Interview with HALO Uganda International Ambassador Mary Pryse
What made you interested in becoming an International Ambassador for The HALO Foundation?
I have always been interested in working for a nonprofit and also working in Africa. I studied Political Science and International Studies focusing specifically on human rights in Africa. The Ambassador position aligned perfectly with my studies and my passions.
How did you begin the process of becoming an Ambassador?
I started communicating with HALO an entire year before I would potentially serve as Ambassador. I began by first making sure I had done all of my research on HALO as an organization. I wanted to make sure HALO was an organization I felt completely comfortable being a part of and representing in a foreign country. With that, HALO was a perfect fit so I filled out the online application and began the interview process. I also begin sharing my ideas for my future with my family and friends. As time passed I felt stronger and stronger about my plan to work for HALO in Uganda. I had many conversations about the reality of taking a position in another country and in the end, I knew I wanted to work and live abroad and that HALO was the organization I should work with. After being offered the International Ambassador for Uganda position, I began fundraising six months prior to leaving for Uganda and preparing myself and my family for the next part of my life. One month before my departure, I spent three weeks at the HALO headquarters in Kansas City.
What kind of things interested you about living and working in Uganda?
I was interested in working and living in Uganda because I strive to have a greater understanding of how our world works. I believe in order to gain that type of understanding, we have to venture outside of our own countries. No matter how much you study and read about the developing world, I don’t think you can completely understand until you have spent some time in a developing country. I also like the challenge of learning how to live in a new country and a new city. I find the process of figuring out life in a new country inspiring. I was ready for a real challenge in my life, and I was also ready to devote my time and energy into giving back to the world.
Are you finding now that it was beneficial in your role to train with our HALO headquarters before becoming an Ambassador?
It was highly beneficial. To have a personal connection with the HALO team and programs in the U.S. is an invaluable experience that will greatly enhance your stay. I would also suggest attending one of HALO’s major fundraisers because being a part of the fundraiser allows you to feel more connected to the donor, which will help considerably while you are abroad.
What is the most challenging part about becoming or serving as an Ambassador in Uganda?
The most challenging was starting a new life away from my friends, family, and everything that I knew and was comfortable with. Once you become settled into your new life, you face new challenges. Trying to figure out the best and most productive ways to approach your job is difficult. As a HALO Ambassador, we have the ability to mold our roles as we see fit. Finding the appropriate fit for myself in the community and in the HALO homes is a constant struggle. It is difficult to know where your boundaries lie, but with time, a good balance will be achieved.
What is the most exciting part about your life in Uganda as a HALO Ambassador?
The endless possibilities. As a HALO Ambassador, you have the potential to make changes that will affect people’s lives, and you have a great deal of flexibility to start programs that you are passionate about and believe will help the kids.
What qualities/skills would you recommend for future HALO Ambassadors?
- Flexibility is essential to surviving in developing countries. We all know things don’t always go as we planned, but it has been my experience in Uganda and other developing countries that things don’t go as planned more often than they do. To be flexible and adaptable in these situations is key to productivity.
- A HALO Ambassador needs a willingness and ability to interact with the local people within their cultural context. Ambassadors need to be able to function within the cultural context of the country they work in because things that work in the U.S. and other countries may not necessarily work in the country you work in.
- Patience will be required of you almost every day while serving as an Ambassador. You will have to be patience during the small things like when you are waiting for a meeting to start, but you will also have to be patience on a broader scope. It may take a long time for you to understand why things operate the way they do in that country, and you will have to be patient as you learn the system. Patience is required when you are having a hard time adjusting to your new life because it will be hard at first but with patience and time, things will become much easier and life will flow smoothly again.
- While Lacy and everyone working for HALO in the U.S. are always available to support you while you are abroad, you will be making most of the day-to-day decision on your own. Because you are the sole person representing HALO in your country, you will need to be able to work independently. Questions about programs, situations in the home, money, and more will be directed to you, and you need to be able to answer them without consulting anyone else. Of course, there will be situations when you should consult Lacy, Nicole, Rebecca, or the appropriate person in the U.S. so it will also be important that you can distinguish between questions you can handle on your own and those that should be run by another HALO employee. Almost everything you do will be done on an independent basis so you will need to be comfortable in that type of position.
What advice would you have for someone interested in becoming a HALO International Ambassador?
Make sure you understand the realities of living in another country. As an Ambassador, you will not just be a visitor or a tourist, you will be living in this country. This country, will be your home, and you have to be prepared and willing to make the host country your home for two years. I advise that you take this experience working as a HALO Ambassador as an adventure in life and that you open yourself up to change. I would advise against setting up too many expectations. Taking everything as it comes will be much easier than being disappointed because you had preconceived ideas about your new life that did not turn out to be true.
In order to make an impact in a community, you have to first spend a good deal of time making yourself part of that community. You need to become an insider. Once you become more of an insider than an outsider, you will have a unique perspective that will be very beneficial in your work. You will be able to see how and why things work the way they do, but you will also have the knowledge of how those same things work in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. You should strive to achieve this bicultural perspective for it will help you solve problems more effectively.