Volunteer Stories: A Word from Timber

I always have a little chuckle when I find myself in places I would have never imagined going. coming from the girl who never got on an airplane till I was 20 years old, and it was to Kenya, Africa. Life begins at the end of our comfort zone!

This trip to Uganda, was to help me gain experience in International Agriculture to help pursue a career in the industry. Although, 10 days before I left, I was hired as the Texas Organic Program Coordinator. I was still determined to go to Uganda. As I wandered myself to Uganda, I really had no idea what to expect other than we were going to be hosting Agriculture teacher training.

I wouldn’t say my job was on the front lines, but maybe more behind the scenes. A little hint from the Lord to let me see the bigger picture. I was behind the face of the camera. Trying to slow time down in a glimpse of a memory. Being behind the camera in Uganda, I witnessed my favorite people dancing and singing to the beat of the music. I was able to catch the love on their faces when they received new material for teaching their children. Capturing the hard work and determination to make sure their students were able to receive all the opportunities they could give them.

My time with Field of Hope at the teacher training was sweet. I met so many sweet faces sitting behind the camera. I loved being able to meet with the teachers on a real note and see their real-life stories. To hear their highs and lows of being a teacher in Uganda.

Traveling to new places can broaden our perspective and help us learn about different cultures and ways of life. It’s amazing how much we can learn from exploring new parts of the world. And even if we don’t travel far from home, trying new things and challenging ourselves can also be a great way to grow and learn.

If you’re remotely curious to hop on an airplane and go to Uganda. Do it! You never know where it will take you!
-Timber, Volunteer ’23

Our ISAG Journey: St. Gracious Secondary School

Hi; I am Emmanuel Opio, a teacher and Head of Department for Agriculture at St Gracious secondary school Lira. In today’s era, practical learning is absolutely necessary, especially in the vocational and pre-vocational subjects which includes agriculture. In my homeland, Uganda,
agriculture rings the loudest bell, being the back bone of the economy, due to its ability to employ over 80% of the citizens and uphold food security. So, it is in the best interest of many schools to have many agricultural projects that support hands on learning. This may present shortcomings in different ways but most commonly, finances. The good news is that some schools including St. Gracious secondary school were able to get a lift financially and that is what I would like to share with you today. At “SAGRASS” we now have a fully running poultry project where our learners freely interact with and are able to see and touch everything they learn about poultry and this was made possible by the grant given by Inspiring Students of Agriculture Grant (ISAG) under Field of Hope. The ISAG grant was to the tune of 1000 US dollars from which we were able to buy the stock, feeds, equipment, medicines and vaccines. I got to know about Field of Hope through a social media forum after which I applied for teacher training program. During the training, we were guided on how we could apply for the Field of Hope ISAG grant.

That was in the year 2023. We wrote our project proposal which was approved after scrutiny by Field of Hope staff . We later wrote a business plan, submitted and were approved by Field of Hope followed by a feasibility visit (assessment of the school readiness to host the project) by their staff. This was followed by signing of the memorandum of Understanding between school and Field of Hope. The grant was released into the school account. At St. Gracious secondary school, we started rearing 254 chickens from chick stage that provided a comprehensive learning experience for our students. The breed we keep is a mixed, dual-purpose. We are having a steady progress with a few challenges which are learning areas for the students.

We hope to have a 20% increase in the number of birds by the next stocking. The success of the Field of hope project funded by ISAG at our school is basically attributed to the strict observation of rules by the students in the management areas of feeding, parasite and
disease control, biosecurity and general housing conditions. The project has changed a lot if things already, from making learning easy and real to igniting interest of students and even teachers to practically take up poultry farming. All poultry related lessons are all being conducted from within the premises of the poultry house. The project has enhanced hands on experience and has encouraged practical learning.

The students are self-motivated in doing the project work and surprisingly we have already witnessed a rise in the number of students leaving other optional subject for Agriculture. It has stimulated some students to start their own at home which has greatly impacted the community like on one occasion the deputy of the school requested for the breeders contact and ordered his stock immediately, since he already had the structure.

