A heart-warming reflection on privilege and making change, Mackenzie Johnston
March 14, 2022
Emma Outteridge’s autobiography Between Two Worlds is a heart-warming tale of human beings’ capacity to care for one another. Outteridge tells the story of a girl who comes from a background of being raised on boats as she travels around New Zealand, and grows up to volunteer in Uganda where she establishes The Kiwi Scholarships.
‘An accident of birth’ is how Outteridge describes the circumstances that lead to her fortune in life. When confronted with events such as the Rwandan Genocide, she was thrown into an identity crisis of why she deserved the life she had. Why did she have secure housing, loving parents, and a good education? “Something inside me had changed and would never be the same again,” she reflects. Outteridge hooks readers in by describing the passionate frenzy of knowledge consumption that followed; leaving us inspired to do the same. She pushes us to really consider why we have the life circumstances we do; to sum it up, she makes us consider our own ‘accident of birth.’
During the author’s time in Uganda, she follows the policy of ‘step back and listen.’ In her book, she writes about the problems that groups who run volunteer experiences have with the ‘white saviour trope.’ This refers to when white people come into third world countries and believe they are automatically qualified to help, and that they automatically know better. These volunteers tend to do more harm than good. In Outteridge’s book, the advice she gives is, “go with purpose.” This purpose may not be what you expect, (she describes how she imagined herself teaching, and while she did do that, she found her purpose was not just to teach the children but to bring some joy into their lives through her music playing.)
Emma’s description of Uganda is colourful and respectful, bringing to life a land unlike our own. She reverently describes this world to us. Through her writing, we meet various children who she helped while she was over there. Emma’s skill in storytelling quickly makes us feel like we know these children. She pulls at our heartstrings when she describes these children’s circumstances and their resilience and strength of character they have to succeed despite it all.
Throughout her tale she frequently leaves Uganda, as she travels around the world working in various fields. However, this does not mean she stops helping the Ugandan people; on the contrary, she introduces us to a way we too can help others without being in a place that needs help. While she travels the world, Outteridge raises awareness and money for Uganda and creates a programme known as the Kiwi Scholarships. While the government secondary schools are free, they come with challenges, often leading to children dropping out, mixing with the wrong crowd, falling into crime, getting pregnant, and other unfortunate circumstances. While KAASO (the company Outteridge was volunteering with) tries to help with funds for the secondary students, they mainly rely on individual sponsorships.
Outteridge describes the challenges that came with moving lifestyles from the impoverished Ugandan village to the rich luxury of Louis Vuitton Trophy events where she works. While she definitely struggled, she managed through determination and persistence, to raise both awareness and money showing all of us that just because we can’t volunteer in Uganda does not mean we can’t help.
Between Two Worlds is a beautifully well-written autobiography that inspires me. This is truly a must-read story for everyone who wants to be part of something bigger than themselves.
- Mackenzie is 15 and lives in Hamilton.