Through Their Eyes: Alexander Smith, Mission Month Volunteer

Through Their Eyes: Alexander Smith, Mission Month Volunteer
December 11, 2015 Alex

My name is Alexander Smith. August 2015 was the last stretch of my already incredible summer after high school graduation. In July, I saw my favorite band Rush on their 40th anniversary tour, twice. Once in Seattle with my Aunt, and once in Portland with my Dad, who bought two third row seats. Their setlist was played in reverse with the backdrop changing casually throughout the show to match the era of the song they were playing. My inspiration for bass guitar, Geddy Lee, used old and unusual basses every song so I was geeking out as well. It was a life changing experience that would serve as a sign to even more exciting events to come one month later.

 

Now, back to August. I volunteered with the non-profit organization, Truth x Vision. I was part of the mission month team who went to Accra, Ghana to deploy the Village Drill and the Farm in a Barrel projects. The Village Drill is a man-powered, easily transportable, manual drill and the Farm in a Barrel, is literally a farm in a barrel which in itself is a very sustainable, user friendly, broiler chicken farm made of galvanized steel that ships in a 55 gallon drum barrel.

 

Farm in a Barrel is a backyard poultry farming system designed to give youth in underdeveloped countries a sustainable business to run. Photo by Haley Shandro.

Farm in a Barrel is a backyard poultry farming system designed to give youth in underdeveloped countries a sustainable business to run. Photo credit: Haley Shandro.

 

I became involved in the organization very recently during my senior year of high school. This incredible, life changing opportunity came to me when my current world issues teacher told us we were going to have a guest speaker to talk to us today about a group called Truth x Vision, who were already changing the lives of people living in poverty. This being a change from the everyday class schedule, I was naturally excited. When I first heard the word “founder” I thought to myself, “oh this is some organization that’s been around for a while having success changing the lives of people, this will be awesome to hear about.” Before I knew that I was going to have a chance to be directly involved, I thought it was just going to be an awareness presentation. But that’s the opposite of what it actually was. A fantastic opposite. The founder arrived (being surprisingly young to me), named Kris Asleson. I was aware that his wife was a graduate of my high school, but I didn’t know they were this young (in a good way). After Kris was finished with his presentation, he asked if anyone was interested in going to Ghana. I, along with a few others went to go talk to him, but I was the only one who followed through on going.

 

My reason for going is this: All my life, I’ve felt like I’ve been part of the wrong generation. I like older music, older values, more mature people who grew up back in the day in opposed to the short attention span and disrespect of today’s youth (I know, I sound like a grandpa). I hate a lot of aspects of change going on every day in this generation. One being, the complete disregard by a majority of today’s population for the planet they live on. I’m no “tree hugger” but I do have common sense. I don’t drive a Prius but I do have extreme courtesy to people’s cultures, whether that’s the differences or the desire to explore them, and I also like to keep up with the issues in the world that can’t be easily changed now but could have been avoided if we as a culture weren’t so selfish.

 

Ghana overview

Exploring the world and seeing things from new perspectives is essential to understanding your place in the world, and how you can make a difference. Photo credit: Haley Shandro. 

 

There are takers in this world, and there are givers. I am a giver. I hold the door for people, I have the rare attribute of wanting to suffer to help out others as opposed to always thinking about myself. I’ve always felt the need to give back in this world. I want to make a difference, but I have always thought being one person wasn’t enough. This opinion changed when Kris came to talk to my class and I was on the bandwagon, now ready to actually follow through on the promise to myself. After waiting for my passport, and my visa, I was putting it to action. I flew with Kristi and Travis, a young couple from Albany.  Once we landed in Ghana, the higher temperature hit hard. After customs, a con artist dressed as an airport employee asked for a donation from me, which I gave, until I learned the game from my buddy Nazar and didn’t make that mistake again! After dealing with the jetlag, I finally was immersed in a drastically different culture, which I adored. I love being outside selfish America, which has its positives but a lot of negatives, also. Although I’m not religious, I highly enjoyed the church service we attended. It was positively different, it wasn’t boring at all as opposed to other church services I’ve been to.

 

The biggest impact on me while I was in Ghana wasn’t the lack of what they had and feeling sorry for them (I did feel that emotion a lot though), but was seeing how happy everyone was. The Ghanaian people were genuinely happy in the awful conditions they live in, as opposed to somewhere else in the world. But what a lot of people don’t understand is that people who live in poverty don’t feel like this–they’re often happier than Americans are. The reason for this being, they don’t know any better, which in my opinion is pretty awesome since I have the urge to live in the good ol’ days before everything was at our fingertips. To them, this is the way of life, what they’ve always known, so there is no reason for sulking. It’s not ingrained in their culture like it is in a lot of other places in the world. Their attitudes aren’t “we aren’t living in the most perfect place on the planet” but are “we are alive, we have people who care about us, and whatever work needs to get done to improve our daily lives we do it, and help each other out with no strings attached.” That’s how it needs to be everywhere in the world. In my eyes, places like this house the most genuine people, which is the perfect place for a giver to be a giver.

 

Often, the lessons taught by those living with less in life are the most powerful.

Often, the lessons taught by those living with less in life are the most powerful. Photo credit: Haley Shandro

 

I met so many great people while I was there and for these reasons, we had an awesome time. The team I was a part of felt like people I could truly trust as well, and I do have trust issues and insecurities for some things that happened in my past. We gave back to a community and we taught them “to fish, instead of just catching the fish for them” so the projects are progressing beautifully.

 

I also joined Truth x Vision because I knew this team would make a difference in the world. We are in our youth and we are already making a difference, imagine what we will do 10 years, 20 years from now, the possibilities are endless for this amazing group of people and I’m proud to be a part of it. Being only 19 right now, being in college, and jumping from high school to international volunteer work has massively changed my perspective on life. I’m truly confident for the future and am not anxious about my future life plans anymore, and instead am eager to do everything I can to be happy and successful. Keep in mind I did say money is a common object. This perspective was in my common sense pallet before Truth x Vision, it was mainly fueled negatively by the rotten past people in my life. But becoming part of Truth x Vision was a huge part of my healing process, I have since quit smoking tobacco, and have adapted better habits, which is why travel is so important. It helps people have a different perspective on the world and helps people heal. An analogy to this would be this: As a lot of us may remember, when we were young, our parents would take us for a ride in the car when we wouldn’t stop crying and we would fall asleep. Travel and movement sooth our “baby souls.”

 

Traveling to new places, especially at a young age, is a part of the "finding yourself" process.

Traveling to new places, especially at a young age, is a part of the “finding yourself” process. Photo credit: Haley Shandro.

 

In college, I have the opportunity to go to Germany for extended period of time for German class. I’m eager about that now when 3 years ago I would have been scared to death. I encourage everyone to find something they’re passionate about and go for it. Truth x Vision has become one of my many passions and I look forward to being a volunteer tenure. All of the projects are highly successful and effective. We do a lot of work to get people going on the projects but the main goal is to walk away, and come back and have no problems while being halfway across the world from the projects. This is the future of pulling a massive population out of poverty and I can’t thank Kris and everyone in Truth x Vision enough for giving me this chance, for feeling like part of a family. They’ve helped me with my first steps into adulthood.

 

-Alexander Smith,

Youth Leader, 2015 Mission Month Volunteer

1 Comment

  1. Jill Fuller 1 year ago

    Wow Alexander,

    Very happy and excited you had such a great opportunity and you took it! I look forward to hearing of your future adventures and am very touched by your caring/giving nature.

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