'Her Story'

Published November 19, 2022

Ms. Nelo Phiri is a professional known for her entrepreneurship investments, creative writing and performances, and career aspirations in strategic management. She is an African native, born in Zambia, under the Zulu tribe. Growing up in Zambia for the first five years of her life set the tone for cultural appreciation in  her later years. During those five years, sport, education, and community were the basis of her daily lifestyle. Watching or attempting to join her brothers play fútbol in their backyard was an evening she would look forward to after school. At the age of three, Tennis became a consistent practice where she was mentored by her Uncle Kela to become a Professional World Player. Education was enforced by her Zambian born Teachers and Father who emphasized the value of learning. Learning about where she came from, and the meaning of words and their origin.

The phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” was not a myth but one that she lived at an early age. Where Neighbors were her Aunties and Uncles that looked out for her well-being. Africa was her safe space and a place she calls home, and ‘ bonse bantu’ is her community.

As a young African diasporan, currently residing in New York, she has faced the challenges of adapting to a segregated culture that is rooted in injustice and pain of the Afro American and immigrants working to create a better life. The passing of her Father at the age of ten and the mistreatment she faced based on her darker skin complexion led to signs of severe anxiety, seasonal depression, repeated headaches and trips to the hospital due to periodic fainting episodes. Though Doctors were only able to prescribe medication for her headaches, it was the prayers of her Mother that brought her back to life and her sport that kept her active. Though Nelo maintained professionalism in her faith based lifestyle and tennis career,  the American culture sometimes meant losing yourself to societal pressures which she managed to overcome by appreciating her African background and remaining fluent in bemba, a Zambian based language she was born in. With the love from her family, and the mentorship of her Uncle, Kela Simunyola and team of great tennis Coaches and Administrators, Nelo became a highly sought after Division I athlete which led to her becoming the first Woman in her family to graduate with a Masters Degree. In her early twenties, she recognized vivid societal pressures, the lack of trust and safe spaces to be yourself, the lack of positive representation and guidance in the education system, and the fact that many foreign athletes use their talents abroad in order to earn a significant income.

“The fact is some countries or organizations neglect the infrastructure necessary to develop and provide high performing athletes well-paid opportunities and a healthy process in sport and education. And when young people are faced with challenges due to demographic variables of gender, race, family expectations, and socioeconomic status, they may experience a significant traumatic impact throughout their lives.” - Nelo Phiri

In 2019, Ms. Nelo Phiri became the Founder of Fearless Growth LLC, an organization which fosters personal development through sport and education. She is primarily engaged on issues regarding young athletes. Issues that are geared towards improving college and adult preparation. Nelo’s mission is to use her experience to create safe spaces for young athletes finding themselves through their sport. Amongst the work she does in sport, Nelo is also working on publishing educational content and has designed an on-going curriculum which she has provided to youth organizations and classrooms that value self-awareness, social-emotional learning, and financial literacy as required education prior to college. With the hard work and focus of many great educators, coaches, parents, and administrators, she is hopeful of a better future for all.

Ms. Nelo’s personal aspiration is to have a family, raise good humans and travel the world for the purpose of experiencing different cultures and maintaining global peace and harmony.

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