Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Public Service

by: Orrin Tiberi, Global Health Corps fellow

Life, for many of us, is a series of comfortable experiences.  We roll out of bed in the morning to shower with water that comes at our command, and use a coffee machine that can make the exact blend of coconut and mocha that we desire.  Throughout the day we face few opportunities to step out of our comfortable bubbles, and even fewer that compel us to challenge the status quo.  Sliding from one comfortable and familiar scene to the next, it is often hard for us to understand the struggles and trials that many of our fellow humans undergo every day.  Public service is a way to challenge those bubbles of comfort, and ultimately find a greater sense of what it means to be part of your community, your country, and your world.

The United States is fast approaching a day of service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was a civil rights activist and public service advocate. He once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'”  As part of Global Health Corps, Julius and I have committed a year working to push for health equity and social justice, two tenets ingrained in Uganda Village Project’s mission and goals.  By providing health services and information to the populations in rural Iganga that are least likely to have received them, UVP is able to significantly impact the lives of the community members.  This process has impacted Julius and me as well.

At a well cleanup in Kasambika 2

During the past six months at UVP, we have been confronted by issues outside of our experience and understanding, and consequently have grown as both public health practitioners and as people. When we first began our work, I was shocked at how rural some of the villages we work in are.  My preconceived notions of rural Africa were swept out by the reality we were confronted with.  Reading about malnutrition and child mortality is never the same as seeing the child, nor hearing the mourning of the community.  Our service will stay with us for the rest of our lives, and inform future decisions and actions we make in our profession. Though our year of service is not something everyone can commit to, it is still very feasible for anyone to get involved in meaningful and impactful public service.

Public service in the United States can be as easy as calling the local church, soup kitchen, or park in your neighborhood to ask about service opportunities.  If they don’t have one, they should be able to refer you to an opportunity nearby.  By going outside your bubble of comfort you may learn something new about your local area and yourself.  Take the initiative this coming holiday to give back a little to the community where you live and work.   

For those of you interested in coming to Uganda, the applications for Uganda Village Project Summer 2015 Internship are up.  It is a great chance to learn about a different culture and support great health programming that is happening here.

At a malaria training in Kasambika 1

If you want to see more of the day to day life in Iganga, please follow me on Twitter @otiber or on Instagram @ofteted. Any questions or comments you may have can be directed to my email orrin@ugandavillageproject.org.

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