On behalf of St. Gracious secondary school I would like to acknowledge the support of Field of Hope ISAG grant and confirm that it is really helpful to the learners, staff and the community out there and for the first time I feel like a great teacher. You are really doing a big job in the move to ensure sustainable agriculture for a stable global food security.

BRAVO, Field of Hope! BRAVO, ISAG.

Introducing Angela

Angela Hurst is one of our 2023 fellows. Currently in her master’s program at Oklahoma State University, in Stillwater Oklahoma, Angela is studying International Agriculture. She is currently on-the-ground in Lira, and staying at the program office-house.

Angela decided to apply for a fellowship after learning about FOH’s mission. She said, “I knew that I wanted to try and be apart of that mission.  I came into this degree not truly knowing what I wanted as a career, but knew I was being called to use my background in animal science as a tool for the development or improvement of food and nutrition security in developing nations.” Her background in animal science is incredibly helpful this summer, specifically to the expansion of our smallholder farmer advancement pillar where we are implementing animal projects.

Ms. Hurst is giving her expertise in animal sciences, but also hopes to learn from Uganda. She said, “I love learning about new people and cultures and look forward to experiencing this within Uganda.  I am just so excited to get to work with people and serve them in a way that will help them.”

Angela intends to bring what she learns, in every way, back home. She explained, “my family loves when I share what I have learned in school and I can’t wait to be able to share this with them.  I believe that if people are open to learning new cultures and ways of life, we can get closer to a united form of the world.” She also specifically wants to share a specific piece of Uganda with her mom–fabric! Angela said, “My mom also likes to sew and I can’t wait to bring home some fabric that will not only remind me of my time with FOH, but also be a great conversation starter when I wear it around good ol’ Oklahoma.”

We cannot wait to see all that Angela does this summer, and how this experience impacts her. Best of luck, Angela!

Dream Come True

My name is Solomon Okello, a student of Makerere University serving with Field of Hope as an intern. I have passively spent almost two years with Field of Hope, since 2020, but actively spent a month with this amazing organization.

Field of Hope has three interesting pillars which include youth agricultural education, smallholder farmer advancement, and leadership development. The intersecting feature common to all these pillars is vision of capacity building, and I have had opportunity to interface with all of them.

The most interesting fact about Field of Hope is their unquenchable thirst and zeal to build capacities of members of the rural communities to step out and move above the poverty line below which most of them are currently living.  After intervention by Field of Hope, members are being nutritionally food secured and financially stable and sound, developing students’ passions towards agriculture and its related disciplines as well as training the future global leaders responsive to future global demands.

Talking about smallholder farmer advancement pillar! During the little time I spent with Field of Hope, my superiors and I happened to run farmer group trainings in close to seven different farmer groups on different fields such as financial literacy, animal production and management, vegetable production and cassava production but the unifying response that participants in these different groups showed was the urge and willingness to learn new agricultural practices and technologies and this deeply communicated to me how much Field of Hope and its investment into SHFA is needed by rural communities. While at the training grounds, you see these groups of women coming through for the sessions and all you can empathetically imagine is going on in their minds are the questions of “how am I going to carry today’s family burdens?” but it’s interesting to see the activeness and the passion they portray in their faces full of smiles to learn new technologies.

Coming from a family that undertakes small scale farming, I told myself while still in my first year at campus that “you left home to make it better”. This statement meant studying agriculture and being in position to use the knowledge acquired to positively make better the status of not only my own home but also homes that have the same or similar status which are the small-scale farming families which constitute the highest proportion of the farming communities in Uganda. So, with the different farmers’ trainings that I actively participated in across Lango sub-region, I joyfully feel like it’s a “dream come true” knowing that I have delivered the information and that participants have taken it for their consumption and therefore the betterment of their respective homes and people around them. However, the dream became even much more pronounced and stronger in my mind when one of the female participants called and requested me after the animal production training that “my son, please come back and help us again and again” and her request speaks to the world on how much the agricultural knowledge extension to the rural communities is needed.

