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Do What You Can

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Posted Jul. 17, 2017


Don't let what you can't do keep you from doing what you can.

— John Wooden

The book strikes again.

A few more chapters in, and the book I've been reading, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson, hit home for a second time. I've heard the quote before, but being immersed in a completely new setting, this phrase seemed to evolve and mean something entirely new.

"Don't let what you can't do keep you from doing what you can."

The first two weeks in Uganda were packed FULL of new sites, sounds and scenery – some of it heartbreaking, some of it inspiring and all of it breathtaking. We saw at least three orphanage schools doing all they can to provide the next generation with a head start. We saw women farmers in the poor rural North asking a million questions to ensure they can feed their families come November. We saw farm managers engineering and reworking their products to guarantee food for almost 2,000 children. We handed out free food, installed drip irrigation systems, and listened to hundreds of inspiring stories. We saw the best of Uganda doing all they can, yet at times, it almost seemed as if it wasn't enough.

Apac agriscience trainingWomen in the Apac District attend an agriscience training hosted by Field of Hope and Victory Outreach Ministries.

You see a nicely built house next to a crumbling thatch-roofed mud hut. You see a high-end restaurant and countless children begging for money across the street. A large school with pleasant landscaping and uniformed children, yet outside the walls are kids with no shirts carrying jerry cans on their heads. You see a farm plowed by a tractor (albeit rarely), and next to it two women with hand hoes try to create rows.

gardenStudents at Restoration Gateway tend to the school garden.

At this point, I think it's only natural to stop and ask yourself – what can I do? Does two months really make a difference? How do I solve all of these problems?

It's extremely overwhelming to consider what you see and contemplate making a difference. Where do you begin? There are infrastructure problems, there are government problems, there are housing problems, economic problems, gender and funding problems, weather problems, job problems, and educational problems – and that's just the beginning.

At this point, I'll stop to ask again. What can a 23-year-old white woman from the United States do for Uganda? What can any one person do?

I can't pave the roads and install water lines; I can't straighten up the government; I can't provide a house to every family, stop gender discrimination, prevent a drought, or start a school; heaven and my mother and the FAFSA program all know I can't afford to fund any of it either. So what exactly am I doing here?

Don't let what you can't do stop you from doing what you can.

I can't do any of the things listed above, but I can educate the 160 women I get to come in contact with on advanced agricultural methods and effective lending practices.

I can offer my time to ease the burden of an overworked nonprofit employee.

I can conduct cool experiments on pH levels in soil and iron in food to get students excited about agriculture.

I can tap into a network and bring together groups and individuals with similar goals to help reach the overarching goal.

I can place 2,000 UG shillings into the offering plate of the church with a dirt floor and no door.

I can help a nongovernmental organization with more means than myself alone create a successful and strategic plan to make a difference.

I can give these women a voice in letting the world know what they really need.

And above all, I can ask the Big Man upstairs for some intervention (solving my weather problem for sure), offer my love and a smile, and hope for the best.

I am fortunate to be able to give two months of my time (for now) to help the Ugandans in whatever way God chooses. Maybe you can't afford that sacrifice right now – but don't let what you can't do keep you from doing what you can.

If you can't give your time, maybe you can afford to give a month's tithe to an effective organization. If you can't give money, maybe you have a pile of textbooks from college that you'll never use again. And if you can't give any of that, you can still give your thoughts and prayers and encouragement to Uganda and to those who are giving what they can, as well.

It's daunting to look at all the needs in this place at once, but I believe God created each of us for a purpose. If we all give what we can, we will have more than enough – for he always provides. So for now, I'll join those already here in doing what we can.

Alebtong agriscience trainingAlexa Major (front, pink skirt) with fellow teachers and encouragers at the agriscience training in Alebtong District.

About the Author

Alexa Major is a 2017 MIAP-Noble Fellow serving in agricultural development roles in Uganda. Major is from Fowler, Colorado, and is a student in the Master of International Agriculture Program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on business and rural development. This fellowship is sponsored in part by the Noble Research Institute.

Alexa Major
2017 MIAP-Noble Fellow