Lessons from the Field: Joseph

The first time I met Joseph Elotu it became clear that he was going to live up to his reputation as the Ugandan gentle giant. His taller stature and calm presence were evident from the start and the fatherly tone of his voice, which closely resembles James Earl Jones’ rendition of Mufasa in The Lion King, solidified my fondness for him almost instantaneously. Each opportunity that I have been afforded to interact with this humble man has only served to deepen this feeling.

On our most recent trip, Craig and I were provided plenty of drive-time where we could investigate further how Joseph came to be who he is today – one of TCON’s greatest assets. I learned of his childhood and how he was mistreated and neglected. I discovered that at the age of fourteen, Joseph was undeniably impacted by the civil war that lasted over two decades in his country, as he was separated from his family and forced to take care of himself while he was still just a boy. I realized that Joseph’s work ethic was born long before he became TCON’s Country Director. But perhaps most poignantly, I was touched deeply by the evidence of this man’s dedication to women and children facing immense hardship within his own community.Much of my counseling perspective is formed by my belief that our own personal narratives shape who we become in this world. So I was compelled to analyze how Joseph was able to develop into a man highly attentive to the needs of others in a culture where the survival instinct of taking sole care of oneself (and perhaps his immediate family) is normative. I asked him pointedly, “Joseph, why do you help so many people?” and his response was basically that if other people had not helped him along the way then he wouldn’t be who he is today. It was a simple, and perhaps clichéd response. Yet, the simplicity and familiarity of the response does not diminish its value. Kindness and care have the power to breed even more kindness and care.

Joseph embodies TCON’s ideals as well as TCON’s mission. He has eyes for the future generation and it is because of this that he has taken in numerous orphans and supported them in a variety of ways. But Joseph also remains committed to assisting widowed women and single mothers because he knows that they perhaps face the greatest of challenges in a patriarchal society. By assisting these women, he is also assisting their children – the hope of Uganda.

In that way, Joseph is one example of who we strive to be as an organization. He embodies our hope, as individuals and as an organization. May our attentiveness to the needs of the women and children we work with, and may your generosity and willingness to share your resources with these people who live half a world away, continue to increase kindness in a world where there is great need.

Joseph Analyzes Orange Trees Outside Jinja