Recently three of our program coordinators from India traveled to Kenya and Uganda to see how the Unbound program works in those countries. They had the opportunity to learn from their African coworkers and to experience what poverty looks like in Kenya and Uganda compared to India. This first reflection is from Seema Mohan Kumar, the program coordinator for our Chennai office in India.
“It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience, it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost. It is from the feelings and thoughts emerging from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated. And it is generalisations that allow new situations to be tackled effectively.” — Graham Gibbs
I’ve taken a lot of positivity from this experience and a lot of learning too. Nairobi and Uganda was not what I had expected, and though we had to strictly take yellow fever shots, not all the places are filled with mosquitoes. The two African countries I’ve visited have been full of happiness. I have gained some life experience. Now I have changed more and I had to take the long road to re-examine my view of my community. Education in Kenya and Uganda was noticeably taken very seriously and it’s the key for their future.
The saying, “charity begins at home,” is the observation I have noticed in all the families we met. Poverty is only in their lives and not in their minds. They are happy to share the bulk of whatever little they have. Our vehicle became loaded with gifts from sponsored families as we received bunches of mantoke (plantain bananas), mangoes and large amounts of avocados, until finally the van resembled a mini village market. We saw many families from different communities. Each community is the same, and yet every family is unique. They always seemed to keep on going. That reminded me to not give up. To know that there is always something to look forward to going ahead. I still remember the bota-bota (small motor cycles).
This visit played a crucial role not only in facilitating an information exchange, but also in drawing principles and lessons that can be adapted and adopted in my own project context.
When our trip was nearing the end, my feelings were mixed. On the one hand, I was pleased to go home to see my family and my team. Yet I was also hesitant about leaving the wonderful people I have met there. I have so much more to learn about the Nairobi, Kenya, and Kampala, Uganda, teams with whom I would like to have a follow up conversation.