Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guest Post: How Going to Uganda Changed My Perspective

Not law related, from a friend who had a life changing experience:

My Paradigm Shift by Michael G:

For nearly a decade I had heard many stories about the people of Uganda and their amazing spirit and loving attitudes.  My parents relayed their many experiences to me and to the rest of our family. I felt as though I knew our African friends even though I’d never stepped foot on the continent.  I finally had the chance to do that, and it was a trip I almost didn’t take.
Thankfully I eventually came to my senses and realized that life here in the States would certainly go on without me, and that passing up an opportunity to join Jenn (my wife) and both my parents on what I knew would be an amazing and possibly once-in-a-lifetime experience would have been a big mistake.  Little did I know just how true that would be.
No story my mother could have ever told me about the place would have done proper justice to what I learned and witnessed with my own two eyes.  The Ugandan people are wonderful, so caring and welcoming.  The whole experience gave me a newfound perspective on life
We as Americans are constantly bombarded and made so incredibly aware of all that we don’t have, rather than thankful for all that we do. We like to focus on that new gadget or latest “thing” that we feel must have rather than being thankful that we never have to worry about the basic necessities needed to live our day-to-day lives.  Meanwhile, in a place like Uganda – where poverty is the norm – basic necessities: shelter, clothes, food and water to sustain oneself, don’t come so easily.  So the contrast between a culture like ours – where abundance is commonplace – and theirs is quite stark.
This difference in our cultures was evident on our first day at KIDA when we witnessed the joy on the faces of the couple of dozen adults who received our donated tee-shirts.
And that wasn’t anything compared to the reactions we got from the children after we handed out some pencils.  It’s hard to imagine a child in this country getting very excited about a seemingly insignificant give-away, but not so in Uganda.  It immediately made me feel really good to know that what we do for these people, even when it’s small, is so appreciated.
What made the trip for me was not just being there to give away a few freebies.  That sort of thing can only get you so far.  No, it was witnessing first-hand all of the truly empowering and self-sustaining programs KIDA is able to provide to the people in the rural Kitojo community–-programs made possible with donations from the Friends of Ruwenzori.
Reverend Ezra, the founder and director of KIDA whom I finally had the great pleasure of meeting and spending time with, is a tremendous leader and visionary.  He, with great wisdom, subscribes to the theory that giving a man a fish accomplishes little more than to satisfy his appetite that day….for he will be hungry again tomorrow as well.  And creating a dependency on handouts serves no one in the long run.  But instead Ezra’s knows that teaching the man or woman the skills to fish will help him sustain himself for many days to come.  That philosophy is quite prevelent at KIDA and can be seen through all the wonderfully impactful vocational programs being taught on a daily basis.
Having witnessed so much of the important work being done by KIDA makes me feel really good about the role we are playing in supporting their efforts through our Friends of Ruwenzori donations.  I also saw, during my time in Uganda,  just how much can still be done.  KIDA is making a huge difference in their community, and they’re doing it the right way through noble works and with true accountability. But so much more can be done.  And so much more needs to be done.  Only a certain number of people can be helped on a limited budget, and that is precisely why we must continue to do our part to expand this model organization as much as possible.  I urge everyone who has the means to help. So please do what you can.  Giving has been quite sparse this year and my mother is worried that KIDA’s programs will suffer. 
If you choose to visit KIDA in person one day, I know you will be amazed at the work being done in this remarkable community. I believe you will also notice changes in how you view the opulence of our American society, as I did.  You will see how handouts can create dependency, but how training empowers the poor to take care of their own lives.  I was so inspired to see this happening in Africa.
Well done Mike.
Friends of Ruwenzori Foundation  c/o Karen and Gil Gleason  8 Altamount Drive  Orinda, CA 94563
gilgleason@comcast.net  (925) 376-0519   www.friendsofruwenzori.org