I purposely made the attempt to have no expectations of what my experience in Uganda was going to be like. I had heard many other people’s experiences with their experiences on service trips and they weren’t as they had wanted. They had explained to me that they had a desired experience they expected to have solidified in their head before the trip had even begun and it didn’t turn out they way they wanted. My idea was to go in expecting the entire spectrum of things that it could possibly be. I told myself that I would see and do as much as I possibly could and make the experience for myself, and that’s exactly what I did.
We have been back for a little over two months and many people ask me how my trip was. The first thing that I always say is, “ as cliché as it is to say that it was life changing experience there is no other words that I can put to it”. For me, it has been pretty difficult to describe the trip because there were so many things that I took note of and it’s hard to remember everything. What I find hard is that people don’t have the expected reactions to what I tell them. To me the experience was one of the best I have had in my life. It was very eye opening and humbling to be a part of a culture for two weeks that operates very differently from that of the United States. Words just do not give the experience a fair description of how it was for me.
The first week home was sort of a struggle for me. I started to compare everything in my head. When I say I compared everything I mean everything; food, weather, and mostly the attitudes of people. It was hard for me to see little children talk back to their parents on Christmas day and just being brats.
What I feel that I got most out of the trip was that the amount of patience I have has grown to a whole new level and it brought me to the ground. It made it easier to put myself in other people situations and really understand how other people live. It’s hard to read about things that are happening in the world in magazines and books and not actually seeing them and trying to put yourself in their shoes. This is what I learned most.
Interested in volunteering with us? Summer 2013 applications are due on February 28th. Fill one out today! http://www.pangeaeducation.org/volunteer/
There are many variables that separate nonprofits working in the developing world from each other, but a significant difference in their effectiveness relies on their approach: do they empower or impose? Last night I had the privilege of attending the the Washington Global Health Conference in Seattle, Washington. The WGHC is a convergence of current leaders in global health initiatives which included Dr. William Foege, former director of the U.S. Center of Disease Control and His Royal Highness the Emir of Argungu (Nigeria).
Dr. Foege was the head of the movement that eradicated small pox. His Royal Highness the Emir has headed the movement to eradicate polio in the country of Nigeria, and has lowered the number of cases over 70% in just two years. These two men were key players in monumental successes, and both highlight the same difference in their successes: their approach of empowering and equipping community leaders to face community challenges. Traditionally, NGO’s and IGO’s enter communities and take over, telling the community how to deal the with problems that have plagued them sometimes for generations. While they are often correct with their solutions, it doesn’t matter. The people don’t care because they don’t trust or believe in these outsiders. When we enter communities we must be cognizant of what is currently working and how we can build off of that. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if we’re right, it matters if communities liberate themselves from the problems that they face.
Of the best leaders, When their task is done, The people will remark, “We have done it ourselves”
We owe BIG props to Milton (PED’s Uganda Director) and Abdul (PED site supervisor). They played a huge part in facilitating a meeting between our PED staff and the staff of St. James.
Meeting Goal: Prioritize needs and self-sustainability projects desired by staff
Outcome: A well thought-out list of 8 business projects and 11 needs that can be supplied through support and future income. Great progress completed in a completely respectful and collaborative process!
The rest of the day was spent playing games with the adorable and energetic children of St. James. Can’t wait to continue the progress and adventures!
Abdul and Milton address St. James
Successful nonprofits are built on committed and dynamic individuals who work tirelessly to achieve the mission of the organization. They maximize the potential of the resources given, often “doing magic” to accomplish what each organization aims to achieve. In one of my previous posts, I talked about how the nonprofit sector is all about community. I claimed that each individual has a skill or energy that they bring to the table that can advance the mission of the organization. I believe this more than ever, but because of this fact, the leaders needed to be successful in the nonprofit industry are a few in a million.
According to a book that I am currently readying by Liz Wiseman titled Multipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smarter, these leaders are called “multipliers“. One of the highlights of the concept is that there is no room for pride in leadership. At Pangea Educational Development we have a group of talented, passionate, dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to achieve or mission of affording more kids the opportunity to change the world they see by getting an education. Come to our board meetings and you’ll hear laughter accompanied with critical questions and a continued commitment to do what we do better. We build off of the ideas of each other to make a difference in this world. The other option? We could submit to each director and have them duke out hierarchical position in a monthly round of a mixture between sumo wrestling and mud wrestling. Personally, I’ve always been better at running with people than fighting them though.
Check out the trailer for the book below:
Powerful leaders have an agenda but not all the answers.
So I realized that if you actually read the post because you were interested, I may not have given you enough information. Email me to find out what positions we have available and how you can help at email@example.com and check out our “join us” page on our site here!
Sitting in front of some empty luggage, random toiletries, and a truck load of school supplies, it hits me. I leave to go back to Uganda in five days. I am five days away from seeing myself in my purest form. I cannot express the emotions that go into preparing for this trip…but I’ll try.
Of course the first feeling I have is excitement. I am excited to go back to the place that pulls on my heart. I’m excited about reuniting with old friends and meeting new ones. There is also the excitement about the unknown. Africa is filled with the unknown. There is a very simple saying that can be heard on our volunteer trips, “this is Africa” (TIA for short). Africa is unpredictable. Plans that you have had for months can change in a second, and that is the beauty of it. I love being in a place where you are free to, and sometimes need to, go with the flow. There are many times when I would love to go with the flow, but with the current structure of my life and the basic structure of our culture you are almost forced to constantly be on task working for something, regardless if it is working or not. In Uganda you are allowed and almost have to change things on the fly. Life is too short, why not insert some randomness into it.
I also have to prepare for the opposite emotions that I will inevitably feel. While out there, we will come in contact with some of the most challenging situations of poverty imaginable. Families who are constantly in search for their next meal, orphans wandering at night looking for shelter and structure in their lives, and schools regularly on the cusp of closing due to funding. This immediately invokes emotion in every individual. With that said, you would never know their situation by seeing them. One would immediately assume that they are living in constant sadness. We have this perception both because of the media’s role of showing dramatized images of Africans in extreme poverty and sadness, and also our own ideas of money and happiness. For anyone that has been to Africa, in this specific case Uganda, you know that this is not completely true. The smiles are inspiring. What is missing with funding is made up for in their sense of community. The African proverb , “it takes a village to raise a child”, is true and still in good use in all African countries.
The most amazing part of the volunteer experience is being able to see yourself in its purest form. In this day and age where technology and media are constantly at your finger tips and living in a culture where money is king, you get to see yourself without any of those distractions. You get to be you. Life can get complicated, but while in Africa almost all those complications are muted, and you are able to live and react to situations as the purest form of you. And in five days, I will once again get to see me.
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