But wait, I can’t fail to talk about Field of Hope team! There is a way that God has set Field of Hope unique in all aspects! You know, every time you journey into a new environment there is always that one question of “how will my first 2, 3 or 4 days look like?” and so from the time I left campus till I reached Lira this question never skipped my mind. Stepping into the office premise, the games in my mind changed on seeing the environment that different amazing personalities within the team created in the office and it immediately painted an image of colleagueship rather than student-boss relationship in my mind. This image made it extremely easy for me to fit within the team. The fear of God and borderless love in these people made it much simpler for me to fulfill my internship objectives and I deeply pray that the team continues with the same spirit to help thousands of internees who will come through over the time to fulfill the respective objectives and become professionals who are responsive to their societal and global needs.

Field of Hope team is completely full of people who are “down to earth”, knowledgeable yet having endless passions to learn new things to deliver to the communities they serve. Hard work and team spirit within these people is one of the key lessons I learnt and amidst this hard work, spicy stories would never miss but what leaves a permanent “water mark” in my mind is the fact that every story cracked whether in office or along the way to the field would be seasoned with a Biblical scripture which tells a lot how much prayer as one of the core values of the organization is observed.

Finally, I extend my deep heart-felt appreciation to the general management of Field of Hope for granting me the opportunity to serve in the organization and for the subsequent supports of all kinds offered to me. At individual level, I extend my appreciations to Alexa Major the Executive Director, Olivia the Program Manager, Walter Okullu the Country Coordinator, Agnes Obote the General Coordinator, through whose decisions I was granted the opportunity and supports. I also extend my appreciations to Nicholas, Program Officer, Joseph, Program Associate and David, Program Volunteer through whose knowledge and guidance I successfully accomplished my objectives. Great thanks to the two fellows from US, Rebekah McCarty and Oluwabukola Makinde for the excellent company and valuable pieces of advice that never left me the same and for being great inspiration to me. In one of the conversations with her, Bukky told me that “your opportunities are as many as the networks you create” an advice which changed the way I used to look at things around me.

Now, it is my deepest prayer that God richly expand the territory of Field of Hope so that it can be in position to accomplish its mission and individually bless both US and Ugandan team.

By: Solomon Okello, Intern 2022

Adventures after Africa: Fields of Hope

After almost three months of living in Uganda and just two months of being back in my home country of the United States of America, I have found reflection, insight, pride, and adjustment beyond measure.

“What a trip you just got back from, how was it?” This question leads many of the conversations I have with individuals aware of my fellowship with Field of Hope. The question I ask myself in return is: How do I describe the greatest experience of my life in a five-minute conversation? Most people expect a simple answer, but frankly, “It was great,” or “really awesome” doesn’t quite do the opportunity the justice it deserves.

In the days leading up to my departure from Uganda I could feel my heart begin to rip into two pieces; part of me ready to go back home and the other part of me not ready to leave home. By feeling this feeling, sometimes expressed through tears, I found it was just material proof that I had made the most of my fellowship. In many of the fellows’ blogs this season we talk about the people, the landscape, the spirt, and the vibrancy of the inspiring country we lived in. I won’t repeat all of that, but know that those feelings in country, don’t stay in country. Rather, those feelings turned into longing and remembrance for me, which was hard to cope with.

Leaving those brothers and sisters ensued a five stages of grief period for me. I felt sadness, heartbreak, and anger, which slowly turned into acceptance, and later pride. I won’t dwell on the beginning stages, but know that if you spoke to me in the first few weeks of my return, I ached. How could God give me a life I loved with people I loved, so far from the place I originally called home? It was a huge adjustment for me in simply digesting foods, recovering my sleep schedule, learning to stay connected with friends who were eight hours ahead of me, and turning my experiences into lifelong perspectives.

