Denzel Washington once shared a profound quote about the impact of being a part of someone’s story. He emphasized how these experiences can shape and define us as individuals. This sentiment holds true for Jabulani Mlambo, a project manager with Doulos Hope, a former cruise ship converted to a floating bookfair, for its visit to Malaysia.
“Coming from a stubborn background where the mindset was “it’s my way or the highway”, often hinders my ability to understand and empathize with others. However, my time on the ship has taught me valuable lessons about the importance of selflessness in our actions, the value of active listening, and the sense of responsibility we should feel towards global needs. These insights have shaped my perspective and understanding of how we can contribute to a better world,” he told Maritime Fairtrade.
For readers who are unfamiliar with Doulos Hope, it is a ship owned by GBA Ships, a non-profit organization registered in Germany. Doulos Hope was acquired in 2022 and officially began operations this year, with a focus on serving the Southeast Asia region.
Similar to its sister ship Logos Hope, Doulos Hope’s mission includes distributing literature, fostering cross-cultural understanding, imparting valuable life skills to young individuals, offering humanitarian aid, and delivering a message of hope in God whenever possible.
Born and raised in South Africa, Jabulani developed a deep passion for entrepreneurship at a young age. He dedicated all his efforts and resources to building and expanding his business. In 2016, his hometown Durban was chosen as the docking location for Logos Hope.
He said: “When I first entered the ship, I could sense that something was different. It felt like stepping into a realm of selflessness, where everyone had one heart and one mind.”
“When you come to realize the global need, you understand that every individual has a responsibility towards it. Regardless of distance, as homo sapiens, we are all interconnected and indebted to one another in some way.
“As months passed by, this feeling persisted and became ingrained in my consciousness. I decided to cut the entrepreneurial edge and join the ship.”
Jabulani embarked on his journey by joining the Logos Hope bookfair team. Every day, the team welcomed and assisted numerous visitors. For him, it was a thrilling opportunity to be surrounded by fellow literature enthusiasts and provide them top-notch books and reading materials.
Jabulani recalled a memorable moment he experienced in West Africa.
“We had young university students, particularly those in the medical field, who would go through the process of manually photocopying books because it was a cost-effective option. This method, however, proved to be expensive in that particular region, considering the resources required.
“The presence of Logos Hope made it possible for them to access educational resources at a more affordable cost. These individuals represent the future of medicine, politics, as well as other areas of development. Although I personally didn’t feel a strong emotional response, it was touching to witness the emotions of others. Some even became teary-eyed during our conversation.”
In other words, Logos Hope became an integral part of the students’ journey by providing what they truly needed, rather than simply fulfilling their desires. Considering the unique circumstances they faced, this voyage could be seen as a success, according to Jabulani.
Fast forward to 2023, Jabulani has taken on the task of arranging Doulos Hope’s visit to Malaysia. This endeavor holds great importance as it involves coordinating various logistical aspects to ensure a successful and impactful visit.
On July 31, Doulos Hope was all set to bring its renowned floating bookfair to Penang Port, Malaysia. The bookfair featured over 2,000 titles from a wide range of subjects, including science, sports, hobbies, cookery, the arts, philosophy, medicine, children’s books, and religious literature. This marked its debut in the country.
Jabulani said: “One remarkable aspect of the books on board the ship is that we have a book that will captivate the attention of everyone, including the entire family.”
When asked how to ensure that the books and resources provided are culturally relevant to the Malaysian audience, he replied: “We value the input of existing organizations and local partners when it comes to determining what articles or books are needed. Often, we discover that these resources are already available and just need to be organized and made accessible on the shelves.”
Not only was the crew eager to immerse themselves in the rich Malaysian culture, but they were also fulfilling their duties of serving the local people. For instance, Doulos Hope collaborated with an established organization dedicated to helping refugees in Malaysia.
Jabulani said: “Through this partnership, we had the opportunity to connect with and learn from the students whom we supported. Witnessing the journey of these individuals was a deeply emotional experience. Their stories revealed their remarkable perseverance and resilience, as they shared the hardships of fleeing their home countries and enduring oppression before finding refuge in Malaysia.”
He also emphasized that cultural differences are an integral part of any society, nonetheless, these differences can often lead to misunderstandings and even resentment among individuals. However, the Malaysian government has taken a different approach by welcoming refugee students and families.
“It’s commendable that Malaysia has acknowledged the importance of embracing cultural inclusivity and diversity, rather than shying away from it,” he commented.
In the coming months, Jabulani plans to further strengthen the relationships that Doulos Hope has nurtured and developed over time. “Building sustainable relationships goes beyond mere visitation. It involves actively supporting and engaging with one another in various ways,” he explained.
He noted that smaller organizations, as well as government ministries, have the capacity to create positive impacts and drive community growth. It is crucial for us to acknowledge their significance and leverage their potential in order to pave the way for a better future.
Also, he is enthusiastic about visiting educational institutions. “Students play a crucial role in shaping our future. By applying their skills, experiences, and making a positive impact, they have the potential to transform the lives of others,” he explained.
Take Doulos Hope as an example. A diverse workforce can be beneficial for all individual involved.
“Each person is characterized by dignity, which is shaped by a multitude of diverse experiences, “he said. “As we strive to develop and shape students into leaders, these leaders, in turn, multiply and become influential figures. This is the beauty of multiplication effect.”
Jabulani’s leap may seem like a jarring twist in his life journey to others. But for him, it represents a personal transformation, a “transcendence” from solitude to solidarity, as he becomes a part of someone’s else stories. This voyage, Jabulani described, is his “narrative of metamorphosis that is continuously unfolding and developing”.
All photos credit: Doulos Hope