Jillian Reilly

About The Teacher

I crossed my first frontier when I was fifteen years old and journeyed to France on a school exchange program. The first in my family with a passport, I quickly developed a taste for adventure and exploration – of myself and the world. Yes, geographic frontiers were always my thing. This taste for exploration took me to South Africa in 1993 – the country on the brink of its historic elections. I’d just graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in African History and English Literature and was determined to have a front row seat to this historic transformation. After monitoring the 1994 elections, I stayed for another four years facilitating organizational development and change with community groups and non-profits. An extraordinary time for a young woman determined to make an impact. In 1997 I moved to Zimbabwe to start an HIV/AIDS program at the height of the country’s epidemic. It was a crash course in human behavior change – and I learned a tremendous amount both about my limitations as a change-maker and the challenges of life on your emotional frontiers. I’d later write about these experiences in my memoir, Shame: Confessions of an Aid Worker in Africa, which explores the promise and perils of trying to “do good”. I’ve always sought to write narratives that challenge our conventional understandings of our world. My journalistic works have been published in the Washington Post, LA Times and Newsweek. While my play Pillow Talk seeks to understand the spread of HIV/AIDS across Africa through the intimate lens of human relationships. My TedX talk, Vain Aid, relates my experiences of the failings of international aid and development. And most recently, through my Courageous Conversations podcast series, sponsored by the Ford Foundation, I sit down with leading local activists to explore the real life challenges of leading everyday social change. With Antacara I’ve shifted my focus from organizations and communities to individuals. From social problems to individual possibilities. From pain to promise. From exploring geographic frontiers to those that exist deep inside each of us.

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