December 18th, 2009

To give or to take?

Note from Marc Monseau: The following is the third — and final — post from my colleague Angela Chiu based on the time she spent volunteering in Africa earlier this year. As 2009 winds down, and as my family and I gear up to celebrate the holiday season, I thought Angela’s words provided a poignant take on what we can all gain by giving to others.

From Angela Chiu, Interactive Marketing Manager, Vistakon, Hong Kong

Some clips from the work conducted earlier this year:

29 July 2009, Kampala King’s School, outreach activities and distributing gifts

1 Aug 2009, Cherish classroom dedication ceremony

How long did your joy last after getting an iPhone? How happy were you when you acquired a Kindle or a 72-inch plasma TV?  We have almost forgotten the joy that we used to have when getting a toy car, a doll, or a basketball when we were small. Over time, especially when we start to accumulate some wealth, value becomes nothing more than an entry in the books. How much meaning does it still carry?

Kampala King's School

When I looked at the children we visited in Kampala King’s School, Uganda, they had very little compared to us. Their school uniforms were not ironed, their socks were loose and shoes were torn. They haven’t had one class photo since the school was established. But the joy that they expressed when receiving small things from us, like candies and balloons, was so tremendous that it went beyond anyone’s imagination. Who were we to deserve such excessive gratitude for only giving such a tiny token? 

We completed the classrooms as planned in Cherish, where HIV-positive children are taken care of and are educated. We had a classroom dedication ceremony there on a Saturday, followed by a party with the kids. We did a little performance for the kids, sang and danced with them, taught them how to twist balloons and make little bracelets. At the end, each of us was presented with a hand-drawn thank you card and a hand-made wooden heart as appreciation. Mine was given to me by a 2-year old boy, and my eyes were swamped with tears when he was stumbling towards me and then crowned me with that heart.  As one of my team members said, “My heart has just broken but I just got a new heart (the wooden one) just in time.”   

It left me wondering: who was there to give and who was there to take?

Gift to Give or to Take


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