Finding outlets to share my stories with, people to relate to, and just having ears to listen, aided me in processing the extreme shock I felt coming back to such a different environment. I had moments where I simply couldn’t face the pressure in my heart because it was so deep. Some of these moments were caused out of the swimming thoughts in my head while others had were due to options at the grocery store, unruly American commentary, wearing jeans, driving my car, using a washing machine, and remembering the vast privileges my country has. I have found it is important to talk about these realities despite the depressing nature.

Moreover, feelings like pride and acceptance have crept into my heart and soul at the same time. The pride I carry throughout my entire body leads me even further each day. I especially know I am capable of hard things: staying positive despite the negativity our world can bring, having hard conversations, and doing anything under Christs sunshine. When I got back, I kept telling people, “Life is hard right now, but for some reason I’m in good spirits.” My fellowship gave me perspective; perspective of agricultural success, equality and equity, relief versus development, empowerment, and simple kindness and humility. I struggled for a while; and then I found things in my world I could enjoy from the African world I lived in. One of those was Christ. Oh how I loved Ugandan church service every Sunday. As seen from my first fellow blog, I was trapped in awe, security, and amazement upon going to an African church service. I found my inner courage recently and faced finding a U.S. church to attend. Though I am still quite early in developing my faithfulness, I only had the passion to seek this because of the adversity and passion I gained from my fellowship.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Sure, going to a church service once or twice a month doesn’t save me, but it brings me a sense of purpose and service, which I find goes hand in hand with the mission of Field of Hope. This stewardship of cultivating a better humanity drives my current academic and career goals and I look forward to embracing this energy to its core in my life after living in Uganda.

Does that answer your question? Most often when I answer that it takes me to an honest, rambling, daze of a response. Maybe that’s what this blog post is, but in short, my fellowship will shape the rest of my life and has changed me forever.

My adventures after Africa prove to be led with growth and pride, more like a life lined with fields and fields of hope, opportunity, and humility now. I encourage every human to experience an experience like this. If you don’t get to, ask the right questions, and seek your own information about life outside of your bubble. It’s a magical world with so much love and vibrancy. With so much in return from Field of Hope, I can only hope, with a true kind of hope, that you feel this.

By: Sarah McCord, Fellow ’22

 

 

A True Ugandan

“If you’ve spent more than a month in Uganda, then you’re a true Ugandan,” said William, our guide at Sipi Falls. I have officially surpassed William’s 1 month mark, and am onto my sixth week in the country. In my weeks being here, I have traveled, experienced, and learned so many things. From waterfalls in Sipi, the Source of the Nile in Jinja, the best food in Mbarara, and a boat ride on Lake Bunyonyi, my time being in Uganda has been a full immersion  experience.  Though I have had my fair share of tourism experiences, I also think about William’s notion of what encapsulates a Ugandan.

In today’s social and digital age, I find myself only posting pictures of aesthetic, iconic moments; not my daily “life”. Upon writing this, I looked through my camera roll, found nothing that matched such an aesthetic, and felt like I had nothing to share. In reality, I gain something new everyday and have such a full heart of memories to give.

 

For the last two weeks, I have really been making myself at home in Lira. Despite my difference in appearance compared to most residents of Lira, I am beginning to resonate with becoming a true Ugandan. Familiarizing myself with the markets, streets, and familiar faces has made me gain such a residential perspective of life in Africa. There’s something so raw and real about buying everything fresh from the market, seeing friends at church, maintaining our own garden, and going on walks around our neighborhood.

