Name: Princess Tirelo Molotlegi
Occupation: Princess of the Royal Bafokeng Nation, Phokeng, South Africa
Power: Using connections and community influence to inspire school children
Catalyst: Belief that everyone should have opportunity
Tea: English breakfast
Mentors make passports out of undesirable situations.
When we first moved from Saigon, Vietnam, to America, my parents left a bustling construction business only to land on U.S. soil with $4 dollars in their pocket. All 10 of us crammed into a trailer. We moved from one bad neighborhood to another. Aside from my voracious appetite for reading, the only other thing that helped me realize my potential was grandmother "Ma," my paternal grandmother -- a woman who never had the opportunity to go to school, yet who was my wisest mentor who inspired spirituality and values.
I believe that the equation to sparking positive change goes something like this:
Youth + Education + Mentorship = Change
When I told people that I was interviewing Tirelo Molotlegi, a "real" princess, I got a lot of "Wows!" However, what I was honestly more excited about was learning about her family's NBA youth mentorship program and her zest to use her voice to help others discover their own.
I am honored to present a special edition of Tea with Toan. Instead of a recorded Skype conversation, I decided to take this interview offline and interview Princess Tirelo Molotlegi in person about her royal family's collaboration with the National Basketball Association. I wanted to learn more about their efforts to expand a successful after-school NBA basketball/mentoring program in Phokeng, South Africa.
Princess Tirelo was interested in doing an interview with Go Inspire Go (GIG) because we share the same passion of helping others -- GIG's mantra: "Discover and use your power to help others." Tirelo echoed our sentiments: "We all have a purpose on this earth, in the world. I know my purpose is to reach out to people to make a difference."
Her message: "Don't give up! We all go through tough times, challenges. When you fall, it's hard to find a way of rising. Once you can define how to rise, that is going to define who you become."
We met at the Mark Hopkins Hotel perched high atop Nob Hill in San Francisco, Calif., for afternoon tea and to talk about how she is using her power of connecting the youth and NBA to bring a special after-school program that serves youth in several schools of the Bafokeng Nation.
For two to three hours a day, five days a week, three retired NBA players mentor a dozen youth, giving them one-on-one attention as well as group training through basketball. Basketball is the entry point in which the kids learn essential life lessons such as the importance of teamwork, confidence, self esteem, motivation and, of course, exercise.
Princess Tirelo admits she was surprised that the kids took such a liking to basketball since the big sports in that region are rugby and soccer. She believes one major factor in the interest and success of the program is the attention, support and love each student receives from the coaches.
Just one year old, the NBA program led by her brother, King Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi, has changed the lives of the students in remarkable ways. "Aside from keeping kids out of trouble, [the kids] learn that it is okay to be their authentic selves, confident. It's about believing in yourself and caring for others," Princess Tirelo said with fervor.
When Princess Tirelo talks about the youth and how they're growing more into their potential every day, her eyes light up and her voice becomes more commanding. Her passion is to ignite confidence, leadership and love amongst the kids who she calls "our future."
Princess Tirelo says they have big plans on expanding the program and getting more NBA involvement with the goal of engaging, educating and inspiring these future leaders to discover what makes them authentically special, then inspiring them to use their talents to give back to the community: "If we grow them right, we will have a better future for our country."
I was so impressed by how authentically down-to-earth and excited Princess Tirelo is (she even tried to help us move the furniture back after the interview) and am equally enthralled by her enthusiasm about inspiring youth.
Without her and her family's influence, the trajectory of the "future" she serves would be forever changed. Likewise, without "Ma's" mentorship, I wouldn't be where I am today, both personally and professionally. Her love illuminated what would become a brighter future for me.
How do you fit into the equation of change?
What can YOU do?!
1. Donate to support education in Africa:
Thuto Thebe Educational Trust (Means "Education as a shield" in Setswana language). The trust is driven by the vision and leadership of The Queen Mother of the Royal Bafokeng Nation, Dr. Semane Molotlegi
2. Volunteer your program design or business development skills to Thuto Thebe Trust
3. Become a strategic partner
Please address inquiries to Princess Tirelo:
*If you or someone you know wants to be considered for an interview, send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org