Neomobile partners with ONG Big Beyond to help Africa: read Filippo’s experience in Uganda

Our readers may remember Michela Latini’s interview, our colleague from Legal department who went to Africa for a volunteering experience in July 2016. After few months Neomobile gave the same chance to Filippo Barra, our colleague from Product Team, who recently visited Uganda too, a territory where Big Beyond works on humanitarian projects every day. In this interview Filippo speaks about his two-week sabbatical trip that gave him incredible experience, working with local communities and other volunteers.

Back from Africa, tell us about this amazing opportunity: what did you do on a daily basis in Uganda? Which projects did you work on?

“First of all I have to say this has been a unique, unforgettable and extraordinary adventure, despite being short. Big Beyond works on many projects in Uganda, regarding health, education, agriculture – especially the coffee production and the improvement of the local commodity chain – craftsmanship and tourism on the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. I followed different activities all linked by the goal of community empowerment through skill and knowledge sharing. In particular, I focused on agriculture, education and health, giving my best as ‘project manager’ in the coffee production, for example. A various and amazing experience”.  

How have you been welcomed? Did Michela’s previous presence in that community help you integrate?  

“For sure, because she left great impression! My arrival was more familiar and it strengthened Neomobile’s work as a partner, seen as a solid and recurring support; it accelerated my relationship with local community and with Big Beyond itself. Welcoming experienced professionals, as in my case, is very helpful, especially because they also train young volunteers. It gave me a lot of satisfaction, I understood that you should never stop learning and giving a contribution”.    

How did your professional background help you working with the community?

“I gave my best with the logical organization of activities, so as I said the project management applied to agriculture; in addition, I supported also local schools: there I settled a network of pen friendship between a local school and a school in Rome..Amazing!”.

What did you learn? Any brand new skill?

“I learnt a lot of things! Africa is very different compared to Europe…All the hikes in the forest were valuable experience that allowed me to get to know the nature, for example, to recognize the mahogany seeds in the tropical forest, …not to mention local culinary traditions! Above all, I learnt to reflect on so many things that have an impact on earth: ecology, society, and climate”.  

Expectations vs Reality: considering your initial ideas and impressions, tell us how you faced your two weeks there. 

“This has been my first experience in Africa, and before leaving I had a chat with Michela who gave me an overview about Uganda and Big Beyond’s work, so I wasn’t completely unprepared. There I realized how rarely the government is present in the territory and, on the contrary, how developed is auto organization among the members of the community (just to give you an idea, apart from English there is no official local language, but plenty of them instead). This gives strong cohesion between citizens, but it forces you to live that reality to fully understand it.

On the other hand, the experience in Rwanda has been totally different: there I visited the territories of the genocide in 1994, and initially I was pretty sceptic regarding that country, that survived such a heinous crime…Later on I have been positively impressed by their strong civil organization, the capillary State presence, and their time management: for example, once a month the entire community stops to do community service on the streets or to improve the infrastructure. I perceived it like a sort of universal reflection, like ‘let’s stop and reflect all together’, a social rework of common good. Their strong civil conscience really touched me”.

What was your biggest takeaway from the trip?

“The chance to see things from an essential point of view, and the increasing awareness that several things that we take for granted are actually unnecessary. I think I gained an enriched view, a sort of ‘subtraction’ which is an enrichment instead”.

What did you tell your daughter about this experience?

“I told her about nature since she conceives Africa from a naturalistic point of view, she loves flora and fauna. So she was enthusiastic about my visit to the gorilla park, the discovery of ‘new fruits’ and scary animals such as venomous snakes and red ants.She lived this sort of cartoon through my eyes and my voice”.

And what about the impact with reality? Your first impressions?

“Since I stayed there just two weeks and I immediately came back to work, I guess I did not live a real ‘trauma’: the strongest impact has been more at the airport, so the traffic jam, the frenzy…rather than at work.

What I definitely understood once I came back to my routine has been the awareness of having built relationships in Africa, having worked for my new friends there, because I really feel that Africa and the western world are not worlds apart, and this is amazing: so many distance, so many differences, but in the end so much enrichment and continuity. I wish I could really make my work and my relationships last”. 

Our company is really proud of people like Filippo, great professionals who embrace new challenges even very far from their routine. While waiting for new ones…we suggest you to keep up with our interviews on our blog!