How Belief in Human Dignity Led My Journey

It’s been a few months since graduation, a few weeks since Global Health Corps (GHC) Training Institute, and several days since I moved to Kampala, Uganda. I guess you don’t ever really know what life will throw at you. I figured I could control my future as much as possible, but I never would have thought I would find myself in East Africa helping to mobilize the movement for health equity.

Graduating from Saint Joseph’s University. May 2017.

When I first learned about GHC, I thought it would be a great way for me to grow in my leadership skills while also learning how to play a concrete role in pushing for social justice. Then I learned about the position of E-Learning Officer at the Programme for Accessible Health, Communication, and Education (PACE) and how I could use my extremely technical field of mathematics and computer science to further my passion for battling injustice.

As someone passionate about ensuring that the human dignity of each person is upheld, I worried that my Mathematics and Computer Science majors would hold me back. I struggled to see how I could mesh this passion with my more technical talents. During an interview to be a student leader for the Winter Immersion Program (WIP) at Saint Joseph’s University, I specifically recall being asked: Why am I applying to lead students in learning about social issues, specifically U.S. immigration, when my studies were in math and computer science?

Leading the WIP trip to El Paso, TX. January 2015.

GHC and PACE quelled my worry and provided the answer. As the E-Learning Officer, I will be using data to look at the success and failure rates of the organization’s projects and working with other departments to improve the efficiency of our initiatives that promote health equity. This position is the first of its kind that I have seen — using the technical field of computer science to work for social justice in a truly holistic way.

…every talent and gift can be used in the journey towards social justice.

I find this complexity so beautiful and have come to believe that there is always a way to combine your passions with your talents. When you can do such a thing, it truly fills you up with empowerment and energy. It may be difficult to see how this is possible, especially when your major or career may not obviously align with your passions. However, if there is anything I learned at Training Institute, it is that every talent and gift can be used in the journey towards social justice.

Meeting GHC alumni and sponsors. July 2017.

Reflecting on my journey, I believe it is my awareness of my beliefs and values that have led me to where I am today. During Training Institute, Still Harbor led a series of reflections for our fellowship class. Our very first session called “Purpose & Praxis” focused on how one’s values and beliefs form a vision. I decided to look back on my journaling, and here is what I found:

What do I believe about life? About the world?

I believe that life is beautiful and eternal. I believe that we are called to serve others and to keep other people — especially those most vulnerable — in our thoughts when coming to decisions.

What do I value?

Love, peace, compassion, the ability to listen, servitude, lack of greed, simplicity, hope, laughter.

What makes me come alive?

Listening to stories. Talking about social issues. Seeing people make an impact on the world for the betterment of humankind.

Why am I here?

Because I want to make a difference in the world. Because it makes me sad that people suffer unnecessarily. Because I want to grow among other leaders.

We were also asked to write a short vision statement. It didn’t have to be perfect, and we weren’t given too much time to write it. My statement is neither perfect nor complete, but I truly believe it shows how my values and beliefs led me to where I am today:

I envision a world of true compassion among people, creating relationships of understanding and peace. I believe service is necessary for the betterment of humanity, to defeat injustice, to empower the most vulnerable, and bring to light the beauty that is life.

Throughout Training Institute, I was constantly challenged about my optimism and what may be seen as innocence. To be fair, I didn’t join the workforce or corporate America after graduation. I may not be jaded yet, and I may have no idea what the real world is like.

At the same time, if we don’t have hope for the future, then what’s the point of trying to uphold the human dignity of all? Haven’t I already worked in internships and leadership positions and have seen how destructive negativity is? Why can’t the real world be one of peace, justice, and compassion?

Arriving in Uganda, July 2017.

Today, I am in Uganda as a Global Health Corps fellow. Today, I refuse to be so caught up in calling out injustices that I am blind to the progress and the possibilities that exist all around the world. Today, I strive to be a compassionate leader in a world where compassion is often looked down upon.

Luigi Nuñez is a 2017–2018 Global Health Corps fellow at the Programme for Accessible Health, Communication, and Education (PSI Uganda).

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