Sunday, January 30, 2011

My First IC Success Story

So this past week has been a great stride in the right direction at IC. I have met some adversity, but challenged the issue, brought it to light, and defeated it. I haven't felt drive like this for quite some time, and though the work hours are long, and some times very arduous, I understand why this experience can mean so much to so many people.

This past week, I got my first and second screening agreement in. What this means is that I finally called a random school, college, or place of worship, gave a pitch about IC to a person I've never talked to, and convinced them to take time out of their schedules and put together an assembly of at least 200 people for a church or college (500 for a school), where we show our documentary. Ok, so not every person we call is random, and IC does have a ton of contacts, but a lot of the time we are calling random people, or cold calling as we say, and really trying to pitch a foreign concept. This is why in the last post I said I felt like being a telemarketer. But this week one of my screening agreements was very special. A young girl from VA (she's only 15 and crazy mature already), has been trying to host a screening with IC for four semesters. She started in her middle school, and is now a freshmen IB student at her high school. She literally lives and breathes IC, and has already made quite a name for herself within the organization. She has struggled with outside factors in the past, and her administrations have alway put the veto on her hosting our screenings. She has been shut down 3 times, yet still puts in the work each year to try and wear down her administration and push for something she really believes in.

We have a rule here that we don't do evening events at high schools due to past experiences with terrible attendance, but this week, we made an exception. Our young fifteen year old friend did all the work she coul to get us at her high school. She solicited teachers, her IB program coordinator, and finally her principal (whom I spoke with many times on the phone), and got the signatures needed to book her screening. She was elated, and ready to hear us bang the gong (a literal gong in the office) that marks a booked screening, but unfortunately her district would not allow IC to have a merchandise table during school hours. Since we do all our presentations for free, we need these tables to pay for things like our vans, gas, and promotional material, so with no merchandise table, there is no event. She was devastated, yet driven, and was not ready to give up this time. Because she has shown so much perseverance in the past and made such a name for herself, with a little push from myself and a receptionist who as worked with this young girl for two years, we convinced IC to let us host an evening screening at her school.

The reason this was such a win was because this girl has done so much for IC, and has worked incredibly hard to host a screening in her school. She has busted her butt for IC, and the thing is, she has empowered herself through trying to help others. She believes in IC. In high school there are so many places to invest your time and talents, and a plethora of different identities one can take on, but for her, it's not sports, theater, or choir, it is IC (along with academics cuz this girl is smart!). Being able to put her on skype, have the 70 plus people sitting in a room trying to book screenings cheer for her with utmost sincerity, and let her watch the gong ring, was incredibly moving. In fact, this is one of the reasons I love IC. We don't only help Ugandans empower themselves and work on a horizontal level between two cultures, but we empower American youth as well. My Dad always talks about how kids don't protest like the used to, but working for Invisible Children, and having participated in their nationwide events, and seeing youth like this girl completely devote their time, money, and talents to ending a war, I'm starting to question if that sentiment is true.

This was a good good week, and I'm hoping my trip continues in this fashion.

Stay tuned for a video of the gong being banged, which will give a little more incite, and some visuals, of what this actually means!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Testing The Water

I am now two weeks removed from CO, living at home, personal space and comfort and I'm starting to feel the magnitude, as well as the effects, of this new excursion. Since leaving home I've been in San Diego living with 62 other people, 9 roommates (not housemates), and working from 9-7 for an organization which I'm very fond of. It's been a really interesting process learning how to live in communion with kids whom I also work with and spend every waking hour, but it for the most part has been great.

This past Thursday and Friday were the first times I've meet true adversity and conflict at my new job, and it has made for interesting soul searching in regards to where the conflict arose. I'm a person who can be pretty hard on myself, and sometimes I forget that I know my heart and intentions when I'm targeted by harsh criticism. It's safe to say the last few days have sucked a bit, but thank God weekends include day trips to beautiful parks overlooking the pacific :) The conclusion I've come to, with the help of a training I took seriously last week, is the necessity to overcome device speech and thought. The thing is, although each person in IC has there own beliefs, values, and personality (and man are there some characters here!), this is one time in our life where those things need to come second to a cause. I want to make some good friends here, and I want to have fun, but the fact is I'm here to help try and end a war. This week I was definitely hurt, and I went to a place of introspection, but in this case, harping on my own discomfort is entirely selfish. Though we are all here for personal growth, that can't come at the expense of those whom we are trying to serve. It's been a struggle dealing with this though, because I know I can be selfless, but I also am fully aware of my propensity for selfishness. I have struggled the last few days with dealing with my anger and hurt, while still being a team player, but I know this is going to be good for me. I've talked with a lot of kids here, and this week has seen people really getting into team dynamics, and exiting the honeymoon stage. It is obviously a difficult step, but it's part of the process of working towards a cohesive team. People are getting real, and though it's necessary, it's not easy. I'm just hoping the house doesn't start to look more like a reality TV show...

