...I don't even know if I'd even thought about it before I brought it up to him. We were sitting on our lawn, with a couple of foster puppies, just lazily enjoying the afternoon when I pitched the idea to him.
Me: You know what we should do?
Me: We should go to Uganda and volunteer for like 3-6 months next year.
Husband: Ha, yeah, okay. (sarcastic tone)
Me: Well really, I could take a leave from my job, we could go when your work is slow and we can hire someone to look after the rental properties.... What would be holding us back?
Husband: ...Yeah, maybe. I'll have to think about it.
A part of my brain exploded at that point, though I didn't let my excitement or dismay show. Nor did I admit that I'd practically brought the idea up as a joke seeing how I still thought there was absolutely no way he'd go for it. God love em, but my husband is a real home-body and is incredibly dedicated to his work. I didn't think he'd even consider something that was this out of his.... our.... comfort zone.
But here we are a month or so later, with two tickets to Uganda leaving in February and coming home in June. 4 months.
This idea may seem slightly random but those who know me, know that random comes fairly naturally. In truth though, there are specific reasons why we've decided to put a comfortable life, decent paying jobs along with friends and family on hold to volunteer in a remote part of a 3rd world country where snakes and malaria are a thing.
There was of course our travels over the past few years to Thailand and Nicaragua that made us more comfortable with the unfamiliar and whet our appetite for more adventure. This new found comfort and curiosity led us to Uganda just this past March for 2 weeks where we visited Chad & Terra, friends of ours who founded an organization called 'Our Village Community Partnership' (formally Our Village Uganda).
OVCP is most easily described as a remote Ugandan elementary boarding school, though that description falls far short of all that they do. What started out as a failing orphanage has grown into this amazing organization that partners with families that feel like they have no choice but to abandon their children to an institution and exchanges, at a low cost, services like education, health care, clean water, proper nutrition and much more. The goal is that the provision of these services takes enough of the financial and emotional burden off of the family so that they are able to remain together. Sometimes depending on the circumstance, what the family can afford means firewood or maze or chickens but this exchange of cost and service is key to healthy and effective charity. This exchange ensures that parents or guardians feel empowered to provide for their family and can take ownership over their and their children's lives.
Check out the video for OVCP!
We spent a week volunteering at OVCP with me doing a little bit of everything from family visits in the village to trying (but failing) to keep nursery kids busy for 4 hours straight, while Ryan tirelessly built school desks in +35 heat under the shade of a jack fruit tree, trying (but failing) to not burn. The week was an incredible learning experience that had a profound impact on us, leaving me feeling like we'd missed an opportunity in the other destinations we'd visited by not doing something similar.
Our second week was just as amazing in a different sort of way in that we spent it being proper tourists, rafting down level 5 rapids on the Nile River and hanging out in the jungle with beautiful yet intimidating silver back gorillas. The trip was more than we ever imagined it would be and we later agreed that it was our favorite trip we'd ever taken.
In the days and weeks following my introduction to the idea of volunteering abroad, Ryan and I discussed the potential of going and our reasons for why we should or why we shouldn't. We went back and forth on how it would or wouldn't work and he still wasn't sold on the idea but there was one thing I said that seemed to persuade him.
I picture myself being 90 years old and I'm looking back at my life and the things I did... and I don't think I'm ever going to say 'Man, I wish I had of worked more' or 'Gee, I really regret that time we volunteered in Africa.
Nope. That's never going to happen.
There's many reasons why we shouldn't up and leave to Uganda for four months. We have rental properties to manage, mortgage payments to make, work schedules to keep and unfortunately a limited bank account.
A friend of mine had some good advice on this topic (that awesomely enough was his reason behind saying 'yes' to being on The Bachelorette Canada).
"There are always countless reasons not to do something. Ways in which your perfectly laid plans of how this is all supposed to work out could come crashing down but realistically it's not going to work out the way you planned anyways.
So look past the safety net of saying no and potential perceived failures and
Hurry up and make the decision that your life is going to be awesome
No matter what turns you find down the road. Because it's the only life you get."
And then he serenaded her with a ukulele. #whattaguy
So one by one, we figured out how to turn those reasons we couldn't into reasons we could.... we'd hire a property manager, rent out our own house as a short-term furnished suite, ask for a leave of absence from work and keep our trip costs low by watching for seat sales and staying at OVCP while we're there. Voila!
But why lose months of income and go through all this just to volunteer?
I recently read a book called 'The Happiness Project' by Gretchen Rubin. (I would HIGHLY recommend.) There is a quote in it that has become one of my truths and another one of the reasons for our decision to return to Uganda.
The days are long but the years are short. - Gretchin Rubin
We are all trading our time for something in return. I trade most of my time 'entering data into a computer' for a salary. That salary in turn pays for my house and car and food and clothes and movie tickets and non-fat, half sweet, extra-hot ,1 shot vanilla bean lattes. And that's good. I like all those things. But is it really necessary for me to trade 49 out of 52 weeks a year for those things? I'll forego the movie tickets this week and brew my own morning coffee. We'll rent out a suite in our basement and eat out less often, whatever we need to do if it means we can stop trading some of our time for money and start trading it for something more valuable.
It's not an easy thing to explain, but something about this just seems so much more worthwhile. I feel like this is an opportunity to learn something that we couldn't learn any other place, any other way. I know that being across the globe, away from my friends and family and submerged in a totally different culture will be extremely challenging at times, but despite that I don't think a single day will be a wasted one. And that thought excites me.
Four months in the grande scheme of things is not a long time. Our goal while we're there is yet to be completely defined, but it will be a modest one. A project we can see through till the end that will hopefully have a lasting impact. And mostly, I just hope we learn as much as we can.
So if anyone wants to take a trip between February and June 2017.... Please come and visit us! We have beds to put you in and I'm sure we'll be happy to see familiar faces.
Hi, I'm Lindsay! I am the self proclaimed soul-mate to my hubby Ryan and wannabe philanthropist. I have a passion for writing, street bikes, & rescue dogs. This blog is a random compilation of my daily (formally diagnosed) ADHD thoughts and activities as I try to make the world a better place.