My 1st Nine Month Semester...
My name is Ger. Ger Odock. I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya’s equivalent of New York - a city that never sleeps; well, so I hear! On the whole, I am a “city boy”; used to noisy crowds, warm and polluted days, crowded streets but also lovely and insanely joyful nights. I am a huge fun of writing and public speaking and when I was younger, I wanted to become a writer or a motivational speaker the former being my unfulfilled dream whilst the latter is my work in progress. The recent past dating nine months has had me living in a less urban area; embracing, befriending, dinning, adopting cultures and learning from the less urbanite through my work with Action Aid Uganda. I have a dear friend whose company I relish despite his institutionalized approach to common issues but also, a host of very close friends who I share with my experiences, lessons in life, technical and practical knowledge in my line of work. In different settings, I share with them childhood aspirations in life as well my agonies, years later.
The day I stepped foot in this country seemed like a new beginning for me. The date was 20th May 2013 around 19.00 hrs; I arrived at Entebbe Airport, Uganda all geared up for my placement. I had prepared myself adequately but evidently, not adequate enough to communicate. That first night however, was a pleasant experience - at least. Hearing one speak was so exciting, the food was sumptuous and the courtesy of the people I met on my first night was exceptional. Days to come, the exceptionality fluctuated like the dollar! On the day of my induction at Action Aid Uganda office, I alongside two others were taken through the basics. I had a flashback to the list of postings to choose from, my first choice then, was to choose the remotest place – regardless of where it was. Fast forward to the induction, this prejudgment I had seems a little ironic now. The posting I chose and have been with for the last 9 months and found a deep appreciation for, just so happens to be “my home away from home”. The staffs at the Local Rights Program (LRP) and the communities have made my work ten times fun and easier.
For whatever reason, Busiki LRP on the East seemed the most interesting to me on paper and so it was in fact. The first impression I had of it was that i wasn't going to make enough of a difference with the plans I had in mind. I felt that if I was going to be spending my entire career life here, I wanted it to be something big. I wanted to fulfill my dreams of empowering others, succeed in the goals denoted by my terms and make a difference in each person’s life if touched by my efforts.
Getting around on the program area was not so bad. The only major frustration I experienced as soon as I started work was when I wanted to carryout training but could not because of the language barrier. I am from a context – Nairobi - where English rules into a context – Busiki - that requires once to speak - lusiki more than English - the local dialect or be a fast lane to nowhere! This meant that, I had two options. One; learn the language fast or two; learn the language faster. While this was food for thought, the real food was great. The Culture was respectful, accommodating and intense.
1 week after reporting to my placement, the day that I was going to carry out my first training was finally here. I knew it was not going to be an easy task, but I knew that if I pushed myself I would succeed. I had ounces of doubt though. This was the same feeling I had when my friends said I was crazy for seeking to work in another Country and more so, a rural area. The dusty, paved road meandered up and down to the venue. It is only about 2 miles from the office but because of the rugged and dusty terrain, it felt more like 5 miles. Crazy or not, there was no turning back now because I had the idea in my head and I wasn't going to be satisfied with myself until I was conquered my own doubts. All through the motorbike ride, thoughts of how good it was going to feel to finally accomplish this goal of mine after nine months crossed my mind, recurrently.
I had a mental picture of what I wanted. I felt like a kid who was going to run his first foot race against his sibling. The anticipation and excitement of this upcoming task triggered an adrenalin rush throughout my body. Oblivious to the world around me, I looked to the sky and pictured myself going through the motions like it was already happening. As i disembarked from the motorbike and headed towards the venue, the Youth stood in small groups waiting as tens eyes watched as I stepped on towards them. That’s when i knew I was in my element and I was ready!
When I signed up for this program, I dared myself to make a difference in the life of another person. These days as I recline and talk to mingle with the Youth, I realize that I have not only affected one life, but many of them – directly and indirectly. Currently, hundreds of Youth have been coalesced into a common ideology of self-empowerment economically and through access and rights to information for informed decision making, tens are into economics activities, tens more are informed and they will now be strategically able to succeed in furthering their information and economic status, and look forward to a future they only knew existed but never knew they could have.
My most successful and rewarding days have been those at the field and more specifically, those with the Youth. Most of my energies - weekdays and weekends detailed the work i put into empowering Youth, LRP and LRP Partners. When I see the outcomes being depicted by sections of these groups, it hits me that every day of the nine months have eventually counted for something in passing over the mantle of empowerment, best practices and skills. During the entire period, I rarely looked into the future at how I would feel once the nine months were complete; my focus was on laying the “foundation”. I realized that I had lost sight of the true meaning behind our project. I had only focused on the fact that it was another task and one that I desperately needed to get a “good grade” on. But when it was over and done with and if I should undergo an appraisal, I will be sure to pass and if the Youth and the LRP were to be my appraisers, then I would get a “good grade”. The warm feeling I have is one I'll never forget, and one that I believe I will be feeling many more times over.
I look back at when it all started with a mental picture as a kid, when I dared to dream of empowering someone, dared to succeed in the goals set by my aspirations & my terms, and dared to make a difference in the life of each person touched by my efforts. As I look at what i have accomplished, I can say that I am proud of my results. Though some people may not consider tens as much, it is work in progress. The tens feel like they are holding the world in their hands. This experience was one I will never forget. I never realized how difficult it really is to have limited opportunities, skills and capabilities. I have learned some valuable lessons from this and hopefully those people I worked with and for, not only learned something but will repeatedly apply and harness their learning!