Joyce Meng's Blog

Return from Uganda

Yesterday morning, I returned from Uganda to an empty campus at Oxford. What a tremendous sense of dislocation to go from sunny heat to snow and children and family everywhere at the Peace School to the emptiness of Oxford during break. In the evening, I managed to catch Jia and my friends from the Peace School online through Skype – to imagine that just 12 hours prior, I was right there with them in the dining room, and now, I’m thousands of miles and a continent away!

I have so much to write and share about my experiences at the Peace School. Jia and I captured hours and thousands of videos and photos, and I kept a detailed journal of all that has transpired. Starting on January 15th, I will be posting my journal entries, day by day to both my personal blog and my Givology blog. Before then, I’ll forbid myself from writing anything too specific. I’ll try and post my entries verbatim with minimal editing to capture the exact sentiment I felt at the time.

A thick snow has blanketed Oxford and London – Europe in general has gone through a deep freeze. I spent a quiet day unpacking my suitcase and sorting through all my memories and emotions over the last two and a half weeks. Coming back feels surreal – my time in Uganda wasn’t tremendously long, but somehow, it felt like a lifetime. In such a short period of time, I’ve made so many meaningful friendships, discovered so much about education and development, and feel inspired to do even more. Traveling to Uganda and living with Joanita’s family made me appreciate so much more in my life, and only reinforces my desire to mobilize Givology to do as much as possible. I felt very much part of the Peace School community, and looking back, I’ve accumulated so many stories of the people I have met that I will forever treasure.

I remember one conversation where one of the boys remarked that “Uganda is 1,000 years away from development.” Certainly, many problems remain, but I am optimistic for the future, especially given the ambitions of the young people, technology transfer shrinking the world, and evidence showing the community working together to share and give back, even if they do not have very much themselves.

Before leaving, I painted “Give to Learn, Learn to Give” on one of the classrooms that the Peace School built for the transfer of the Lower Campus to the Upper Campus. Some of the hired laborers laughed at the message, saying “To give you must first have.” But, as I explained to them, giving isn’t just about riches and money. Rather, giving is a mentality of sharing and offering your time, skills, and passion for helping others with no expectation of receiving remuneration in turn. We all have something give, even something as simple as kindness or emotional/spiritual support to a fellow individual in need can mean a lot.

The Peace School embodies this notion of “Give to Learn, Learn to Give”. They give so many vulnerable children the opportunity to learn and study for reduced or free tuition, with the hope that when these children grow up, they will do something beneficial for the community. Speaking with the alumni of the Peace School about their dreams and aspirations, it appears that over the last 15 years, the Peace School has certainly empowered many young people to aim high!


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