To Answer Not That’s Asked: A Reflection

If you’ve ever had an annoying younger sibling or a conversation with a curious child, you’ve heard the question, “But, why?” The question is both an innocent blessing of inquisitiveness as well as a ruthless regression from focus. You answer the first, only to receive another. A child just old enough to ask existential questions may inquire, Why is the sky blue? Because blue light bounces off the air molecules more than other colors. But why? Because light is like a wave and blue is the shortest one. But why? 

Nevertheless, whether it be through an encouraged silence or an oppressive discipline, the child that asks “But, why?” within us all has been muzzled, muting the blind curiousness that leads to so many discoveries. So often and so easily do we accept what is presented and assume what is not. However, GlobeMed has been founded on the principle that the question, “Why?” deserves to be both asked and answered. GROW extends beyond a metaphor for our growth but to the essence of our becoming. It is an opportunity to answer to life’s inexorable question, “But, why?” Every doubt in our partnership and our potential is absorbed by the unconscious effort to answer that very question. Why do we spend so much time raising money for this? Why do we stay with the same partner for so many years? Why are we spending our summer in Africa?

While the campaign #WhyGROW, on the surface, appears to be the solution, it is merely a step into the minds of the students who think they know more than they do. GROW is a question. The experiences, the people, and the feelings that intercut GROW’s formalities, are the answer. The truly curious and inquisitive students should take to heart the question, “Why GROW?” not as an opportunity to spotlight how selfless they think they are, but a challenge to understand how selfless they truly are. Every student should question each moment of GROW asking that heavily marketed and branded phrase, “Why GROW?” because that effort is necessary to understand the work, the values, and the impact of GlobeMed.

Every sight answers more questions than our minds can ask. Every huff of burning Aqua Sipi water bottles and glucose cracker wrappers is a toxic reaffirmation of our suspicions – a smoke signal from a nation crying for sustainability. And how long until the world asks the same questions? When another child drowns from retrieving the diseased water they drink? When another child’s feet blister from scavenging the garbage fire pit, walking among the Maribou storks that search for another meal?

The Day of the African Child—16th of June, both a festival and a ceremony—roars the high-pitched voices of children all across the continent and magnifies their direct pleas for rights, justice, and health. Africa celebrates the future of their societies and gives a microphone to the ready singings of young people. With the gift of a freedom of expression—the first amendment so many Americans take for granted—these children croon and chant their unfairness. They insult the society that turns a blind eye to the fathers raping their daughters and marry them off for money. They slap the mouth that says children are given enough opportunity to reach their fullest potential. Their poems, performances, and hymns are a cry that does not echo far enough. Imagine if the child you know does not ask “Why is the sky blue?” but “Why do we have to boil our water?” or “Why have so many young parents died?” Among the children given the stage at the Day of the African Child are the schooled, the uniformed, and the applauded. But, imagine what questions the ignored, homeless children would ask given an ear that would listen.

But, public health and social work are marathons in which every stride deserves recognition. The children speaking up sans a hushing repercussion represents our partnership’s potential more than I had realized. Kitovu Mobile and GlobeMed at Northeastern become an element of an identity in those at risk of living as a faceless statistic. Instead of passively acting a victim to an aristocratic society, the people we reach have a voice in the global community, a thumbtack on the map of commerce, and a name in another person’s life. The branch of Kitovu Mobile on which we spent a majority of our efforts—the Self-Help Groups—personify our success in efficient sustainability. As the title implies, self-help is the focus, but also the limitation. Kitovu, and so GlobeMed, assign leadership within communities and preach the importance of independent income generation. And although we fund the shallow water well for the community, it is for the community to maintain. Our partnership with Kitovu extends to embrace and include the villagers with whom we work. By the end of our meetings, we triumphed the language barrier and laughed about how similar our societies can be. Our lives did not touch but overlapped, and so our partnership became a part of all of us in that moment. For the villagers, they have a comfort in the morality and interest their benefactors show. For Kitovu Mobile, they fulfill what must feel like a calling, given their unrelenting passion. And for us, we receive our first authentic reminder of what we have done, and what we can do.

The day I left for Uganda, a professor told me “You can’t change the world in one sitting.” What felt like an obvious aide-mémoire of humanity in the moment became a thematic pacing of our entire trip. Make small strides that leave big footprints. Teach well maintenance the first day, build a well the second. We cannot solve every problem we recognize. But, recognizing the problems and acknowledging the few we have solved unveils the answer we thought we knew. Because it’s not just raising money. Because it’s an honor to work alongside such a dedicated partner. Because GROW leaves lessons to be learnt and the impact we will leave is unimaginably remarkable. Any wonder of why are brilliant blessings of inquisitiveness left to be satiated on GROW—where our potential becomes recognized, our effort alive, and our curiosity encouraged.

 

By: Shawn Mozeika
GROW Coordinator 2016

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