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Every now and then I hear about work that is being done by people in their own time that causes me to stop and think to myself, am I doing enough to help others?  Earlier this year, a coworker of mine contacted me to tell me about a trip she was taking to Africa - not to take in the sites, but to give something back to the communities.  She asked if she could share her experiences with the folks who read JNJBTW, and I was more than pleased to say yes.  The following post is the first of three that I have the pleasure to put up on the blog. Now, keep in mind, Angela's trip to Africa and the work that she did there was not an official Johnson & Johnson project, but I felt it was important to share her accomplishments as an example of what people can do outside of their work lives when they set their minds to helping others.

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

1 August 2009, classroom dedication at Watoto

When a coworker heard that I was going to Uganda to build a school, he said to me, "From an ROI perspective, it doesn't make sense for you guys to go all the way from Hong Kong to Africa to build a school!  It's much cheaper to employ local workers to do the building. Why don't you all just donate the costs of the trip?  That makes better sense." I kept silent at that moment because I had no idea how to answer. 

Before I enrolled in the trip to build a school in Kampala, Uganda, two friends had heard about it but were disappointed because they were not physically fit enough to join. Both of them were dealing with chronic health issues, not fatal, but serious enough to become obstacles to taking the essential vaccinations and medication that are pre-requisites for going to Africa. 

Similarly, about a week before I left for Uganda, I saw disappointed faces when a few colleagues were not able to give blood due to certain physical constraints; some were on medication, some were having other issues.

Watoto SiteTheir disappointments were a huge insight for me. A lot of people have the desire to help, because we would be rewarded by touching or improving others' lives through our own abilities and resources. It makes us feel that we are a good person, at least not selfish, and we care. When this desire cannot be fulfilled, we find our good intentions, skills, talents and gifts are left dormant, these resources simply being wasted. 

Now, I've got the answer to my coworker's question. If one measures everything in monetary terms, it doesn't always make sense. However, why not take another perspective. We went all the way from Hong Kong to Uganda to show our respect and love to the underprivileged there. It did carry a huge meaning to the people that we encountered, not only the underprivileged but also those who were serving there - that's how they knew they were not alone, and there were people out there, far away, who cared about and supported them. To us, we had the opportunity to witness love, faith and hope there, and to exercise our own love and ability to improve other people's lives. The rewards are multiplied and are truly priceless, which could never be represented in monetary terms.
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