 

To me, Africans and especially Ugandans, embody resilience, strength, and pride in everything they do. While attending church last Sunday with friends at Victory Outreach East, we sang so many songs, calling out to Jesus, “We look to you for love in our country, we do not look to you for riches.” This country asks for love, peace, and contentment, not monetary profit. Though still developing, Uganda has the kindness and strength faded out from many western countries. This is also represented through the symbolism of the nation’s flag: black for the color of its people, yellow for the sunshine, and red for the color of blood the brotherhood shares with the rest of the world. “People from every nation and every tongue from generation to generation,” the Sunday congregation sang. Being a part of such a community gives me more satisfaction and honor to represent Uganda and Christ in everything I do.

 

“For when we have faith in him, we become confident in all circumstances.” 2 Chronicles 16:9.

 

I believe I am already a changed person through my experience in Uganda. Perhaps it’s the difference in the English spoken, or the lack of processed sugar in my food. Nonetheless, I stand taller, I am humbled, and I carry confidence- to me, that’s what being a true Ugandan is. It is embodying the colors of the flag and keeping one foot moving forward at all times, like the crane in the center of the Ugandan flag. Maybe it takes more than a month to gain this, or maybe it just takes the right support system to help cultivate this. I aim to reap more of the energy, confidence, and lifestyle true Ugandans have in the rest of my time amongst them. Here’s to being a Ugandan for one more month!

By Sarah McCord, Fellow ’22

The Art of Storytelling in Qualitative Research: Who gets to share the stories?

The Art of Storytelling in Qualitative Research: Who gets to share the stories?

Telling stories to reveal elements and images of an event is one of the most powerful tools for interactive engagement anywhere. A good story is persuasive and will often elicit a reaction from the reader. Development research embraces the art of storytelling as a way of expressing views in social science and humanities. Originally, this was not the case because the development space was dominated by thoughts on development economics that engaged statistical tools and quantitative methods to show trends. If we are being honest, big organizations love numbers, there is a certain level of predictability to it. But the importance of talking about the people and their experiences often gets lost in the process. Researchers have quickly realized the importance of representing and understanding socio-cultural impacts on the wellbeing of the society, that is why storytelling is crucial.

 

Various authors have embraced storytelling as a form of inciting revolution on any form of injustice, particularly against women. Stories about gender inequality, abuses women suffer, sexual discrimination and many more have come to light because someone was willing to tell the story. Same also, qualitative researchers collect information on perceptions, attitudes, values, and cultures affecting women. These actions have led to transformative events that have led to an awakening for women’s rights to be defended in different ways. But this is not without its own issues. I have come to realize that whoever has the power to tell stories controls the narrative, which forms the basis of how stories can be shared as well as understood. That being the case, you can imagine how critical it is for researchers to emulate the virtues of integrity, transparency, and honesty, to have an accurate depiction of the social issue.

 

I came to this awareness in Uganda while collecting data for my Ph.D. Dissertation. The summary of my research centers on exploring the role of farmer cooperatives in facilitating inclusive agricultural development in Uganda, using the case of the coffee industry. Women occupy the highest labor force in the coffee industry in Uganda, yet they are the most constrained in terms of access to land, extension services, finance and agricultural inputs that limit their productivity. This is often due to patrilineal structures that are advantageous to men in acquiring land. Also, land ownership forms the basis for investments in extension service, inputs, and access to loans. Currently, the government of Uganda is working towards boosting coffee production to 20 million bags by 2030, so my objective is to investigate if the investments being pumped into the coffee industry are accessible to women and if farmer cooperatives serve as a sustainable mechanism to facilitate it.

 

 

I felt a huge burden to represent the stories of these men and women accurately because they trusted me enough to talk to me. I constantly had to be conscious of my own bias and be objective when listening to them. I asked myself a lot of questions to capture the individualism of each group rather than generalize. The issue of reframing and telling stories accurately in bringing awareness to gender issues is important. We all have biases, researcher or not, and biases and prejudices often hinder people from viewing issues objectively. Also, our participants have a voice, no matter how low their voices may seem, but getting to echo their voices through research is a huge responsibility we should carry with utmost respect and integrity. Because story tellers control the narrative, there is a risk of sharing only a single story. As Chimamanda Ngozie Adiche, a Nigerian quintessential writer, says, “the danger of a single story, the one perspective, is that it can lead us to default assumptions, conclusions and decisions that may be incomplete, and may lead to misunderstanding”

