Reflections from Betty Kagoro – I’m still here!
In 2009–nearly nine years ago!–I came to Seattle as an International Fellow. It was my first time in the United States and it opened the widest doors and windows that I could ever imagine! I established networks, learned new skills but most importantly, I began a journey of self-discovery.
I discovered my passions, my strengths and my weaknesses and how to nurture them. Through the Fellowship, my leadership potential was unlocked and I learned to appreciate myself, not just as a strong woman but as a woman of strength.
Many of you might have heard about Teen Empowerment Uganda (TEU), an NGO that I founded in 2011. It was the “baby” I gave birth to after I returned home from the Fellowship. TEU is about and for young people. It grew faster and became more popular than I could imagine and its growth was due to the objectives and activities that appealed to our target audience – the teenagers.
For the first five years TEU successfully implemented its program and became a household name in the three schools where we worked. But along the way some unforeseen challenges put our school activities on hold for a while.
Nevertheless all was not lost. As a result of our work in schools, I was able to publish a book titled “Common Questions and Answers About Menstruation”.*
Thanks to the support of the people I met in Seattle, we managed to print 4,000 initial copies of the book. Most were purchased by organizations and agencies implementing School Health and Hygiene programs, while others were given out to girls in the schools where we operated. The money from the book sales helped us to run our programs. Among the organizations that bought the book includes: Days for Girls, AfRipads, Korea International Cooperation Agency and Finish Refugee Council among others. Also, individuals, colleagues, friends and family members also bought for their teenage girls. The book is also being translated in 3 Ethiopian local languages and hopefully, it will inspire young Ethiopian girls facing menstruation challenges.
You may wonder, “why is she telling us all this?” It’s because I want to share my experience so that past and present Fellows can learn from it. It’s some form of motivation and intuitive understanding that life is not a project with a finish line, but rather a process that is crucial to our survival as human beings. Throughout all these experiences, I understood that life is a process of continual change, a continual experience of the unknown and that as a human being, a woman and a mother of two teenagers, I must align with the swift pace of change that is happening in my world.
You too may have dreams and goals with a clear trajectory! When shocks and turbulence occurs, do not despair and do not give up! Know that our future on planet earth depends on living this way. These shocks offer us a deeper insight into the cycles of life and its realities.
When I learned about reflective practice theory at iLEAP nine years ago, I did not know just how much I would apply it in real life. Reflective practice is the ability to reflect on one’s actions and experiences so as to engage in a process of continuous learning. It involves paying critical attention to the practical values which inform everyday actions, by examining practice reflectively and reflexively.
Through this process I have found my own pace, my own values, my own passions and my own process. I have learned that winning can also be through failure and that failure does not always mean loss. I have learned that to become successful one must be flexible, ask more, learn more, listen more and then act cautiously!
Most importantly, I have relearned that one of life’s constants is change. Ready or not, it happens. Change isn’t inherently good or bad, but it is inevitable. And science shows that change stimulates your brain, broadens your perspectives and boosts your performance!
As an individual, I have had a lot of changes in the last nine years both personally and professionally – a new job, new colleagues, new responsibilities and so on. Since progress is impossible without change, I’m embracing change and moving forward but with TEU still at the center of all this change. With some friends we are evaluating ourselves in several areas that will help clarify and streamline our goals and objectives moving forward.
For now I want to applaud all the Fellows for raising our collective flag high! I appreciate your unending support as we continue to look at ways of addressing global challenges and concerns.
Thank you for your support and encouragement as we continue to experience life’s unfolding realities.
Betty Kagoro, IF ‘09
* The book may be ordered through Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1517059232. You can also order through Create Space, Amazon’s self-publishing arm at: https://www.createspace.com/5567202.