In software development, we measure our work by milestones. The same could be true for measuring your life. If I consider the landmark events in my life, the list of my most rewarding days includes my graduation, my wedding, the birth of my child, and the day I spent at Hua Giang orphanage in Vietnam.
Last year, I was in Vietnam as part of the VMware Foundation Good Gigs program. Through immersing ourselves in the service of others, this program gives people a unique opportunity to not only give back, but to also learn and grow. We collaborated with educators to develop programming curriculum for children attending digital literacy classes in orphanages. The Trek was physically challenging and emotionally insightful. After a week of working in-country and visiting orphanages to prepare teachers to deliver the lessons, our trip ended with an afternoon of playing with the children in the courtyard of Hua Giang. When a little girl asked me if I would be back to play tomorrow, my heart ached. Her question lingered.
Six months later, I accepted the opportunity to lead the next Good Gigs Trek to Cambodia. I felt honored, but apprehensive. The trek to Vietnam had opened my eyes to the power of Service Learning, in contributing to my growth. Now as the lead, my challenge would be to go beyond myself and to ensure the success of the mission and the experience for other trekkers as we deployed a digital literacy curriculum. I also carried with me that burning question from the young girl. What are the ripple effects of our actions?
Arriving in Cambodia, my eyes were open to the smells and sounds of the country. But my view had shifted, I was no longer a tourist. I realized that my presence had impact to the community and I cautiously watched my every step. A village tour was no longer a visit to the countryside. A walk through the market was immersing ourselves in the community. I considered the weight of the footprint we left and wondered if our presence might have been an intrusion. When we asked a father if he sends his children to school, he said, “Education doesn’t make the rice grow.”
Doubt can often be a spiral that leads you down, silences your voice, and paralyzes your actions. On the Trek in Cambodia, I thought about who I want to be. Do I want to be a person who is so fearful that they do not act? I did not. When we go out into the world, of course we have impact. Positive and negative. But if the action we take comes with good intentions, then the light of our actions pushes back the boundaries of darkness. The mistake would be not to act because we are fearful of taking the wrong step. The Good Gigs program doesn’t shy away from tough questions, difficult feelings, or the pains of personal and professional growth. It welcomes them and creates a space for you to explore them even if it puts you outside of your comfort zone. Because that’s where interesting happens. That’s where the growth is.
Through Good Gigs, I learned a great deal about education, economic development, and what it truly means to be in service of others. The result of the program is work that helps charitable organizations, but the outcome is taking learnings from the experience and translating them into growth. These experiences have definitely shaped who I am and what kind of person I want to be. Working at VMware has been professionally rewarding and I am proud of the innovative work that I have been a part of. I am most proud of working with the VMware Foundation and being part of the Good Gigs program. It has been the highlight of my career and will always be a landmark in my life.
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