From Silicon Valley To Swaziland: How A U.S. Couple Turned Retirement Into Service

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Written by Dana Sanchez

U.S. residents Rick and Wendy Walleigh quit high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley, took their work experience to Africa, then wrote a book about it, according to a report in LosAltosTownCrier.

The Walleighs said they saw in African entrepreneurs the same resourcefulness, creativity, resilience and persistence as they saw in Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, according to LosAltosTownCrier.

“But their struggles are greater,” Wendy said. “There’s no money, no infrastructure.”

The couple, both age 66 and married 44 years, learned a lot about agriculture.

“Seventy-five percent of the world’s poor are farmers,” Rick said. “If you work with the poor, you work with agriculture.”

Leaving the corporate world in 2005, the Walleighs joined TechnoServe, a Washington, D.C.-based development company that promotes business solutions to poverty by linking people to information, capital and markets. The nonprofit has more than 1,300 employees in 30 countries.

Wendy had experience in marketing, Rick, in business consulting. Earning a fraction of their Silicon Valley wages, they worked for six months in Mbabane, Swaziland, and a year in Nairobi, Kenya, from 2006 to 2007. They got to travel and experience challenges of living and working in unfamiliar cultures.

Their self-published book is called “From Silicon Valley to Swaziland: How One Couple Found Purpose and Adventure in an Encore Career” (Wheatmark, 2015). The Walleighs are donating all proceeds from the book to TechnoServe.

In the book, Wendy tells how she used her marketing skills and involvement in the U.S. youth organization, Junior Achievement, to launch a similar program in Swaziland.

Junior Achievement educates students about entrepreneurship, workforce readiness, and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs and mentoring. It is offered after school to students from kindergarten through high school, and is the largest organization of its kind in the world.

Rick used his consulting background to advise small businesses ranging from a pig farm to a utility-pole processor.

Wendy agreed to go to Africa certain conditions, Rick said: “No flying bullets, no countries with ‘stans’ (e.g., Afghanistan), (and only places that offered) flush toilets and hot showers.”

You can read an excerpt from the book and get information at walleigh.com or facebook.com/walleighs.

“From Silicon Valley to Swaziland” is available at Amazon.com.