Into Africa with Kate Roesch '12

We often go into service with the idea that the people we are going to serve need to be saved. In my life, I have met very few people who actually need to be saved. They could, however, use a helping hand. At Alvernia, I learned how much of an impact service can have on an entire community or a single individual. I always felt that I should have done more. As a result, I am now a Peace Corps volunteer.

When I left for Uganda, I thought that I was going to be magically reorganizing and changing a school. But when I got here, I realized how ridiculous and entitled that thought was. Even if I were here for much longer than three years, I would not be able to completely change and rework a school.

And now, I have no desire to do so. I soon understood that the greatest impact I could make was helping people realize they can be changemakers in their community and sharing who I was with the children, villagers and others around me.

I have learned through my service here in Uganda as well as in past service experiences that it is important to have the people who need a helping hand take part in the change. When people take part in the journey of change, they feel they have a stake in the outcome. When the journey ends, and if it is successful (because not all journeys end well), there is a look on someone’s face (whether is it somebody who was directly or indirectly helped) that makes the whole journey worth it.

It is a face that is radiating pure joy. I have seen faces that have been transformed in this way, and it’s absolutely amazing! The journey does not have to be long and involved. A journey can be as simple as helping a woman hand-wash clothing on a Saturday morning. A journey, whether short or long, can make a lasting impact. By participating in service that lends a helping hand, anyone can help to create more joy in a sometimes unhappy world.

I have also learned that the greatest service anyone can do for another is to just be in the moment with that person. Take the time to really listen instead of rushing to the next “important” thing. You never know what you may learn. I have heard some fantastic stories and told my own; listened to and contributed ideas; and laughed so hard tears streamed down my face. When a life is lived with moments of living fully in the present moment, there are very few, if any, regrets.

My favorite thing about the Peace Corps is the sharing, mixing and melding of cultures. I love spending time in the staff room at the college and talking with the other tutors about America and Uganda. It is interesting to hear and share points of view about topics that are interesting to all.

I also love playing with and teaching my neighbor kids. They visit almost every time my front door is open — and knock on it sometimes when it’s not — ready to play football or zebra, zebra, lion (duck, duck, goose) or color with crayons. Everybody with whom I have come into contact has made me realize that it is not the things I have that make me happy, but rather the people who are around to share my life’s adventures.

A lot of times, people think that in order to make a difference in the world they have to do some big project. But that’s not true. Helping a child who is struggling with homework can make a difference in that child’s world. Packing boxes for a friend or taking time to listen to a story someone is telling can seem small, but can be world-changing for that person. Be world-changing. Go out and make a difference in the world.