Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Final Post

It’s been a long 2 years. They days went slow but the weeks flew by. I’m home now, sitting at my parent’s kitchen table eating a grilled cheese sandwich while typing this. It’s certainly good to be home.

It’s not easy to summarize my last 2 years in Uganda serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer while working with Compassion International. I’ve seen and experienced so much in that time. Most importantly, my world view has changed. I no longer doubt that people can live on less than $1 a day because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen things that tourists would never see. It’s been an education process on people and societies and human life. My values have changed especially in regards to how my money should be spent. Now I look at $60 for an item and think, “That’s enough to sponsor a Compassion Child for 2 months. Is a new sweater really worth that?”

My favorite moments are many. I enjoyed immensely interacting with the Compassion children who were so accepting, full of energy and yet curious about me. I made so many new friends. The other Peace Corps Volunteers there are some of the most amazing people you’d ever meet. They’ve sacrificed so much to be there serving the people of Uganda. I’ve also met some of the most incredible Ugandans who challenged my way of thinking and impressed me with their goals, passions and their work ethic. I enjoyed teaching Life Skills to the secondary students who had so many interesting questions about HIV/AIDS and the difficulties that all teenagers face growing up and relating to each other. I was also proud of the 2 Purdue teams that came and did work around the community. They brought running shoes for my running clubs and they also brought over 400 children’s books to start a library at Compassion. They came in the name of Love, to serve and work and to experience Uganda and they left a lasting impact and I was very proud to be a part of that.

My last days with the Compassion kids was especially difficult. These kids, who are the poorest of the poor, brought letters they had written to me telling me thanks and wishing me well and telling me how they’d miss me. A few brought gifts. A coffee mug. A small basket with a little teddy bear in it that said “I love you”. A few of them gave candy with their letters.

I’m not leaving the place high and dry, however. The Peace Corps placed 2 new volunteers there to replace me. It’s a married couple and they seem to have just the right attitude necessary to survive. They’ve come with open minds and the desire to serve and they’re looking forward to a less hectic more easy going life where there are no phone, light or gas bills.

Let me just say, there’s no country in the world like the US, but maybe not for the reasons that you’d initially think. It’s not about wealth or prosperity. The US is an amazing country because we have laws that make sense and protect people’s rights. We have a democratic system in which our government is made up “…of the people, by the people and for the people”, and “we the people” have a say in who is running our country and there’s no thought to ballot rigging or the reining president staying in power by force. We drink safe drinking water and have reliable electricity in our homes. In Africa, diarrhea kills more babies than any other sickness. We don’t have to worry about that. We have schools in which there aren’t 60 pupils to 1 teacher. And possibly most important, we live in a land of opportunity. If you don’t like the career you are in then you have the option of changing it. There are jobs and education opportunities available. Imagine living in a country where there were no jobs and no chance at education past 7th grade if you didn’t have the funds. We have opportunity and thus we have hope.

On June 11th I’ll ceremoniously dip my rear bicycle wheel in the Atlantic Ocean as I begin my bicycle ride across the US which is being done to raise money and support for a simple building (community center) for the Compassion kids to meet in. We have raised over $30,000 for the trip already. The walls of the building are up and the materials have been purchased for the roofing materials. Once we get a roof up it’ll start to serve as a functioning building. What’s left are floors, windows and doors. (Follow the blog at http://bikeforcompassion.blogspot.com)

The big question I’m asked is: Would you do it again? Without a doubt, if I had it to do all over again then I would. Without hesitation. Whether or not I will again, God only knows.

2 Comments:

At 10 June, 2008, Blogger Carol said...

Fantastic. Brian, you warmed my heart and opened my eyes once again.

Welcome home, boy :) Glad to have you on this turf. I'll be looking forward to seeing you in Colorado!

 
At 13 June, 2008, Anonymous Betsy said...

I'll be praying praying for your bike ride Brian, we're looking forward to having you at Crossings.

Betsy Wolf

 

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