What excites me most about this fellowship is the opportunity to learn and grow as a social change maker, pot-stirrer, and boat-rocker. When I open my eyes and look around, I see the immense amount of work that needs to be done in our world and can’t wait to get started. I’m motivated, willing, and ready.
But throughout my past experiences, I’ve encountered an immense speed-bump on my smoothly paved road of ideal community development: everybody has a different way of doing things. Programs, ideas, and resources around development are saturated with different cultural, religious, and political beliefs. Every village, city, region, and country has a different perspective on how to make social change based on their own knowledge, history, norms, political affiliations, funding opportunities, and media influences – it’s exhausting. I’m continually left wondering who’s right and who’s wrong? What makes development succeed and what makes it fail? Can we point fingers at a specific model, agency, or system or is it entirely dependent on the internal attributes of a community?
Reflecting on this very issue reminds me of lyrics to a Michael Franti song I heard once:
“Oh, can’t you see, all the sickness, hunger, and poverty. War on the land and the war on the seas, Oh war is a painful thing…
They say you got to choose your side and, when it’s done, nobody right, nobody wrong. It ended in a great big fight and, when it’s done, nobody right, nobody wrong.”
This year, I want to learn how to facilitate effective community development in a culture and country that I am not a part of. I know that I can’t change a community on my own and I don’t believe that is my (or any sole individual’s) right to do so. I can, however, spark a conversation, access resources, and contribute knowledge. I can bring the tools I possess and my own perspective created from my experiences to a community, organization, or agency. I can contribute a piece to a larger whole.
When I think of those who have influenced and inspired me, I think of individuals who have their feet on the ground but with an understanding of the larger picture of global change. They bring their perspective to the work they do, but allow it to be shaped with every new experience and every encounter with the experiences of others. It is my lifelong goal to continue to develop my understanding of the world by learning from others and allowing these relationships to influence my ideas, sense of self, and the role I decide to play in our global community. I am thrilled to be a part of the AIF program this year and change and grow because of it. I’m motivated, willing, and ready.