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Mbali Creazzo on the 29 Day Giving Challenge

As you may remember from our Resolutions theme, Resolution #1 was to pay it forward. After reading Cami Walker’s life-changing book, 29 Gifts, I — along with a number of you — am starting the  29 Day Giving Challenge on March 1, and will be giving a gift a day for 29 days. I am so excited about this, and am equally excited to have connected with Mbali Creazzo, Cami’s friend and spiritual advisor who originally prescribed the 29 Gifts Challenge to her when she was at her lowest point and in physical and emotional pain from multiple sclerosis.

Mbali is as warm and generous as she comes across in Cami’s book, and after you read the beautiful thoughts and words of wisdom she so kindly shares with us, I hope you will be inspired to join me in the 29 Day Giving Challenge. Together, we can change the world. 

I was so taken with just the idea of 29 Gifts before I even started the book. I know you say the Challenge originated as an African ritual but can you tell me a little more about how it came about?

There is a South African philosophy known as Ubuntu, which means “Humanity to others.” I have personally experienced Ubuntu on every trip back to South Africa. People in dire poverty gave the last food from their plate to me, a stranger. It is the simple gestures, when we have nothing, that help us through the scarcity of our lives. Giving not only uplifts, but also helps people to remember that we are all part of a larger community.   Ubuntu also means I can only be me when I remember I am connected to others.

You mention that your work as a healer draws from the Dagara African tradition. Can you talk about what that means?

My teacher, Malidoma Some, is a Shaman in the West African Tradition of the Dagara People. I first came across their work seven years ago. Dagara people use the creative cosmology of the five elements — Fire: spirit, ancestors and passion. Water: peace, reconciliation, healing and forgiveness. Earth: self-worth, abundance, identity and belonging. Mineral: remembering life’s works, purpose, messages and symbols. Nature: life, death and rebirth, and true nature. We are of them, they are of us, there is no separation. If I need healing, I go to the water. When we disconnect from our ancestors or the Natural world, we disconnect from ourselves. My work as a diviner is to reconnect people with their ancestors and the natural world. We can not do it alone. There is always help from all worlds. I have a 25-year background in Integrative Medicine and the Healing Arts but I draw on this work as it helps people to understand where they have come from and the legacies they carry, so they can do their healing and move forward inotheir journey.

Parts of your own personal giving ritual sound similar to what Cami experienced. Are there certain experiences everyone who takes the Challenge seems to go through?

I see the 29 Day Challenge as a transformative process. The recurring experience seems to be the awakening that when we give we also receive something. It’s different for everyone but profound on many levels. It’s a beautiful, reciprocal process.

Why 29 days? Is there a significance to that number?

I did do some research to find that 29 1/2 is the cycle of the moon, which is about bringing things to completion. In numerology, 2 is a number of love and charity, and my own interpretation is that giving is reciprocal. 9 is the number of fullness and completion. It is also a number of divine will. There are too many to mention here but both numbers are powerful numbers in many traditions.

Why is it important to keep a journal during this process?

A journal is a tool for reflection. Once you have completed your day, it’s great to reflect on what happened. Note how you felt when you gave — can you trace it back to something like a family trait or long-held belief? We live such busy lives, with so little time to be present for ourselves. Taking the time to journal helps to integrate each day and gives us the opportunity to “look again” at the gift. More information comes through when we journal and then read over what we wrote.

I love that you told Cami that you have a “prescription” for her. How amazing that giving a gift a day actually heals the giver! How/why does that work?

In my work as a diviner, I give prescriptions to people. They actually have to go and do something like offer a gift to the water or nature. Taking an action begins the process of change. It brings more vitality into our life. When we give, there is an alchemy at work. It shifts the focus away from ourselves, helping us to remember we are not alone. When we give, the gift that comes back is different for everyone, but it has been proven that it can be joy, unconditional love, a feeling of being connected. Healing is happening! How does it work? It’s called magic. Alchemy is at work, and the gold is the gift that keeps on giving.

Why did you decide to suggest this to Cami? What made you think she specifically would benefit from it?

Cami was in such a dark place, that she thought she had nothing left to give. I knew that for her to give would help her to stop thinking about herself and take her out of her black hole. It worked. Giving when we think we have nothing to give, when we feel that our life is depleted, when we feel we are alone in our suffering, invites more abundance into our lives .As I say, “healing doesn’t happen in a vacuum.” It reminds us we are all interconnected which helped her to not feel so alone in her pain.

What was your reaction to her experience? Was there anything that surprised you about it? 

It was wonderful to see such a gathering of momentum and the creativity that arose as well as the healing. I have always known there is more at work here than my prescription and Cami’s response to it. I am surprised at how quickly people responded to it; it confirms the amazing giving spirit in the world. Thank you, 29 givers!!

It seems to me that the world would be a much better place if everyone took the 29 Gifts challenge. How did you feel when Cami decided to turn this into a global project? 

She always had my 100% support. I am thrilled! Ubuntu is happening as we speak, each time someone else takes up the challenge. As my teacher, Malidoma, says, “Cami and Mbali have joined forces to help us realize that the spirit of the village lives in the simplest of kind-hearted and well-intentioned gestures, wherever they are offered. The message of this book has never been more relevant, more needed, more valuable.”

I am planning to start the Challenge on March 1 with some of our readers. Is there anything specific we should know or do to prepare ahead of time? What is the most important piece of advice you can give us?

Start each day with gratitude; it keeps the heart open.

Begin each day with a specific intention. (It’s easy to give randomly)

Let go of the attachment to an outcome of the gift. (What if someone declines your gift!)

Be open to the magic and the alchemy

Take time to be present for yourself and reflect on each day

Remember that what we want may not be what we need.

Enjoy your 29 Days!

Read Mbali’s guest post on Returning Home to South Africa here.

This post originally appeared on my former blog, StyleSubstanceSoul.


  1. Simply wonderful! thank you!

  2. Fascinating … I look forward to hearing about the 29 days of giving from the ladies of SubstanceStyleSoul who are doing this in March!

  3. Jaquelin Levin says:

    I have had personal experience with Mbali and her amazing work. She is a true healer and a very genuine person. Her prescriptions of rituals are very powerful and extremely transformative. I would highly recommend learning from this remarkable woman.

  4. What a wonderful opportunity, for it is in giving that we truly receive. I just signed up !


    The men I teach at a prison and my son Christian who wants to join a monastery age 16 just started the challenge today! So far I have blessed others, been a presence and the men are giving each other a blessing to go as they leave the prison…Christian is helping at a warming shelter for homeless children and packing ziplock bags with items. wow!

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