I'm here to serve, and as our mission states as roadies, "I've dedicated the next four months of my life to sharing the story of this war," and that is what I'm going to do. Even if it means sucking up my pride, learning to be a little more selfless, experiencing life as a telemarketer (which I'll get into later), I am here for a purpose. I want to succeed, and I want to be able to say this was a feat I accomplished in May when my term ends.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Week One in the Books

It's amazing to think I've already been here a week, as well as thinking it's only been a week. Time somehow has managed to fly and move like molasses simultaneously. Much like this conundrum time has left me in, I feel like spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally, I am pretty torn as well. Working with IC so far truly has been a dream. For those of you who don't know, seeing Invisible Children's Rough Cut was one of the most pivotal moments in my life. It introduced me to some life long friends (Ms. Fisher, McCall, Burns, Peters, and Stambouli) as well as gave my life a sense of purpose it had never really known. Running had introduced me to drive, sacrifice, and commitment, but IC illuminated things like compassion, purpose, and awareness. But with all the good I've seen so far, and how amazing I've felt, last night and today were a bit of a struggle. I'm drained. The work has been hard yes, but I think a lot finally caught up with me last night. IC is very intent on personal growth. To be honest, though I believe in what we are doing, and the direction we are going now as an organization, I do feel like I'm attending personal growth camp right now, instead of working at an NGO. Everyone here is so nice, encouraging, and thoughtful, and as crazy and ridiculous as that sounds, 90% of the time it's wonderful, but 10% of the time I just feel bogged down by it. I'm in a situation where I am CONSTANTLY surrounded by people, 62 others in the same house to be exact, and working like crazy. When we aren't at the office, we are studying, going over our introductions and conclusions, or speaking about a lot of personal stuff to get to know one another intimately in a short amount of time. The environment is quite conducive for deep conversation, and like I said before, 90% of the time that is fantastic, but when I get to that other 10%, I find myself wanting to be selfish, or have alone time, or not wanting space from the person whom I'm supposed to be giving and getting space from back home, because I want the comfort of someone who knows me for faults as well as why IC hired me. It's just a bizarre feeling to be so astounded by an organization, their work, their philosophies, and the humility they instill in you, and still be struggling... but I guess that is human nature. Change is the only constant, but it's something we as humans struggle with and fear the most.

BUT, after writing that, I do want to place some emphasis on how much I love this organization. One super duper awesome positive about working for IC, besides the great community they supply you with, is the emphasis they place on relationships and personal growth. Tonight, after working from 9-5, we stopped first to watch a clip of an MLK speech (which made me very happy), then had a session titled "Investing in Others." The leader of the session was a dude named Jedidiah, whom is the paragon of how to invest in others and create meaningful relationships. In this session we talked about intrinsic and extrinsic goals, watched a documentary about happiness,which spanned multiple continents to find a definition, and dove right into insecurities that harden our hearts and make lasting relationships less attainable. It was absolutely phenomenal, and the fact that this, for some of those lucky enough to be paid, is what work looks like, gives me hope for the future.

The one thing that stuck out to me most, and my ending point, is a question that Jed asked the audience. When you walk into a room of unknown faces, do you think to yourself that you don't belong and maybe your not worthy to be there, or do you see a room full of potential friends with interesting stories, views, and ideas? For me, I'm actively trying to see the later.

Much love and I miss you all back in CO!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1 day down, wow!

So, seeing as everyone who has ever held this position says that free time is a highly coveted asset while on the road, I've decided that instead of blogging and then doing an individual journal, I'm going to put them together. With that being said, this blog A.) does not reflect the opinions of IC, and B.) is going to be very very raw. I can't promise everything will be concise or to the point, but i can promise my inchoate ideas or thoughts will be a true reflection on what I am actually feeling at this time.

