and for Haiti. Keep striving for more and work hard to achieve. And pay it forward by helping others out and sharing what you have learned and achieved along the way.
Ms. Amanda Kralj Hill serves as an excellent role model for all of us. Lighting the torch and selflessly passing it forward to help others is Amanda’s life story. This spirit connected us with Amanda and is the same spirit that will make a sustainable difference in Haiti and throughout our global communities. As Le Flambeau Foundation moves forward we look back and recognize the value of what Amanda brought, and is still bringing, to our lives. I am fortunate to have been included in this circle and feel that in writing this feature I am passing this spirit forward. We each have the same opportunities to be the spark that makes the life-changing difference for someone. Amanda’s example sets the bar high for many more.
Kind regards,Sheri Colas-Gervais
Le Flambeau Foundation Inc.
The Le Flambeau Featured Leaders series is focused on recognizing outstanding individuals who played pivotal roles in the initial stages and forward movement of the Le Flambeau Foundation.