Loughborough PhD Social & Support Network

#BLOG – Self-Fulfilment

By Portia Akolgo

I remember a time in high school when my sweet innocent self had it all figured out. We had just finished a lesson on Maslow’s Theory of needs, and I had thought to myself “Ha, life is simple, it’s like a three-course meal; the dessert is always at the end” 

Armed with my textbook and all that a 10-year-old thinks she has, I was ready to reach the very top of this pyramid of needs – Self Fulfilment – The dessert of living.  Though I couldn’t explain, I guessed this was something in the distant future, when I grow up – and yes, there came mantras like “Life would be so much fun when I become an adult” – Adulthood is a scam innit? 

I’ll tell you; Self Fulfilment is not in Adulthood; here’s where it is… 

Growing up I have always been enthusiastic about helping others. Be it in gestures or with appreciative words, lifting the spirit of others was my ultimate high. In senior high school I joined a society which assisted the people in the communities around. Before the close of the academic term, we would go round the dormitories asking students to donate canned foods which had survived the term and clothing they no longer needed. We would gather the food, clothes and cash donations… (yes, many students were very generous to donate money to a worthy cause) and distribute to the many kids in the local community around the school. This exercise meant staying back in school and losing a few vacation days but none of it mattered, this was my happiness – Had I found fulfilment? Is this it? 

In 2018, I had the opportunity to work with a lecturer as a research assistant. Conversations led to finding out about her foundation and an upcoming trip to distribute furniture, stationery, sanitary towels and also have interactive sessions with a few students across Ghana. I was super thrilled I didn’t even realise when I had volunteered to join.  

April of 2018, our journey to touch the lives of students across the nation begun from Accra (Capital of Ghana, in the South) to the Northern part of Ghana. Our first stop was Tamale, regional capital of the Northern Region. We donated desks and chairs to schools that only had the bare ground to offer its students for a seat and desk. The next four days we would visit a number of all-girl’s boarding schools and mixed schools with our basket of goodies and words of encouragement -such lovely interactive sessions we had with the students. Students shared with us their challenges; lack of potable water and poor community sanitation being part of it. The girls would talk about how they have to stay away from school all through their periods because they could not afford sanitary towels.  

Tears would not stop flowing down my cheeks on hearing these stories. This makes me appreciate the sixth sustainable development goal (SDG) of the United Nations: access to clean water and sanitation. It is easy to forget this is a basic human right when you live in an urban area. Scotland has become the first nation to provide free period products for all, and I hope other nations, especially developing countries,  will take on this initiative. This would be a great motivation for girls to stay in school in these countries. 

Our philanthropy tour ended with teaching students basic mannerisms such as dressing, talking and how to carry themselves in public. What a cocktail of emotions this tour was for me. Most of the time I cried just as much as I laughed hearing their stories. How could a people be so happy and unbroken with such odds against them? 

This picture was taken with the school kids after we donated tables and chairs for their classrooms

As thrilling and eye opening as our tour from the south of Ghana to the North was, the highlight of it all to me, was when students would approach and tell us how much of an inspiration we had been and how they would love to follow in our footsteps after each session.  

Such comments brought me calm and all I ever wanted to do was be the very best version of myself so others could follow suit. I’d found my ultimate high again. 

Did someone ask about lessons? 

Under such deplorable conditions where students didn’t have tables, chairs or even books, what was their motivation for continually going to school? I gathered we can’t allow our present constraints to limit us in life’s course. Again, I have become more appreciative of what I have and took for granted because I felt it was normal. I am grateful for even the tiniest of gestures I receive.   

Here is fulfilment or how to live a fulfilled life. 

I’ve realised that, although I am content with my achievements, the excitement diminishes with time. I guess self-fulfilment is not a single stage or a point in life.  I presume the human is wired to aspire for more once the current desires are met. Living a fulfilled life is a daily activity. 

Continuously look beyond; strive to be a better version of yourself; do more of what makes you happy. 

Self-Fulfilment is not in the distant future; You can have life’s dessert anytime. Just have your cake and eat it. 

Trying my best to arrange these tables and chairs here

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