Day 166 – About how I came to where I am

Yesterday I wrote about warm memories from watching an old episode of Little house on the Prairie. After another day of meetings to prepare for my job with ZOA Uganda, I simply stared out of the window in the train. On the way home I was thinking about other memories of my childhood and how they relate to point I have reached today. I started up my laptop to write this blog about three hours ago, but in the mean time I watched the news filled with post-election analyses and talked with my family about all matters travel, family and politics.

So now I am tired and the day is almost over, but still I feel that I owe you this blog. I have been easy on myself lately and combined a couple ideas into longer pieces to stretch over weekends. Just because I needed to give myself a little bit of breathing space. This week my head is filled with ideas again, so I am going to write down my train thoughts from today before I lose them again through a good night of sleep.

I signed my contract with ZOA today. It’s finally official now. I feel relieved and most of all, just super excited. I can start thinking about what to pack (although I should probably unpack first from moving yesterday). I have a bit more of an idea of the organisation I am going to work for and the people in the supporting office here in the Netherlands.

Through the past days I have been reflecting upon the journey of how I got here. I’ve introduced myself probably 25 times, so that gives you quite a couple tries to get your background story straight. Previous travel experience, educational background, what I will be doing in the coming year and how I ended up with ZOA were all part of the nutshell overview of my life. Those introduction were food for thought during my train ride home today. When did my passion for humanitarian aid and development cooperation start?

I think I have to go way back. Primary school age. On a family vacation we visited one of the ships of Operation Mobilisation. I don’t exactly remember which one. I just remember they had a huge library on board and since I loved books (still do), that was immediately my favourite thing about the whole ship. However it was also cold, the hallways were narrow and damp, the railings were rusted and it is was still just a ship. But I didn’t mind. I have this memory of thinking that I would one day do the same. Give up my comfort to spend my time doing good in this world and making a difference.

There are countless more moments that sparked that first flame of passion. Being invited to apply for Camp Rising Sun for example. And then making it through the selection to fly to New York City at age 15 to spend my summer with incredible teenage girls from all over the world. That’s where I learned what it means to be a servant leader, to build a community and to appreciate differences.

I discovered it again when I spoke with Daliya in a busy theme park with rusty rollercoasters. She is a young woman that started a labour union in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I remember being so inspired by her power, especially when she was extremely vulnerable in expressing how it was difficult to remain hopeful sometimes. It’s girls and women (and boys and men) like that, that I want to be around every single day.

And yes, I fully believe I can do that in the Netherlands too. I believe that there are plenty of men and women here that need support, because they are lonely and forgotten. However, I also have hope and trust that there are plenty of people here that find ways to be there for those in need.

I want to be there for the 41.378 South-Sudanese refugees that crossed the border with Uganda in the first two weeks of March. That’s on average about 3000 people a day, the majority being women and children.

That’s why I don’t find it hard at all to leave my own home behind again. Because I already knew as a little girl that a dark, cold and wet ship could be home. So I guess a hot office in Kampala or a refugee camp at the border with South-Sudan will be home too.

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