There is an organization named 'Team&Team' that works for people who need clean water and other help. They have worked for 20 years for people who are far away from water and people living in conflict and disaster areas with no basic rights. Through this interview, let's find out the value of water and the happiness of volunteering.
1. What made you decide to take charge of Team&Team and what was your goal?
Team&Team organization was officially registered as an NGO organization in 1999, starting from South Sudan, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Canada. It is an organization that provides emergency relief. The world we live in has many issues, and I was particularly interested in issues related to water. I became a Team&Team member in 2010, after I joined the organization, and managed the promotion and donation for the water project. After the water project, I started to take charge of the production and supply of re-usable sanitary pads for female students in the registered area.
2. What made you go all the way to Africa with an interest in natural resources, particularly in water?
The reason why I went all the way to Africa is because I had faced their poor surroundings directly. My first visit to Africa was not to develop drinking water but to deliver necessary items. The very first place I visited was in Garsen, Kenya, and as I went there in person, the surroundings were worse than I thought since a lot of people were suffering from problems with water. In particular, young children were suffering from waterborne diseases, and they might lose their lives if the condition deteriorates. Seeing the residents suffering from water, I couldn't just leave them. Thus, I decided to help them by developing drinking water in their area. Also, I was able to take action because Team&Team members joined me and were there for me whenever I need them. Most of the places we visit are the especially poorer parts of the region or a border area, so we sometimes were mugged and experienced stray bullets passing by us. That's why we say, "Wow, you are still alive." whenever we meet each other after a long time, and this shows we are volunteering in very dangerous places. If the Team&Team member had not joined me going to Africa, I wouldn't have been able to conduct the developing drinking water project.
3. Is there any particular episode that is memorable in doing volunteer work and cooperating with residents?
Rather than memorable episodes, I have a strong memory of a quote from a resident. She said, "Your team didn't only distribute drinking water, but your team is distributing life!" Although we are cooperating with people from different cultures, there was not any friction between us. Also, other people thought we are very helpful and doing a lot of jobs. However, there are more things that I learn from them after cooperation, so I am more grateful to them.
4. After mitigating the problems of water shortage and health hygiene issues, what is the next thing you want to work on?
After completely solving the health and hygiene problems of African female students, I want to help them to grow strong. In 2015, I visited a village in the Garcen area of Kenya after developing drinking water there. I saw a girl sitting in a place similar to a warehouse. After coming back to my accommodation, I asked why the child was in such a place. The girl was in a situation where she couldn't go to school or even go back to her house because she didn't have a sanitary pad. As I know more about this issue, I was shocked by the unsanitary and unsafe things that they use instead of sanitary pads. Disposable sanitary pads in that area were too expensive for them to afford. After the volunteer work, I came back home and discussed this issue with my wife. Then we decided to conduct the re-usable sanitary pad project. Currently, Team&Team Canada is still working on this project, and we are trying to educate them about health and hygiene, and we are hoping to see them grow as strong women and strong mothers. Helping them to become strong women and mothers is our goal.
5. When did the people who didn't even have basic rights seem the happiest with your help?
It is not my help; the help is from Team&Team members. The happiest moment I saw was when the first re-usable sanitary pads were sent to a village in Africa. When we were handing out re-usable sanitary pad kits to girls at the South Sudan refugee camp in Glu, Uganda, one of the students said "I feel adequately respected and being remembered when your team sent us these kits." And this quote impressed me so I remember it vividly.
6. What is the important attitude when we go volunteering?
It will help you understand more easily if you know the core value of Team and Team. Human Dignity, Integrity, Professionalism, and Pioneer Spirit are our core values. These words show the important attitudes you should have when you go volunteering.
7. What was the most difficult part when you work as a Team&Team member, and in contrast, when did you feel most fulfilled and rewarding?
For more than 20 years, Team&Team members have been risking their lives in places in Africa where water is needed to provide emergency relief. Including the founder of the Team&Team organization, the organization members have suffered from bacterial infections, malaria, typhoid, robbery, and car rollover accidents. Whenever we gather, we shout out, "Never Stop! Never Die!" It is the slogan of the Team&Team organization. Constantly being reminded of our slogan and the sacrifice of our team members led us to develop up to 250 wells which helped more than 1 million Africans drink clean water.
8. It must not have been easy to work to help others for ten years, but you are still working as a member of Team&Team. What is your motivation?
I don't have a special motivation; I think we just have to expand the concept of the family. Expanding the concept of the family means that regarding the global community as our family. The difficulties in Africa seem to be only their hardship. However, it will someday be our difficulty. For example, suppose that your apartment is on fire or water leaks, and all residents of the apartment are in trouble. The world is also the same as an apartment. Expanding the concept of the family will change our interests and behaviors as small actions come from a little attention.
9. Activities are limited due to Covid-19, is there anything that your members are currently working on? And what is your plan after Covid-19 ends?
Team&Team Canada has been working on re-usable sanitary pad kits since 2016. Each year, these kits are made for about 400~500 girls. Even though there is Covid-19, around 40 volunteer workers are helping out with this project. Two weeks ago, re-usable sanitary pad kits were delivered to 100 girls living at the Bwagiriza refugee camp in Burundi. Also, there is a 5-week training program called Global Action to help those who want to participate in this volunteer work. After Covid-19 ends, I'm planning on researching water issues and women's health and hygiene in Central and South America, which are close to North America.
10. What does water mean to you, and is there any word you want to share to notify the importance of water?
Water is life. We all know that water is important to us, but it is hard to take action. If someone wants to take an "action", I would recommend visiting the Team&Team organization website. It will guide you on what steps you can take. Thank you.
Now we have heard the story of Obadiah Kim, who is working hard to make a world where everyone can beam with joy. It is not easy to volunteer in poor surroundings. Still, Obadiah Kim teaches us that there is more to gain in that surrounding. Volunteer work sometimes accompanies sacrifice and difficulties, but we can also gain a lot of good energy from volunteer service. There is various volunteer work that university students can participate in. For example, the International Development NGO Team&Team's 'Teammaker' for university student volunteers and 'Running Donation' are programs for university students that Team&Team recruits. It will be a special opportunity for students who are especially interested in environmental issues because there will be an environmental education and students will have a chance to practice those actions. You don't need special qualifications or skills to participate in volunteer work, all you need is a passion for doing it. Why don't you participate in volunteering and enjoy the happiness that can only be gained from volunteering?
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