Monday, March 7, 2011

s e l f r e f l e c t i o n

There are times when you reflect on what you have been able to accomplish during your life and you wonder if you made a difference. Now, I'm not 90 years old or anything but sometimes you just have to think that the world is bigger than yourself. You realize that more and more when you grow up - it is just the natural way people mature. And that is the way it should be. While we live in a materialistic society we sometimes have to remind ourselves of what makes us really happy. It's self absorbed but I always feel happiest when I do something for another person. It makes me think sometimes that I really need to get out of this corporate life and do something else that will get me back to a place where I can help others and yet still be able to make a solid living (am I dreaming?).

Anyway, one of my most rewarding trips ever was in September of 2009. I went with a group of other coworkers (not for work) to Africa for a part vacation, part volunteer trip. We first went to Zambia and visited their amazing Victoria Falls in Livingstone. I haven't seen too many wonders of the world yet but Victoria Falls definitely deserves its place in there. But the thing I noticed while commuting there was just how much of a disparity there is in Africa. Where we stayed, it was 5 star accommodations and we received customer service like you would not believe in North America. But we also saw loads of little huts, kids walking on the side of the road as they were coming home from school. The guide said that lots of these kids have to walk upwards of 30 kilometers each day to get to school and back. Some of them didn't have shoes to walk in... others didn't have much of a house to live in at all. It was very eye opening. It made me wonder what I could do to make a difference.

We ended up going to Accra, Ghana to visit and volunteer. Accra is the capital of the country and it is very heavily populated, full of congestion, and pollution. But it was also a place where people were happy, vibrant with personality and who just enjoyed life! The world there is different than it is in any first world country though. All the luxuries that we have in North America or in London where I am now are just that... luxuries. When I was in Ghana, we showered in cold water (whether in a shower room that flooded every single time we used it or with a bucket and pail) for over 2 weeks straight. The temperatures were torching every single day and there were open sewers all around. It was a different world but one that makes you really think that we should appreciate all the niceties that we are privy to. We wanted to come here to do some volunteering and we got a slight taste of that while we were there. Luckily, we were able to secure one volunteer opportunity at a child day care center. It was like a school that taught kids from the age of anywhere between 1 to 7. They were so full of personality and mischievous :)

They were like any of us going through elementary school: some were so bright and you could tell right away that they understood the material and could grasp it quickly... others just seem to be in their own world, day dreaming away or taking away others' attention haha. It was great to see. During their breaks we would play with them and take pictures of them and with them. They were so fascinated to see the camera it was funny. They would literally grab your camera though so I had more than one occasion where a finger print ended up on my Canon G10 at the time. Good thing I didn't bring my SLR haha. It was fun. We ended up donating some money for supplies to extend their roof (at the time, the roof did not provide enough cover and when it rained, the kids had no where to go to continue their schooling). So I went with some locals to buy the materials around town... got to ride on the wagon as we brought all the material back to the school and then we started to help out with the construction. The project was far too short but at least we got a chance to experience it. In the end, we ended up building that roof and it turned out well!

At the end of the day, I think I realized that people don't need to have all the materialistic things or the luxuries that we enjoy to be happy. People in Africa and in other places around the world make what they can of life and they enjoy it. We really stand to learn a thing or two from that kind of mentality. Sadly some people are too focused on the wrong things. Lots to learn on this trip and I am glad that I had a chance to see all of this. No documentary could have provided the impact that seeing Africa through your own eyes could. 


  1. I absolutely love this post, the photos are soft and strong at the same time. I've often thought of dropping everything and fly to Africa and teach for a while, but still not brave enough to do so.

    Been following your flickr for a while now, love your photos and as a Vancouverite who calls London her second home, can't wait to see more London updates :)

  2. Like the contrast in the bw picture from the bus. Thoughtful post.

  3. i know what you mean - i take so many things ("luxuries") for granted. we complain easily and forget the blessings that we have.

    beautiful documentary images here! i do hope to visit africa at least once in my lifetime...

  4. Wonderful images, and even better words. We are blessed with so much, when some have so little. We must help a bit of we can, and specially we must try to be happy and not give so much importance to everyday stuff, that when we think really don't matter that much.
    Sorry about my english, I sometimes fail to express my thoughs correctly.
    Great post dude!

  5. beautifully captured and nicely expressed. always good to have reminders like this.

  6. Well seen and well worded. Last night I headed to Philz and was irritated that they ran out of water and couldn't make me my hand-made brew. Psh. The things we take for granted...

    Anyway, I'm with you here. I'm looking to get out of the corporate world myself, trying to find a way to work part time or even stop working altogether so I can focus on my volunteer work (Bridget just cut her work week by 15% for this reason), because you're right: There's so much more to life than pushing pencils all day. The way I see it, you're not dreaming at all. Thanks for the great read man.

  7. This post was definitely inspiring and an eye opener. I don't think you could have said it any better. I definitely think many Americans in general take things for granted and don't appreciate the little things that truly matter. We are definitely spoiled. Truly touching and a beautiful blog, Kelven!

  8. Wonderful post Kelven! This reminds me of my time in Cambodia over the summer. It was so eye opening to see people with so much less and still happy and smiling and enjoying life.

    Love the pictures as well :)

  9. Beautifully written post :) Sounds like it was a wonderful trip. Your photographs are fantastic as always.

    And you are right - we do occasionally have a tendency to focus on the materialistic side of things ... I certainly do at times :-/ although this is one thing that I am trying to improve ... I just need to stay away from the shops, heheh.

  10. Thanks everyone!

    Natasha - Don't we all :)

    Jon - Everything is relative right? If I had Philz every day, i could get used to that pretty quickly too! It's cool that Bridget has gotten the opportunity to that. Must be fulfilling and fun to be able to get away from every day work to do something for others.

    Adriana - No worries :) I could understand you fine!