Oluwabukola Makinde

Fellow ‘22

 

Reference

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2019). The Danger of a Single Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg

 

When Multiple Places Become Home

When Multiple Places Become Home

 

On my first night back in Uganda, I wrote in my journal, “You don’t know how much you don’t know until you are standing face-to-face with a world you don’t know.” This statement came after a series of small challenges that left me feeling helpless to understand the directions, processes, and norms that I knew would be the new routine for my stay in Uganda. I remember thinking to myself, “this could not be further from life at home” and “it’s going to take a lot of adjusting to survive these next three months.”

I have traveled to many places that I casually referred to as “home” in conversation. In those cases, a mentioning of home indicated the discovery of things that reminded me of home in a new place. Familiar foods, a similar pace of life, traveling with friends, or concepts that were easily contextualized all made a temporary visit to a new place feel like home. There is a difference between a place that resembles home and a place that is home. Deep down, I know those places are not home.

When I think about the places that actually are home, two locations come to mind–my hometown and my college town. The events that took place in these locations are what make them an actual home. They are the places I grew up, where I gained my independence, learned to take care of myself, and started to stand on my own two feet. They are the residence of the people I love, where my family and dearest friends are guaranteed to be found. They witnessed my biggest milestones, settings where my fondest memories, biggest challenges, and greatest feats all took place. They are the locations I return to time and time again, either physically or in heart, because I know something is waiting there for me.

After two months living in-country, I would add Uganda to the list as the third place I call home. This place is comprised of more than just reflections of my other homes; in fact, in many ways life in Uganda still could not be further from life in my other homes. However, the challenges that caught me off guard on night one have grown into the routine activities that make Uganda home at day 57, and the events that made other places home have happened here as well.

This is how Uganda became home:

A place I grew up – Growing up is not limited just to our youth, but it is a process of constant learning that eventually yields wisdom and independence. Living in a foreign country requires you to start all over in the process of gaining knowledge. The completion of tasks that were once fundamental–like buying food, acquiring transportation, or locational orientation–suddenly become advanced undertakings. Then you must tackle the more complex tasks of understanding historical contexts, cultural norms, and societal expectations. When very little resembles what you are used to, you have to grow up all over again.

The residence of the people I love – In this process of “growing up” in Uganda, there are a few key people that have been present as constant guides. They are the place I turn with all my questions (and they can confirm, there are A LOT of questions); they build my courage when a task feels bigger than me; they are the gentle voice of correction and the source of all my laugher—they are my confidants, my support system, and my friends.

 

   

 

 

The witness of my biggest milestones – There is no doubt that Uganda now holds some of my fondest memories­–car conversations, sliding through Sipi, training teachers, and seeing farmers empowered will forever hold a special place in my heart–but Uganda also holds the story of victory over some of my greatest challenges (we’ll save that conversation for a later post).

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These are the things that make a place home–three places I treasure for the time, people, and growth they offered. Three locations I will return to time and time again, either physically or in heart, because I know something is waiting there for me.

A Strong Vision: Empowering Agricultural Educators

A Strong Vision: Empowering Agricultural Educators

Every year, Field of Hope brings together agriculture teachers from all over Uganda to train them on how best to teach agriculture to students, using FOH curriculum and materials. I have never been to any of such trainings, and I was particularly happy to see and be part of this vision of empowerment. It is no surprise that agriculture is the backbone of the Ugandan economy. It plays a critical role in the economy of Uganda, and it is an important driving factor for economic growth, poverty reduction and food security. Unfortunately, pursuing agriculture is not a lifetime career for most young Ugandans, and varying perceptions of how non-lucrative the sector is, has impacted their interests in agriculture. It is to this view that Field of Hope is dedicated to agricultural development and education among youths and agricultural educators.

