Location: Paris, France; en route back to Uganda
I’ve went back to Hawai’i for a short vacation recently and it was fantastic!
I got to share my stories from Uganda for a bit with a couple audiences at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, as well as my previous colleagues from an elementary school I used to work at. Overall it helped me admonish the reasons why I left Hawai’i.
From Hawai’i to Uganda, and Why I Left
I got to back to Hawai’i this past week as a vacation to see friends and family. Along with that, I also got to be a speaker at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa (UHM) for about 35 Shidler College of Business students and 7 students with the resident Peace Corps Campus Representative at UHM.
Hawai’i is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, and there are so many reasons to go against leaving. The choices of food. The sights to see. The beaches. And of course, my friends and family back at home. But what I’ve always believed is that comfort leads to complacency.
Back home, my setup was pretty nice.
I would go to the beach three times a week so that I could practice for the upcoming races. On the weekends, I would go out to have a nice dinner or squeeze in another practice and relax for the rest of the day. When race season came, I got to look forward to those open water races; with the fish in the sea, and if you’re lucky–dolphins and turtles, and eating great food afterwards with the company of friends and family.
Aside from that, you have the comforts of ordering things online, getting things on demand like TV shows and movies. Looking for the next cool thing to buy to make our lives easier and slowly transitioning to the lifestyle we want to have in our future, that’s what it meant to live in Hawai’i.
And as much I loved to do all of these things, I feel like I could be doing even more. Doing something more meant doing something that would not only benefit myself, but benefit others.
The Things I Didn’t Know
I left Hawai’i because I felt that I could learn much more out there in the world than just living in Hawai’i.
And so far, it seems to hold true.
- I’ve learned more about racism, the treatment of People of Color, and the perceptions of a Filipino person on a global scale.
I’ve learned more about Africa, specifically Uganda, and the cultural norms of African culture.
I’ve learned about all of the numerous struggles and difficulties first hand that people of poverty and poor social service access have. Not having access to internet is one thing, but not having access to clean water, electricity, and medical services is another.
I’ve learned about how little that I, as an American, didn’t have any clue about Africa until now. What’s more, there are so many people back home that doesn’t have a clue about anything in the entire continent of Africa, and having to explain the very basic and normalized things I’ve gone through has also become a challenge.
There is so much more I want to tell people, so much more that I want to document when I go back to Uganda to get this point across that I’ve learned time and time again: The people of Uganda doesn’t need the help that you think they need.
I can’t say with 100% certainty with what the Ugandans need on any level of support, but the one thing I do think they need is guidance.
Not just funding or financial support.
Not just the manpower of volunteer support.
Not just a sponsor or a new program for their organizations.
A pathway to open up their world, a way to guide them out of poverty. But I can’t be the one to do that, it has to be done internally, by means of their own government, by means of their own president to do so.
Redefining My Role as Peace Corps Volunteer
So what then is our role as volunteers? Are we not simply useless at that point?
Well no, I don’t think volunteerism in this manner of grassroots empowerment and coordination is for naught.
Our role as volunteers is to promote that same motif of internal guidance. We’re down serving in Uganda to inspire the people we work with to conduct their own projects, the projects that the Ugandan people actually care about. The projects that get the people of Uganda excited to get up in the morning and show up to the office or the field.
It goes along with the same adage of giving a man a fish versus teaching a man to fish. But one more thing that we need to consider is who is giving them a fishing pole?
Without tools and some resources to conduct these exciting community-led projects, all of the work that was put in will just slowly drain away back to ground zero.
A combination of funding, volunteer support, and the promotion of new programs ALONG the lines with Ugandan-led projects; that’s our goal to achieve as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Otherwise, these two years of work and support will then, truly, be for naught.
As a secondary, our secondary role is to explain and tell the stories of the people we meet. These are loving and caring people, not so different from our own families and close circle of loved ones. People just want to be happy. People just want to feel proud of who they are and of the people they care about.
My secondary goal is going to be more focused on trying to show and talk about the people that I meet here. Living conditions and cultural differences aside, people both different and not so different at the same time. Developing an intimate and close relationship across the many people that I meet, everyone has their own take on their story of life that’s worth sharing.
Maybe that’s just plain motivation speaking, or it’s a project I might actually follow through, but that’s what’s going on in my mind at least haha.