The elephant is a very proud and arrogant animal. It was invited to the tortoise’s house one day. While there one night it kept on pushing the tortoise out of the house with its huge body. The tortoise was forced to spend the night outside! 30 years ago, I made a decision that today turns out to make me reflect on what constitutes the immediate needs of a person. If we do not reflect on our positions we let pride, arrogance and ersatz contentment ruin us. I realised the following points ring true: we need each other; we need to explore our contexts and; we need to know our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. How well do we address our own insecurities at individual and collective levels?
Who are the ‘each others’ in question? I came to USA with a small suitcase in which were two shirts and 4 trousers. In it were other essentials I had packed hurriedly. I got on a plane and landed at Dulles Airport, Washington DC. My hosts picked me and brought me to their home. I joined their family as a new member. I learnt to smile again. I learnt to ask questions about USA. I shared my insecurities and was given counsel on how to move. I was guided on how to make small steps. I learnt to navigate through the weather, streets and USA Calendar. I was provided for in form of dress, diet and development experiences. The development experiences included: getting around and doing shopping or errands. I learnt the street names and learnt the means of travel. I learnt how to look up addresses. The addresses of places that have continuously been of help to me are: the Union Station; City Hall; the library; the community services offices (to register for orientation and work opportunities); immigration documentation center; the prayer house and; the recreation facilities.
I looked up people I would make friends with. I was shown where to do volunteer work. I am not allowed by law to work for a salary so I depend on the support from my hosts in form of: shelter, food, utilities and occasional out of pocket money. As a person from Uganda, I was interested to meet Ugandans who have settled in New England. I wanted to ask them to share their stories with me. I failed to meet that many until I visited Boston City where I met three Ugandan-Americans who gave me some tips. I have since met others who are much focused. With these ones we decided to found an organisation or society or association. We called it the Uganda-New England Society (UGNEW). Our main goal was to provide opportunities for improving on ourselves in USA. I was able to join volunteer organisations and clubs visiting Universities to share stories from Africa. This has improved my understanding of life in USA schools, communities and nature of institutionalised social services.
President Barack Obama has been recently inaugurated (January 2013). The USA, in which we are founding UGNEW, has contexts we need to factor in as we aspire to establish a civil society. We are from a background that engages in work and believes in being productive. USA is a great nation and it is an environment in which organised societies and their members are provided opportunities to pursue their aspirations. We hope through, UGNEW to: have the first civil society house with an address in New England (most probably Boston City); we want to profile needs of persons of Ugandan descent in New England and explore avenues of addressing them; we want to make sure that we enrol as many members as possible and; we want to improve members’ understanding of skills required to lead a productive life in USA. This is a shared collective dream. The questions many of us who want to settle in USA should ask are around the themes touched in this small write-up.