This year’s Southern teacher training in Kampala commenced with a bang – particularly because it rained so heavily on the first day, but that did not stop the participants from coming. Our team was so inspired when we saw teachers braving the heavy rain to come to our meeting room, and we knew that we were in for a time of impact.

The training spanned for over three days with facilitators imparting new classroom techniques to increase the interest of teachers as well as students in experiential learning. Some things particularly noteworthy from the training were the classroom management strategies that were taught. One of the management strategies involved engaging positive reinforcements to not only encourage students to participate in class but increase their confidence and self-esteem. In one of the group discussions, some of the teachers pointed out that they understood that their roles as teachers transcended teaching agriculture as a subject, but also, that they had been given an incredible opportunity to invest in the lives of the students which will in turn have a ripple effect on the society.

The teacher training was also a time to rekindle old friendships and foster new ones. The interactive group sessions encouraged teachers to share individual knowledge about urban gardening and agricultural best practices that were successful in their schools. It felt like a community of changed and empowered individuals who were passionate about improving themselves, the experiences of their students, their communities, and their country. The impact of this year’s teachers training might not be quantifiable or immediate, but this is an investment that will have a domino effect for years to come.

 

What a vision! What an impact! What an organization! To enable us to do more impactful work like this in the future, please donate.

 

Oluwabukola Makinde

Fellow ‘22

Shifting Narratives: What the World Sees, What I See

Shifting Narratives: What the World Sees, What I See

What do you think about then you hear “developing country”?

Seriously, stop and think about it.

Look up from your device and try to picture it in your mind.

Think about the environment. What does the country look like? What is the structure of the houses, roads, and cities? How does it sound? How does it smell?

Think about the people. What do they look like? What are they wearing? Where are they and how are they moving around?

If you actually stopped to answer those questions, your mind likely followed one of two paths, both based on personal experience:

Path 1: If you have ever traveled to a developing nation, your mind likely took you back to that place and easily created an image based on what you have seen.

Path 2: If you have never been to a developing nation, your mind likely created its own image informed by what you have heard or observed through media or educational resources.

Neither one of those paths is superior to the other, in fact they are simply the result of natural processes in the brain that seek to build understanding through prior experience. But sometimes, the image our mind creates could not be further from reality.

At the risk of being misunderstood, I am going to be very honest. If you had asked me those questions a few years ago, my response would have sounded something like this:

“I imagine dirt roads and houses structured like huts, made of either sticks or mud. People are walking to get from place to place. There are piles of trash scattered across the ground, clothes hanging outside, and animals grazing at the side of the streets. The sounds are only those made by faint voices or animals in the distance, unless you are at the market, then it is loud and busy.

The people are slim from limited diets. They are dressed in clothes with faded colors that are worn and thin from age. Their eyes look tired, and their faces look stressed from enduring a life of scarcity.”

There is a part of me that is embarrassed to admit that this is the image my mind would have created in the past—a list of assumptions informed only by pictures seen in the news, a narrative formed by promotional stories of aid agencies. Still, there is a part of me that knows this narrative does in fact exist in parts of the developing world and I would like to think that this is a safe space for both truths to exist at the same time.

Narratives have a funny way of changing when we actually live in a place instead of just observing life from a distance. Suddenly, you may come to realize that what the world taught you to see when you think about a certain situation is drastically different from what you see in real life.

When I look at Uganda, even after living here for just a few short weeks, I realize that what much of the world sees when they think about development is not what I see.

They see dirt roads and humble homes, but I see communities built on connection.

They see worn human exteriors, but I see hearts full of compassion.

They see faded clothes and dirty hands, but I see people working hard to provide.

They see a lack of resources, but I see curiosity and innovation.

They see deficient means, but I see joy in all circumstances.

They see strangers living a completely foreign lifestyle, but I see people with the same basic needs as any other human on this planet.

 

By: Bekah McCarty