It blows my mind to think I've only been here for about 36 hours. The Target trip I went on yesterday, and watching the national championship game feels like it happened weeks ago, but really, it was only a mere 24 hours prior to now. Between getting off a plane, relocating into a house with 50 some other kids (no exaggeration), picking the lower bunk in a room that houses 10 guys total, and ditching 3 degree weather for a balmy 65, my head is spinning. And all this happened before I got to the Invisible Children offices.

Today was a crazy mixture of feeling excitement, fatigue, and encountering an overwhelming load of information. We got to the office at 8:30, went through a whirlwind of different introductions and trainings, some of which were definitely better than others (the sexual harassment training was literally one of the worst hours of my life) then ended the night by seeing a sneak peak of the video we will be showing on our tour. It was crazy to see so many faces which I have seen in videos over the last 5 years actually come and speak to me in person. I saw where the graphics were designed, where pictures of merch were taken, where the tours were booked, and actually sat down and chatted with a roadie (who is still roadieing) that came and spoke at CU when I booked the tour for our campus in 2007.

There were a few things that definitely popped out at me today that I think will be a reoccurring themes over the next 5 weeks. First, there were 327 applicants that applied for the 50 some roadie positions that IC had for this semester. Granted that this is a higher percent of applicants that are accepted than in TFA, when I hear Jason and Laren speak about our importance, compared to what I heard and saw in STL, it seems much more authentic. Having seen how dispensable we were, or seemed to be, in STL, I just feel better out here. From this idea, I realize the comparisons between IC and TFA is something I will be struggling with along the way. I also saw a great speech about cultural competency that was so down to earth,and so real, that it made the diversity sessions at TFA institute seem ridiculous. But more comparisons are to come later.

Second, and I think this is the most important theme, is the idea of humility and learning from mistakes within the NGO. Since I began working with NGOs in college, the question of whether or not relief and aid work does more hurt than help has always haunted me. There are many scholars, critics, and educated people who have a lot of valid arguments denouncing western humanitarianism, and there are a lot of days that pass when I don't think they are wrong. I've looked at my own progression, and seeing how so often I was wrong about opinions or initiatives I backed, I wonder how many NGOs or relief workers are doing harm abroad. It makes me scared for development, aid, or relief work, and the mistakes that, if I continue on this path, will inevitably make. But that is the beauty of what I saw today. The creators of IC, Laren, Bobby, and Jason, admit to their mistakes. In fact, they have documented them, made them public, and have completely shaped their NGO around what was learned during these mishaps. They have made sure that they learn from each mistake, and actually serve the populations with which they are trying to provide aid for with more efficacy. This site really made me reflect on my own qualms with humanitarianism, and their humility and ability to critically think about what their work actually does within Uganda and Congo opened my eyes. I think for me I am just scared to make the mistakes. I'm pretty hard on myself sometimes, and mistakes I make that negatively affect other people are not easily forgotten. But, seeing what I saw tonight, and hearing how mistakes can be turned into something positive, I'm feeling re-energized, and ready to keep pushing in a good direction.

It's been a crazy few hours already. I'm overwhelmed, I'm flustered, I have no idea what to think, but what I do know is I'm excited. I feel like I'm in the right place, and I can't wait to see how this experience unfolds.

sorry for the word vomit, hopefully next post will be more directed!

Monday, January 10, 2011

All packed and Ready to Go!

As I sit here in the airport, after being molested by TSA, and braving a very long and icy ride to get here (thanks Mom and Dad!) I am a mixture of nervous, excited, heartbroken, ecstatic, and anything else I could fathom at the moment. I've had an interesting 8 months since graduating, and I can't be more happy for what has occurred. From getting into TFA, to quitting TFA, to having a mediocre GRE, to having a good showing at GRE, to snowboarding, working as a buser for a whole 10 days, seeing old friends, figuring out how the next steps of a relationship will go, and packing up and leaving, I'm still a bit in awe. Right now though, I know I want to thank everyone who donated to my fund for IC, as well as everyone who has supported me mentally, physically, and spiritually along the way. These last couple months have been interesting, and it is safe to say the transition out of college has be rough for me, but I've been so blessed and fortunate to have such a great support system. Thank you guys all so much. I am a very very fortunate young man. I'll keep updating as much as possible, and hopefully will post some pictures soon! I had a silly picture I tried to add, but DIA won't let me :/

Keep checking in!